The concept of human rights is based on the belief that every human being is entitled to enjoy her/his rights without discrimination. Human rights differ from other rights in two respects. Firstly, they are characterised by being:

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  •  Inherent in all human beings by virtue of their humanity alone (they do not have, e.g., to be purchased or to be granted);
  •  Inalienable (within qualified legal boundaries); and
  •  Equally applicable to all.

Secondly, the main duties deriving from human rights fall on states and their authorities or agents, not on individuals.

Moreover, when considering the basic characteristics of human rights, we can attempt to identify definitional elements of the broad philosophical notion of human rights. Human rights can be described as a complex of relations which is constituted of real relations between individuals who have the duty to act (or refrain from acting) towards each other, and the relations of every human being to certain goods (things, circumstances) securing his or her well-being.

This complex of relations exists independently of acts of law and independently of whether it is apprehended by any individual or not. The law of human rights indicates these relations and aims at formulating legal norms ensuring appropriate goods. When defining human rights, certain kinds of actions by others (including institutions) or relations between a human being and goods may be pointed out.

One important implication of these characteristics is that human rights must themselves be protected by law (‘the rule of law’). Furthermore, any disputes about these rights should be submitted for adjudication through a competent, impartial and independent tribunal, applying procedures which ensure full equality and fairness to all the parties, and determining the question in accordance with clear, specific and pre-existing laws, known to the public and openly declared.

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Fundamental human rights consist of natural, socio-economic and political rights.

  • Natural right ‘refers to life, freedom of thought, conscience, speech, and religion. Others include freedom from slavery, deprivation of personal liberty, and freedom from torture.
  • Socio-economic right includes the right to own property, right to just and favorable conditions of service, i.e. equal pay for equal work. Others are right to social security and freedom from discrimination in employment on the basis of color, sex, and race. Right to education and married, etc.
  • Political right refers to participate in politics and governmental affairs. The rights include freedom of movement, association, and right to vote and to be voted for.

However, the Fundamental Rights of Nigerians under Chapter IV of the Constitution are as follows:

  1. Right to life – Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.
  2. Right to dignity of human person – Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of a person and accordingly, no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.
  3. Right to personal liberty – Every person shall be entitled to his personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty.
  4. Right to fair hearing  – In the determination of a person’s civil rights and obligations, every person shall be entitled to a fair hearing.
  5. Right to private and family life – The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondences and telephone conversations are guaranteed and protected.
  6. Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the freedom to change his religion or belief.
  7. Right to freedom of expression and the press– Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions.
  8. Right to peaceful assembly and association – Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons or political party.
  9. Right to freedom of movement – Every citizen in Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof.
  10. Right to freedom from discrimination – No Nigerian shall be discriminated upon on the basis of his community, ethnic group, sex, place of origin and political opinion.
  11. Right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria – Every Citizen shall have the right to own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.
  12. Right against compulsory acquisition of property
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In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All By Kofi Annan Former Secretary-General of the United Nations A United Nations’ Report of 26 May 2005, this paper presents an incisive overview of the predominant causes of human rights violations, and what actions the Member States of the UN must take to ensure the aims of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are actually achieved.

Human Rights Challenges

  1. Poverty and global inequities
  2. Discrimination
  3. Armed conflict and violence
  4. Impunity
  5. Democracy deficits
  6. Weak institutions

 The Challenges of Implementation

  1. The knowledge gap
  2. The capacity gap
  3. The commitment gap
  4. The security gap

Mr. Annan further outlines the goals and strategies for turning international human rights into reality “so individual people and communities see a real difference in their lives.”


Human rights reflect the minimum standards necessary for people to live with dignity and equality. Human rights give people the freedom to choose how they live, how they express themselves, and what kind of government they want to support, among many other things. Human rights also guarantee people the means necessary to satisfy their basic needs, such as food, housing, and education, so they can take full advantage of all opportunities. Finally, by guaranteeing life, liberty, and security, human rights protect people against abuse by individuals and groups who are more powerful. According to the United Nations, human rights:  Ensure that a human being will be able to fully develop and use human qualities such as intelligence, talent, and conscience and satisfy his or her spiritual and other needs

Therefore, human rights are important in the relationships that exist between individuals and the government that has power over them. The government exercises power over its people. However, human rights mean that this power is limited. States have to look after the basic needs of the people and protect some of their freedoms. Some of the most important features of human rights are the following:

  • They are for everyone.
  • They are internationally guaranteed.
  • They are protected by law.
  • They focus on the dignity of the human being.
  • They protect individuals and groups.
  • They cannot be taken away.
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