Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Okafor, Obiora C.


Law, Human Rights, Transitional justice, Comparative constitutional law, Nigeria, Habitus, Constitutional Adjudication, Law and Society


While transitional justice and democracy literature bristles with the expectation that human rights conditions would improve with the progression from the “darkness” of a dictatorship to the “light” of democratic rule, Nigeria’s transition to civil rule in 1999 would seem to provide a sobering contra-reality. Democracy does not seem to have produced a better human rights environment in the post-transition Nigerian context. This dissertation answers the question why the restoration of civil rule in Nigeria has not translated to results in human rights practices that come close to matching the expectations of its citizens and the predictions of transitional justice literature? It investigates, however, only the extent to which human rights violations correlates with the lack of effective judicial protection of those rights between 1999 and 2009. The methodology is mostly interdisciplinary. The discussion is organized around doctrinal legal reasoning and case-law analysis. First analyzed were cases decided prior to 1999 to show the slippery provenance and inadequacy of the current rights-based adjudication standards. Cases decided since 1999 were then evaluated to measure the claim that the judiciary is failing in its duty as guardians of human rights post-transition. To that extent, the dissertation has not limited itself to a single theoretical model. It was found that some of the biggest problems afflicting human rights adjudication in Nigeria are historically defined. A major challenge is the apparent lack of a clear standard for reviewing laws and actions against the constitutional requirement that they be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society. This creates a culture where human rights cases are approached on an ad hoc case-by-case basis such that contradictory decisions are possible from cases with similar facts. Dealing with this challenge is not helped by the country’s legal history and the doctrines of the British legal system that a colonial relationship fostered after independence. The current approach is still orientated towards British administrative law principles which did not demand the standard of intense scrutiny required for the effective protection of human rights norms. The dissertation therefore recommends a reformed system of legal education with strong comparative approaches to change this orientation.