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Rights-Based Appraisal of Some Aspects of Nigerian Mental Health Laws: Perspectives from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities



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Persons living with mental and psychosocial disabilities experience a wide range of human rights violations. These include stigma and discrimination, degrading and coercive treatment, isolation, restraint, seclusion, and, in some cases, the denial of capacity to participate in their treatment. Efforts in the international community to protect the rights of this vulnerable group of people led to the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (“CRPD”) in 2006. The CRPD, which Nigeria ratified in 2010, is acclaimed as the best human-rights-based approach to protecting persons living with disabilities. The archaic 1958 Lunacy Act, which was operational in the country, did not protect the rights of persons living with mental disabilities. Starting in 2018, Nigeria passed the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, which, among others, criminalized discrimination against persons based on disability. This was followed in the same year with the enactment of the Mental Health Service Law in Lagos State, the most populous state in Nigeria, and the subsequent enactment of the National Mental Health Act in 2022. This modern federal mental health law repealed the Lunacy Act. This thesis explores how these mental health laws protect the human rights of persons with disabilities in line with the CRPD’s rights-based approach. It focuses on stigma, discrimination, and the capacity of persons living with mental disabilities to participate in their care. It compares the relevant provisions of the Nigerian mental health laws with the corresponding articles of the CRPD. The objective is to appraise the extent to which these laws comply with the CRPD and identify gaps that require reforms. This thesis finds adequate protection against stigma and discrimination in Nigerian laws and mental health policy. Still, there are gaps in the efficient implementation of the laws, which may not be quickly reformed given Nigeria’s political and geographical structure. Consequently, it recommends a National Action Plan as a stop-gap measure to combat stigma and discrimination against persons living with mental disabilities. On the capacity of persons living with mental and psychosocial disabilities to participate in their care, this thesis finds that Nigerian mental health laws complied only in part with the relevant article of the CRPD. Thus, some improvements are required to ensure that the safeguards the CRPD prescribes to protect persons living with disabilities while providing them with support to exercise their capacity are well enshrined in the laws. This thesis draws from the experiences in Kenya, Ireland, and Peru to suggest potential reforms for Nigeria. It suggests that Nigeria should take a cue from how Ireland and Kenya reformed their mental health laws to comply with the CRPD.



appraisal, mental, health, laws, nigeria, CRPD.



Master of Laws (LL.M.)






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