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ASK THE LAWYER : Jurisdiction and Legal Aid

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In most of the countries of the world, it is not
an open secret to preserve the rights of their
citizens and create avenue for the enforcement
of their rights. This depends on their right(s)
that was infringed upon and they intend to
enforce in Court. The Constitution has made
provision for the appropriate Court to enforce
breach of fundamental human rights and legal
aid that is available to people.
Sometimes, in first week of October this year, a
question was asked through a telephone
conversation by anonymous person in Ojo area
of Lagos. The person called to ask this, ‘Can a
thief who was cut red-handed claim that he has
a right and where can he enforce his right?’
When I was about to answer his question, the
phone cut and owing to network problem, I was
unable to reach him that day.
My answer would have been that, such suspect
still has his constitutional right of presumption
of innocence until proven guilty by Court of
competent jurisdiction, right to life, right to fair
hearing and other rights, even where he has
been convicted, does not mean that he has lost
his fundamental human right. I refer to the case
of NEMI VS STATE (1996) NWLR PT 458. As
regards, where can such person enforce his
right? This form part of the topic today and that
was the reason for treating the question now.
There is a Latin maxim called, ‘ubi jus ubi
remedium’ which literally means where there is
right, there is remedy as such where the right of
a person or applicant has been breached or
circumvented by any law enforcement agents or
officers, there are remedies provided by the
Constitution. See the case of JOSEPH ODOGU VS
AG OF THE FEDERATION (2000) VOL 2 HRLRA
PG 82 AT 102 PARAG D-E. To enforce this right,
Section 46 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal
Republic of Nigeria as amended creates special
jurisdiction of High Court and legal aid.
Section 46(1) of the 1999 above Constitution
puts it that any person who alleges that any of
the provisions of Chapter IV has been, is being
or likely to be contravened in any State in
relation to him may apply to a High Court in
that State for redress.
In ADEYANJU VS WAEC (2002) 13 NWLR PT 785
AT PG 497-8, where the Court opined that,
‘A fundamental right is a basic or primary right.
It is an essential and important right of an
individual. It can be enfiorced at any time. All
the Applicants has to show is that they have
locus standi in the sense that their fundamental
right has been contravened or likely to be
contravened. The Applicant having established
that their fundamental rights have been
contravened has therefore approached this
Honourable Court to seek redress of the wrongs
meted out to them by the Respondent.’
Section 46 (2) confers original jurisdiction on
the High Court to hear and determine any
application made to it in pursuance of the
provisions of this section and may make orders,
issues writs and give such direction as it may
consider appropriate for the purpose of
enforcing or securing the enforcement within
any State of any right to which the person who
makes the application may be entitled under this
Chapter.
The Fundamental Right (Enforcement
Procedure) Rules, Cap 10 Laws of the Federation
1990 made in line with section 46 (3) of the
above Constitution to ensure speedy disposition
of actions based on infringement of such right
so that parties may know their fate quickly, has
been playing a germane role when these rights
are abused either at the pre-trail, during trial or
post –trial stage. Section 43 permits the Chief
Justice of Nigeria to make rules with respect to
the practice and procedure of a High Court for
the purpose of this section.
Anybody whose has right has been infringed
upon can enforce his/her right at the High Court
in that State and the Federal High Court has
jurisdiction too. Thus, any citizen has a right to
ask the Court in his State to protect his/her
threatened right. For example – LETWOT V
JUDICIAL TRIBUNAL (1993) 2 NWLR (PT 276)
410 CA.
The courts prevent this abuse of rights by
granting more of these remedies:
A writ of habeas corpus literally means ‘to have
body’ that is to release a person wrongfully
detained.
A writ of prohibition to prevent the
performance or continuance of administrative
action which must be judicial or quasi judicial in
nature, while a writ of certiorari to empower a
superior tribunal to review the record of the
inferior tribunal in order to adjudge the legality
upon which it base its decision.
Declaratory judgment and injunction to a
person who claims that his private right has
been infringed by the government or its
enforcement agent or other person(s).
Order of mandamus; award of damages, offer
of apology and it may be set aside, reduce or
suspend any penalty that was imposed.
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