My right to freedom from discrimination (Introduction)

  • Introduction

In order to achieve national co-operation in solving problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedom for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion, right to freedom from discrimination must be guaranteed.

The universal declaration of human rights[1] recognizes in its preamble the “inherent dignity” and the “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” as the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.[2] In the article 1 it further provides:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


“Discrimination is the most comprehensive systematic and severe deprivation of human rights”[3] and has led notorious destructions of lives and properties.

Section 42 of the 1999 constitution provides as follows:


A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person-

  • Be subject either expressly by, or in practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject; or
  • Be accorded expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinion.


The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria also buttress the importance of right to freedom from discrimination in a heterogeneous country like Nigeria reinforcing it by the provision of section 15(2) which provides that “National integration shall be actively encouraged whilst discrimination on grounds of place of origin, sex, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.”

We at Constitutional Rights Awareness and Liberty Initiative often say that “we didn’t choose where we were born”. We grew to know that our town, villages, states are called the names we call them. That mine is different from yours should not call for hatred as it is impossible for us all to come from one (the same) parents, villages, states. Discrimination of all sorts is prohibited by the action of the government and its functionaries.


[1] 10 December 1948, A.G Re. 217 A(iii), Doc. N.U. A/8/10 (1948)

[2] Kehinde M. Mowoe Constitutional law in Nigeria 2008 Malthouse Law Books . p 499

[3] Gasiokwu M.O.U. ,Human Rights. History Ideology and law, (CA FAB Education books, Jos Nigeria 2003) p. 224

Can I be discriminated upon by virtue of my sex, community, ethnic group, or place of origin?

Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on sex, colour (albinism) race, town, villages, tribe, ethnic region, geo-political zones with intention of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economical, social, cultural or any other field of public life is prohibited.

What are the rights of women on cultural, traditional, inheritance, burial issues among others?

Discrimination against women is unlawful in Nigeria.

Section 15 and 16 of Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination (CEDAW)[1] specifically condemn those relating to the legal capacity of women, parental rights, reproductive rights in relation to spacing and number of children, property, marriage, choosing a family name, profession, education and so on.

Some practices in relation to women still exist especially with respect to traditional and cultural practices relating to inheritance, burial rights, political empowerment, child marriage, marital and parental rights, and so on in some part of Nigeria.

On discriminatory practices in relation to inheritance and burial rights, it will interest you that this area has witnessed increased litigation (court actions) because of awareness with respect to human rights. In the case of Onwo v. Oko[2] where a member of the Assemblies of God alleged discrimination on ways she was treated in compliance with mourning the dead in her community against her belief, the Court of Appeal ordered retrial and reversed the trial court decision in favour of the woman.

Also in the case of Augustine Nwafor Mojekwu v. Caroline Mgbafor Mojekwu[3], It was explained that under Olu Ekpe custom of Anambra state, only male children can inherit their fathers’ property. Also where a man is survived by a male child who dies leaving no male child, the father’s brother still inherits his property. If this brother dies, his own male child would inherit all the property. The Court of Appeal condemned such practice as repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.

While we respect customs and religious customs, it is however important that they must not be repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.

[1] UN, Treaty series, vol. 660, p. 195

[2] (1996) 6 NWLR (Pt. 456) 584

[3] (1997) 7 NWLR (Pt. 512) 288

Is discrimination permitted because of my religion?

The 1999 constitution generally prohibits any discrimination action on the part of government with regards to free exercise of religion, in the course of performing its functions.

No one should be discriminated against by virtue of his or her religion be a free thinker, Muslim, Christian, traditional religion worshiper or anything he believes holds the place of god in his life.

Can I be discriminated upon because of my political opinion?

The trend now is that people do not want to tolerate others political opinion especially where it disagrees with theirs. This has led to war of words on social media platforms and this should not be so.

The constitution prohibition on the ground of political opinion is to avert discrimination based on differences of political ideologies or affiliations.  A person must not be discriminated against for example because he belongs to the ruling party or the opposition party, or believes in such ideology.

Am I not protected against discrimination as a child born out of wedlock and what about the Osu caste?

Section 42(2) of the 199 Constitution further provides that:

No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disabilities or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of birth.

With the above provision, children born out of wedlock are treated as legitimate for purposes inheritance if acknowledge as children by the putative father.[1] This provision has also been used to uphold the provisions of a law, which sought to remedy the disabilities traditionally, attached to the members of the osu caste in the eastern part of Nigeria.[2]

[1] Mandara v. Attorney General of the Federation (1981) 4 SC 8

[2] Ebiriukwu v. Ohanyerenwa (1959) 4 FSC 212