The right to housing in the context of nigerian law and human rights practice

AuthorEmeke Chegwe
PositionLL.M, PhD, BL, Senior Lecturer and Former Head of Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, Delta State University, Nigeria
AGORA International Journal of Juridical Sciences,
ISSN 1843-570X, E-ISSN 2067-7677
No. 1 (2014), pp. 11-23
E. Chegwe
Emeke Chegwe
LL.M, PhD, BL, Senior Lecturer and Former Head of Department of Jurisprudence and
International Law, Delta State University, Nigeria.
Every society needs a set of laws which stipulates the rights and duties of citizens, as
well as regulate the conduct of the society. But law is often perceived as repressive and
unpopular by majority of the urban poor in many developing countries who feel that the la w
has done little or nothing to ameliorate their sufferings. For example, new evidence from
satellite images has revealed the true extent of forced evictions going on in Badia East-Lagos,
one of Nigeria’s mega cities. The pictures taken during and after the demolitions carried out
by the Lagos State government on 23rd February 2013, clearly shows that a densely populated
area containing concrete housing and other structures was razed to the ground. Given the
importance of housing to the overall development and existence of mankind, it is necessary to
first determine the existence of a legal right to adequate housing to warrant a demand by the
citizen to fulfil this right and in order to appreciate the need for government intervention in
this area.
Keywords: Housing, Human Right, Nigerian, Practice, Law
The right to adequate housing, which forms the subject matter of t his paper, is one of
the economic, social and cultural rights, which has been guaranteed by a number of local and
international laws. But their enjoyment in Nigeria falls short of t he grow ing expectat ions of
Nigerians in their desire to have them elevated to the status of fundamental human rights. This
desire is a fall out from economic pressures, which have led to the emergence of extremely
wealthy people on the one hand, who can afford the best houses, and of poverty-ridden
people, who live in shacks in the cities and are in constant fear of being homeless on t he other
hand. It has therefore been suggested that a great proportion of national wea lth should not be
enjoyed only be a handful of persons to the exclusion o f the less pr ivileged in the soc iety.1
Surprisingly, there are a number o f international human rights conventions, which dul y
provide for a right to adequate housing. Nigeria is a signatory to these international
conventions and has also ratified a number of them.2 At the national level, the right to housing
is recognised in the constitution and other laws enacted at other levels which impact upo n
housing. The Fundamental Objectives a nd Directive Principles of State Policy of the 1999
Constitution Provides, inter alia, that the “state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that
1 See V. Kartashkin, “Economic, Social and Cultural RIghts” in K. Vasak and P. Alston, eds, The International
Dimension of Human Rights (Westport, TC: Greenwood Press, 1982), pp. 111 – 134.
2 See e.g. African Charter on Human and People Rights, OAU, DOC, CAB/LEG/67/3/Rev. 4. It entered into
force on 21 October, 1996. Nigeria has ratified same as at 1 January, 1996. See, e.g., African Charter on Human
and People Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Acts Cap. 10 LFN 1990. See further, The International
Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural (ICESCR) Rights. As of January 1996, 134 countries had ratified the
covenant. See 17 HRLJ 66 (1996). Nigeria ratified it in 1993.

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