Freedom of association in Nigeria: A cacophony of contestations
School of Law, University College Cork
The right to freedom of association in Nigeria has a history that is intertwined with the country's political evolution, agitation for the rule of law, and democracy. In the pre-colonial era, the various tribes and communities that make up modern Nigeria had distinct governance structures with community norms and practices that allowed for some form of association. The advent of British colonial rule saw a severe erosion of freedom of association with the colonial administration implementing laws that restricted public gatherings and associations aimed at suppressing anti-colonial movements and nationalist activities. However, after gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria became a federal republic, and the constitution provided for fundamental human rights, including freedom of association.1 Independence and the constitutional framework facilitated the establishment of political parties, trade unions, and various civic groups. Military interventions in periods from 1966 reversed the trend with military regimes bringing in strict restrictions on rights including freedom of association. The return to a relatively stable civilian rule in 1999 and the introduction of the 1999 Constitution revived the framework for protecting rights including freedom of association in Nigeria. The introduction of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a significant component of African Union law, also influenced the protection of the rights in the country. As this article shows, the protection and exercise of the right to freedom of association in Nigeria have been impacted by history, politics, constitutional development, regional dynamics, case law and, interestingly, customary law. This article starts by briefly explaining the rationale for the protection of the right in Nigeria, it thereafter discusses the statutory framework for the protection of the right, highlighting its scope. The paper then moves on to consider the content of the rights, its positive and negative dimension, and how the courts interpret and apply the right. The article discusses an important dimension in Nigeria, the nexus between the right and customary law. The article further discusses the application of the right in the context of Trade Unions and Civil Society Organisations (CSO). The article ends with a conclusion of the main themes that have emerged in the Nigerian context.
Freedom of association
Amao, F. (2024) ‘Freedom of association in Nigeria: A cacophony of contestations’, Societās Working Paper 09/2024 (18pp). Cork: School of Law, University College Cork.
© 2023, the Author. Views expressed do not represent the views of the Societās project or the School of Law at UCC.