MDG 5, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND MATERNAL HEALTH IN AFRICA
Similarly, in the landmark case of SERAC v. Nigeria, the African
Commission on Human Rights found the government of Nigeria in
violation of Articles 16 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and
Peoples’ Rights.164 The Commission found that the government had failed
to protect residents of Ogoniland, South Eastern Nigeria, from
environmental hazards and health problems associated with oil exploration
and drilling by Shell Petroleum Development Corporation in that part of the
Recently, a human rights attorney commenced proceedings at a federal
high court in Nigeria over what he describes asthe failure of the
government to “...ensure that there are adequate medical and health
facilities for all persons in the country; and to take the necessary measures
to protect the health of the people and ensure that they receive medical
attention when they are sick.”166 He contends that while sick public officers
are whisked away to receive medical treatment in foreign hospitals at public
expense, local health facilities patronized by Nigerians suffer serious
equipment and personnel shortages.167 Moreover, exorbitant cost deters
against seeking care in these ill-equipped hospitals, resulting in deaths of
millions of Nigerians from preventable diseases.168 The lawsuit seeks a
declaration that Nigerians are entitled to the right to health, as guaranteed
by law, and a perpetual injunction restraining the federal government from
taking any public officer to foreign hospitals for medical checkup and/or
How the court will decide this case is uncertain. Nonetheless, by publicly
challenging the irresponsibility of the government regarding the health of
ordinary Nigerians, the lawsuit heightens the awareness of the general
population to the bifurcated health system being run by the government,
one for the elite and the other for the rest of the population. This might
provide the much needed impetus for greater demand for change. The
164. Soc. & Econ. Rts. Action Ctr. & Ctr. for Econ. & Soc. Rts. v. Nigeria, Comm. No.
155/96 2001 AHRLR 60 (ACHPR).
165. Id. Articles 16 and 24 protect the rights to health and satisfactory environment.
166. Suit No. FHC/IKJ/CS/M59/10 (Unreported), Federal High Court Ikeja; Falana
Sues FG over Conditions of Public Hospitals, SAHARA REPORT ( 29 July 2010)
[hereinafter Falana], http://www.saharareporters.com/report/falana-sues-fg-over-conditions-
public-hospitals. The lawsuit is based on article 16( 1) of the African Charter on Human &
Peoples’ Rights Act. African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and
Enforcement) Act of 1990 (2004), Cap (A9), (Nigeria).
167. Falana, supra note 166.
169. See African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement)
Act of 1990 (2004), Cap (A9), (Nigeria).