Rights, Duties and Obligations of a Citizen

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Rights, Duties And Obligations Of The Citizens In A State

Citizenship confers both rights and duties on a citizen. Since the citizen enjoys all the rights provided by his state, it follows that he is obliged to perform certain duties and obligation to the state in return. This is because every right or privilege entails a responsibility.

Thus, there is a give-and-take (reciprocal) relationship between rights and duties. If a citizen does not perform his duties, he is invariably infringing on the rights of others including the state.

Rights, Duties and Obligations of a Citizen

For example, a citizen must pay his tax before he can ask for good roads. He must register as a voter before he can put himself up for election as a councilor or governor.

All this boils, down to the fact that the relationship between rights and duties (and obligations) is based on the principle of reciprocity.

Rights Of The Citizen

A right is simply what a person can do. It refers to a privilege conferred on an individual or a group by virtue of his membership of a political community (state).

As such, a right is what a person enjoys by virtue of the fact that he is a member of a state. So he cannot enjoy such privileges if he ceases to be a citizen or if he is an alien.

On the whole, it is instructive to note that many people find it easy to claim their rights but often ignore or forget to carry out their responsibilities particularly to the state.

The chaotic traffic situation in our major cities is caused largely by our indiscipline, lack of respect for constituted authority and impatience with other road users. For example, poor roads would be safe if motorists show much consideration for other road users.

Rights that are usually guaranteed and enforceable at law include the following.

  • Political Rights: Deal with active participation in political activities. They include right to vote and be voted for, right to join or form a political association (like a political party) and right to criticize government panel and political leaders without molestation or victimization.
  • Social Rights: Such as the provision and enjoyment of social infrastructure and amenities e.g. water, health, education, employment.
  • Natural Rights: Natural rights are rights which are inherent in the individual such as right to live, right to own property, right to marry, freedom of association; freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom from deprivation of personal liberty, and freedom from forced labour.
  • Economic Rights: These include right to work, right to own and sell property, right to choose and change occupation and right to work in any part of the country.
  • Legal Rights: e.g. Right to sue and be sued, right to fair hearing and right to compensation for property acquired by the state.

However, these rights may be restricted by the state under certain circumstances e.g. during emergency or when there is a need to protect the individual from himself or to protect the society. For example, the ability of a person who is insane to exercise his right and liberty is limited and he may be arrested and confined to a place.

Similarly, peopIe who suffer from contagious diseases like leprosy or bird flu may be confined to a place to prevent the spread of the diseases.

Duties Of The Citizen

A duty (or legal obligation) is what a person is obliged to do. It means responsibility. It is what the law requires a person to perform. You may be punished for not performing your duty. Indeed, the duties of a citizen to the state may be summarized in one word, “obedience”.

The major duties of a citizen may be broken down into the following:

  1. Every citizen has a duty to be loyal to his state. That is, his primary duty is allegiance to the state. In this regard, he must respect. the constitution, and other institutions or symbols of the state e.g. the National Flag, National Anthem, National Pledge. It is only a bad citizen, for example who will abuse the president of his country or spy for another country for pecuniary gains.
  2. Every citizen must always be ready to defend and serve his country. For example, when there is a war against his country by external or internal enemies, he should be willing to enlist in the armed forces and, if necessary, lay down his life for his country. He should not dodge national service. For example, many National Youth Service Corps of Nigeria (NYSC) members often refuse posting to certain states or-rural areas Here we are not alluding to regions threatened by armed insurgents. Such behaviours tend to defeat the purpose of the scheme.
  3. It is the duty of a citizen to assist law enforcement agents in the performance of their duties. He has a duty to report suspicious characters to the police and serve as a witness of truth when called upon as a witness. The escalating crime situation in any country may be checked if the people voluntarily give information to the police and cooperate the police in their onerous duties.
  4. The individual has a duty to pay his tax as and when due. Taxes are the major source of income to a government, but many people usually avoid the payment of tax. This reduces the revenue available to government.
  5. Every citizen must render communal service especially to his immediate community and nation.
  6. A citizen has a duty to respect the interests and rights of others. In short, a citizen should be selfless. Unfortunately, one of the greatest problems we face in this country is that of gross disrespect for the other person.

If you love your neighbour and respect his interest, you will not assassinate, kill or kidnap him for ritual purposes, or drive against the traffic or make noise in a library or defecate in public places or destroy public property or dispossess a person of his property without due process.

Obligations Of The Citizen

A civic obligation is a duty, which a citizen is expected to perform without being required to do so by the law. In other words, civic obligations (unlike duties or legal obligations) are not stated in the constitution or any other law for that matter.

As such, a person cannot be punished for not doing it although he may have a moral obligation to do it. For example, a father who refuses to pay his child’s school fees cannot be punished for such an act. But if, the child drops out of school and turns out to be a thief or a robber or an “street (bad-gang) boy”, and he thereby brings shame to the family and tarnishes the name of the family, the father cannot exonerate himself from blame.

Civic obligations may take the following forms:

  • Respect for elders and constituted authorities;
  • Showing love to others;
  • Protection of public property and the property of others;
  • Protecting or assisting to protect the lives of others;
  • Showing kindness to others;
  • Giving to people in need and
  • Assisting others in time of need.
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