Jimoh Esq: When Will ‘Social Justice’ Prevail Under The Nigerian Democratic System?!
–Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.
Under the Nigerian democratic system/government, there have been various occasions showing a clear denial of the concept of ‘Social justice’. After having shared a deep thought on this issue of ‘social justice’ and my observation of the facts that many if not majority of Nigerians have almost always been denied their due share of social justice by the Nigerian government and by some few privileged who see power as hereditary against the democratic concept propounded by Abraham Lincoln (the Former President of the United States of America) to the effect that ‘democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people’, this paper is compelled to inquire into ‘when will social justice prevail under the Nigerian democratic system in its practical sense?!
‘Social Justice’ and for a more understanding of the concept, according to Wikipedia online, ‘is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society, as measured by the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity, and social privileges. In Western as well as in older Asian cultures, the concept of social justice has often referred to the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles and receive what was their due from society. In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, the emphasis has been on the breaking of barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets and economic justice.
Social justice assigns rights and duties in the institutions of society, which enables people to receive the basic benefits and burdens of cooperation. The relevant institutions often include taxation, social insurance, public health, public school, public services, labor law and regulation of markets, to ensure fair distribution of wealth, and equal opportunity. Interpretations that relate justice to a reciprocal relationship to society are mediated by differences in cultural traditions, some of which emphasize the individual responsibility toward society and others the equilibrium between access to power and its responsible use.
Hence, social justice is invoked today while reinterpreting historical figures such as Bartolomé de las Casas, in philosophical debates about differences among human beings, in efforts for gender, ethnic, and social equality, for advocating justice for migrants, prisoners, the environment, and the physically and developmentally disabled. The United Nations calls social justice “an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations”.
The United Nations’ 2006 document Social Justice in an Open World: The Role of the United Nations, states that “Social justice may be broadly understood as the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth …’.
The term “social justice” was seen by the U.N. “as a substitute for the protection of human rights [and] first appeared in United Nations texts during the second half of the 1960s. At the initiative of the Soviet Union, and with the support of developing countries, the term was used in the Declaration on Social Progress and Development, adopted in 1969. The same document reports, “From the comprehensive global perspective shaped by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, neglect of the pursuit of social justice in all its dimensions translates into de facto acceptance of a future marred by violence, repression and chaos. The report concludes, “Social justice is not possible without strong and coherent redistributive policies conceived and implemented by public agencies.
The same UN document offers a concise history: “[T]he notion of social justice is relatively new. None of history’s great philosophers—not Plato or Aristotle, or Confucius or Averroes, or even Rousseau or Kant—saw the need to consider justice or the redress of injustices from a social perspective. The concept first surfaced in Western thought and political language in the wake of the industrial revolution and the parallel development of the socialist doctrine. It emerged as an expression of protest against what was perceived as the capitalist exploitation of labour and as a focal point for the development of measures to improve the human condition.
It was born as a revolutionary slogan embodying the ideals of progress and fraternity. Following the revolutions that shook Europe in the mid-1800s, social justice became a rallying cry for progressive thinkers and political activists. By the mid-twentieth century, the concept of social justice had become central to the ideologies and programmes of virtually all the leftist and centrist political parties around the world’.
A survey of the Nigerian democratic system reveals that there is minimum observance of social justice. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)-herein after referred to as the Constitution- provides for social justice in section 14 of the Constitution thus‘ 14.—(1) The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice.
(2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that— (a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority ; (b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government ; and (c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
(3) The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.
(4) The composition of the Government of a State, a Local Government council, or any of the agencies of such Government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the Government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the Federation.’. (Underlining is mine for emphasis).
Furthermore, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights Adopted in Nairobi June 27, 1981 Entered into Force October 21, 1986, which Nigeria has adopted and having the force of law in Nigeria is a document and or code emphasizing the concept of ‘social justice’. The words ‘Every individual…’ used in this Charter is a clear emphasis on the need for ‘justice for all’. Also see the use of the words ‘Everyone …’ used under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights Resolution 219A (III) of 10 December, 1948. These laws in my humble view means that ‘social justice’ as a concept is both locally (under Nigerian Constitution) and under the African and United Nations’ laws as applicable to member States supported and emphasized. The one very big issue in regard to ‘social justice’ under the Constitution is its inclusion in the CHAPTER II which provides on FUNDAMENTAL OBJECTIVES AND DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY, which also surprisingly compels every arm of government to observe and apply the provisions therein contained thus 13. It shall be the duty and responsibility of all organs of government and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of this Chapter of this Constitution.’
Though, nevertheless the above section 13 of the Constitution, which I view that is ‘advisory’ rather than ‘directive’ and ‘mandatory’ because the Nigerian courts have held in plethora of cases (judicial precedent) that the said provisions of the entire Chapter II of the Constitution are not justiciable i.e. unenforceable by citizens. The solution here in my humble view, is where such suit compelling and or enforcing the relevant provisions of the Chapter II of the Constitution is also contained in and or brought under other international human rights laws such as for instance: the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights Resolution 219A (III) of 10 December, 1948. The query here is ‘why did the Nigerian Constitution give the right to social justice with one hand and take it away by the other hand?!’. This in my humble view a great injustice to Nigerians!
Furthermore, denial of ‘social justice’ in Nigeria has led to ‘social injustice’ and denial of ‘justice for all’ has led to ‘justice for the few privileged’! It is indisputable that no Nigerian government has upheld the concept of social justice even those democratic governments. There is domination of the majority unprivileged citizens by the very few privileged citizens. Political powers have always been accumulated and made to circulate only within a specific ethnic and geographical people. The wealth of the nation is being corruptly and abusively diverted into personal use by some few privileged citizens in power and or in leadership without accountability.
The judiciary is quick to dispense justice to the rich and the few privileged citizens. Electoral matters are even held much more important and fast to conclude than human rights enforcements of citizens. See my article by google search: NIGERIAN JUDICIARY AND THE CONCEPT OF SOCIAL JUSTICE: WHY THE JUDICIARY SEEM TO HAVE GRADUALLY BEEN LOSING ITS STATUS AS THE LAST HOPE OF THE COMMON MAN, By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.’. It is as if everyone is concerned about himself and not about the society and or others. When a sect or individual of citizens do not get their share, they complain but where power and or leadership turns to them, they see no reason why anyone should complain about denial of social justice. Social justice in my humble view is very important considering the facts that Nigeria is a diverse nation with diverse ethnic, language, geography etc., amalgamated together as one Nigeria to live in ‘unity and faith, peace and progress’ but have Nigerians agreed and or accepted to unite and live as a social citizens upholding the concept of social justice?!
Finally therefore, considering the Nigerian situation in sheer disregard for the concept of social justice, it is important to ask the readers of this paper their opinions on when they think and or reason that ‘social justice’ will prevail under the Nigerian democratic system?!
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