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Lawyers advocate enforcement of economic, social, cultural rights

Oloka-Onyango

Lawyers have said that giving credence to economic, social and cultural rights in Nigeria, will alleviate poverty, checkmate corrupt practices and increase access to the protection of people in court. This was the discourse at a colloquium on the status of implementation of economic, social and cultural rights, organized by the department of public law, faculty of law, University of Lagos.

Guest speaker at the event and professor of Law, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda J. Oloka-Onyango said economic, social and cultural rights should be treated same as civil rights just like the freedom of expression, right to vote and right to torture which is usually given more respect.

“But rights to food, shelter and maternal health care are ignored and we need to make them equal. However, chapter two of Nigeria’s constitution, have the economic and social rights act and chapter four has the civil and political rights. Chapter two says you can’t go to court or get them enforced and I am saying that is not true or correct,” the don said.

According to Oloka-Onyango lawyers need to give those rights more attention so that those who are less privileged can have access to justice. “This is a big human rights issue because those with money have access and those without money can’t get access. So if more lawyers are sensitized in addressing this category of rights, then you will definitely have increased access to people’s protection,” he said.

Special adviser to the vice president of Nigeria on social investments, Mrs. Maryam Uwias while highlighting the role of the government, said one of its programmes, N-power project, has benefited 136,000 youths since 2016 when it began, which had youths teaching and paid N30, 000 monthly.

While Dean, faculty of law, Prof. Ayodele Atsenuwa noted that the discourse has been on for over 50 years and continues to be relevant. “I believe that we do have economic, social and cultural rights as rights. The fact that there is a gap in our legal framework doesn’t make them less right. We are hoping to bring the international standards to harmonise with the national standards, but what makes me feel that we have made progress is the fact that the interventions by the government is a response to the reality that government must do something about social, economic and cultural rights. Social action in Nigeria is too dependent on international donors we need to look inwards.”

Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the refusal of Nigerians to take matters of socio-economic and cultural rights seriously caused menaces such as vote buying, which are publicly done during elections.

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