High cost of litigation has caused a lot of Nigerian citizens to overlook incessant breaches of their fundamental human right. It is against this background that we have decided to put up this article as a guide to enforcement of fundamental human right without engaging the services of a lawyer if you cannot afford one.
If any of your fundamental human right, guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (see sections 33 – 46) has been, is been, or is likely to be infringed, you can, without the help of a lawyer, apply to the court (State High Court of Federal High Court) in the state where the infringement occurred, or is likely to occur, for redress by taking the following steps.
STEP 1, Prepare a written application.
The application should be type- written (preferably in an A-4 size document). This application shall include a statement setting out your name and description, the relief sought (ie exactly what you want the court to do for you. You can buy a copy of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009. This document contains all the rules guiding the enforcement of fundamental right. You can see the example of the application at the back of this document. It is called “Form 1”.
STEP 2, Prepare an affidavit.
Prepare an affidavit. An affidavit is a statement of facts made under oath. Here you are only expected to tell the story of what actually happened, and take it to the commissioner of oath in the high court. However before taking it for swearing at the court, you have to attach it to the application you made in step one above. If you cannot make the affidavit, probably because you are in detention, you can give the information about what happened to any other person, who shall make the affidavit on your behalf, though he must state in the affidavit that you are the person who gave him the information, and also state where and when you gave him the information.
STEP 3, Prepare a written address.
Ordinarily, whenever you approach the court, you are expected to talk to the judge, telling him why you have approached him and what you expect from him. This is exactly what you are expected to do under this step. But this time around, instead of talking to the judge with ordinary word of mouth, you reduce every thing you will tell him in writing. This write-up is what is called written address.
In your written address you have to refer the court to those sections of the constitution (sections 33-46) that were contravened by the person(s) that breached your human rights and then urge him to either restrain the person or award damages against the person for the breach that have occurred already.
STEP 4, File the documents in court.
Having prepared all the documents, the next thing is to convert them into “court processes” by taking them to the court for filling. When you get to the court, proceed straight to the court’s registry. There, the documents would be accessed for filling fee. After the assessment, you pay the filling fee and ask for date for the hearing of the application. Also find out the court where the case is assigned to. Ordinarily, the application is supposed to be fixed for hearing within seven days from the day it was filed.
STEP 5, Engage the court bailiff to serve the respondent(s).
Since the case is between you and the respondent(s) i.e. the person(s) that breached your right, it is important that they know that there is a case pending against the. This been the case, it is the duty of the courts belief to serve the court’s processes. Accordingly, you have to notify a court belief that you have filed a case against someone. You then take the bailiff, acting as the pointer to the people you sued by identifying the for the bailiff to serve them with the court’s process.
Finally, on the day the case is fixed for hearing, attend the proceedings. Usually, the time for court’s sittings in Nigeria is 9:00 am. Make sure you are in the court before the time. Having ascertain the particular court hall where your case is fixed for hearing at the court’s registry on the day you filed the case, you have to now move strait to that particular court. When you get there, meet the court’s clerks, and ask them the number of your case in the course list. A course list is a list containing the cases fixed for hearing in a particular court for the day. Having ascertained that, go and sit down where non lawyers sit. Listen attentively to hear when your case is called-up.
When the case is called answer “sir”. If the judge asks for your lawyer, tell him that you don’t have one and the case will proceed.
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