One basic prerequisite for the establishment of justice and the foundation for peaceful co- existence and respect of human rights in any country, is total adherence to the rule of law. Does this really apply in Nigeria?
The rule of law is the political philosophy that all citizens and institutions within a country, state, or community are accountable to the same laws, including lawmakers and leaders. It is the cornerstone of human endeavour in the society. It is central to any human activity, and it is what determine how a country, organizations and individuals will be governed. Rule of law is a principle under which all persons, institutions, and entities are accountable to laws that are: publicly promulgated, equally enforced, independently adjudicated and consistent with international human rights principles.
The rule of law encompasses four universal principles: “the government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law; the laws are clear, publicised, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property; the process by which laws are
The rule of law specifies the rule and regulations, the law and order, so that nobody will arrogate the power of life and death to himself. Without the rule of law, certain individuals will attempt to play God and become a dictator and the country will be worse for it
Many countries throughout the world strive to uphold the rule of law where no one is above the law, everyone is treated equally under the law, everyone is held accountable to the same laws. But there are clear and fair processes for enforcing laws, there must be an independent judiciary while the human rights of all citizens must be guaranteed.
A clear departure from the above will certainly lead to anarchy and lawlessness. When an elected public official sees himself as above the law, there are bound to be consequences. He will trample on people’s right and proceed to regard himself as the law itself with so many illegalities while in office. Incidentally, he is elected to serve the people and obey the laws of the land.
But the trappings of office and other paraphernalia accruing from the exalted post have entered his head and such an individual starts to misbehave and decide to act outside the law.
We have had some ugly experiences of elected public officials acting contrary to the rule of law and performing illegal act. Happily, the law usually catches up with them as they forget that the positions, they are occupying are transient and not permanent.
Despites being unambiguously enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution, the only surprising thing like you stated earlier is the blatant disrespect shown to this constitutional provision by Nigerian rulers who had openly sworn to uphold it. Can this wrong be rectified?
That is true and appears to be the norm among certain ill-advised public officials. Today, we know better, we have seen many governors, senators and other public officials go to jail in this country. This is a clear indication that to a certain extent, the rule of law still exists to a degree in this country.
For example, I have handled cases arising from abuse of office and diversion of public funds by certain errant public officials. In their judgments in the matter, the courts frowned at the infamous action and descended heavily on them for abusing their offices without thinking of the day of reckoning. The judges also held in their verdicts that every public official must give account of stewardship, as time does not affect criminal matters.
I’m happy that the law, which they trample upon while in office, will usually catch up with them as they forget that the positions they are occupying are temporary and not permanent.
The Administration Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 marks a turning point in addressing vital shortcomings in our criminal justice system. But the act is undergoing further amendments before the National Assembly. What areas do you think should be addressed?