FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS ( ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE) RULE 2009: REFORMING THE REFORMER
Fundamental Human Rights were for the first time enshrined in Chapter III of the Independence Constitution of 1960. Aimed at creating a society which protects political freedom as well as the social and economic well-being of Nigerians, it reflected in all successive Constitutions.1 Rules of enforcement were however not put in place until 1979 and in the absence of such rules of enforcement, human rights enforcement was hitherto, by means of prerogative writs of Habeas Corpus, Certiorari, Mandamus and prohibition2 and was commenced in different ways, including an application under section 31(1) of the 1960 Constitution, by writ of summons, originating summons or notice of motion.3 These methods were however relatively ineffective as they were “cumbersome, some-what technical and lacking in flexibility for the proactive pursuit of human rights claims”4. The ineffectiveness was also attributable to several military interventions which have had profound and far-reaching effects on the promotion and protection of democratic values and fundamental freedom in Nigeria.5 The result was proliferation of cases of breach of fundamental human rights where justice was either not served or served way too late.
To bring speed and dynamism to the enforcement regime, the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Atanda Fatai-Williams issued the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 1979. This was pursuant to section 42(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979, which empowered the Chief Justice of Nigeria to make rules for the practice and procedure of the High Court towards the enforcement of the provisions of Chapter IV of the Constitution. After 30 years of usage and the onslaught of more complexities and hindrances to the attainment of justice, the 1979 Rules were replaced in 2009 by a new set of Rules which set out novel provisions guiding enforcement of fundamental rights in Nigeria. The Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009, although borne with nothing more than good intentions, is however not without its own problems and presents a case for reforms in the reformed human rights enforcement regime in Nigeria.