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The Fundamental Right to a Passport Under Nigerian Law: An Integrated Viewpoint

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2009


The struggle of Nigerian civil society for the establishment of a democratic polity, founded on the rule of law and the respect for the human and peoples’ rights of ordinary citizens of Nigeria, has been waged against the military governments that have ruled by force for the better part of its nearly three and a half decades of independent existence. During this struggle, there have been many cases of seizure of the passports of prominent opposition activists by members of the security agencies of the government. Such acts have generated much international condemnation of the government, as well as some judicial disapproval.

Copyright © School of Oriental and African Studies 1996

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1 See also s. 76 of the 1960 Constitution of Nigeria; s. 27 of the 1963 Republican Constitution of Nigeria and s. 40 of the defunct 1989 Constitution of Nigeria. All these provisions are similar.

2 See the Preamble to the Constitution of Cameroon of 1972.

3 U.N. Doc. A/810/71.

4 6 I.L.M. 368.Google Scholar For a detailed expose on the history and content of relevant international human rights declarations and conventions, see Higgins, R., “Some recent developments in respect of the right to leave in international law”, in Brown, E.D. and Cheng, B. (eds.), Contemporary Problems of International Law: Essays in Honour of Georg Schwarzenberger, London, 1988, at 138;Google Scholar and Hannum, H.The Right to Leave and Return in International Law and Practice, Dordrecht, 1987.Google Scholar

5 21 I.L.M. 59.Google Scholar This treaty was “incorporated” into Nigerian law by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap. 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.

6 Similar provisions are found in s. 20 of the 1960 Constitution of Nigeria, s. 21 of the 1963 Constitution and s. 34 of the defunct 1989 Constitution.

7 These principles form part of the resolutions of the Judicial Colloquium held at Bangalore, India, in 1988, Developing Human Rights Jurisprudence, London, 1988.Google Scholar Similar resolutions were by subsequent colloquia in Harare (1989), Banjul (1990), Abuja (1991), Balliol (1992) and Blomfontein (1993).

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52 For discussions of the U.S. position, see Ansbacher, R., “Passport revocation: balancing constitutional freedoms with national security concerns”, (1981) 33 University of Florida L. Rev. 428Google Scholar; Capassakis, E., “Passport revocations or denials on grounds of national security and foreign policy”, (1981) 49 Fordham L. Rev. 1178Google Scholar; and Kaplan, S., “The CIA responds to its black sheep: censorship and passport revocation—the cases of Philip Agee”, (1981) 13 Conn. L. Rev. 317.Google Scholar