The rights to life, health and development: The Ebola virus and Nigeria

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Akintayo, A.E
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African Human Rights Law Journal
The Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa which started in Guinea in December 2013, as confirmed by the World Health Organisation in March 2014, was reported to have killed approximately 11 310 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between December 2013 and March 2016. On 20 July 2014, the virus was imported into Nigeria through an infected Liberian-American citizen who had travelled from Liberia to Nigeria, arriving at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos. The article examines the duty of the Nigerian government to protect Nigerian citizens from contracting and dying from Ebola by ensuring, in practical terms, that the right to life of every Nigerian, as enshrined in section 33 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, is protected. Furthermore, it is argued that the Nigerian government owes a duty of care to its citizens to a level that ultimately ought to enable each Nigerian to enjoy adequate medical services and infrastructural development in the healthcare sector. This duty of care can be traced to article 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which confers a legally-binding right to development on African peoples. The article examines the justiciability of these rights under domestic and international law and identifies the potential legal liability of the Nigerian government, as well as the possible remedies available to the relatives of victims of the virus in Nigeria in the event of such liability. More broadly, the authors use Ebola to explore the notion of ‘pragmatic development’ – and ask what this means (or ought to mean) in a contemporary African context, within Nigeria’s socio-economic rights framework, and the role that international human rights law can play in helping to solve Nigeria’s chronic healthcare services and infrastructural deficit.
international human rights; constitutional law; right to development; Ebola virus outbreak
(2017) 17 (1) African Human Rights Law Journal 194 – 217