By YINKA KOLAWOLE
A Committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan on the review of the nation’s constitution has recommended an amendment to the 1999 constitution that will compel government to provide housing for Nigerians as a fundamental right.
The Presidential Committee on the Review Outstanding Issues on Recent Constitutional Conferences headed by a former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Alfa Belgore, wants Nigeria to join the league of welfare states like South Africa and countries in Europe where citizens can enforce provision of housing, health care and education as socio-economic rights.
Presently, Nigerians do not have the right to invoke the courts to find government liable should it fail to provide the social services, since the rights are contained in Chapter 11 of the constitution titled Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy and are not justifiable. But the Belgore committee has recommended that these rights be merged with the fundamental human rights contained in Chapter 1V which are enforceable.
Section 16(2) (d) of the Constitution which falls under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy states: “The state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, a reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and persons, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.”
But in Section 6(6), the constitution provides that “the judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section shall not, except as otherwise provided by this constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act or omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of States Policy set out in Chapter 11 of this Constitution.”
However, the Presidential committee recommended that these rights be taken out of Chapter II and taken into Chapter IV which contains enforceable rights. “The committee adopted the recommendation of the 2005 Conference that the Fundamental Human Rights in chapters II and IV of the 1999 Constitution should be merged, where possible and should be made enforceable.
“It further decided that aspects of Chapter 11, which underscore the fundamental objectives of the constitution, should be transferred to the general provisions whilst those that aggregate rights should be transferred to Chapter IV,” the Belgore committee recommended.