That Law May Not Obstruct ‘Change’ | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Agenda, Opinion

That Law May Not Obstruct ‘Change’

Posted: Jun 5, 2015 at 12:05 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

 Iwilade Akintayo, Nigerian Legal Practitioner based in Lagos, in this concluding part of a two part essay, argues that for sustainable progress to be made, the laws must always be remodeled to align with the pressing expectation of the people it serves.

The Law must now be clear, and decisive, on the status of the Local Government as an autonomous tier of Government that deserves to hold periodic elections in which the people of the respective localities determine who leads them, and how; contrary to the current atrocious practices of self-righteous State Governors denying people in the localities their basic democratic rights to legitimately choose their leaders. 

The Law would also not be ‘working the democratic process’ if it continues to fail to decisively halt the current subversive practice which somewhat permits Political Parties to fail to hold party primaries to ensure party members, and party members alone, determine who flies their parties’ flags at elections. Working the democratic process does not start at General Elections. It begins with the existence of a virile civil society and a transparent process of ensuring accountability in governance through making clearance to contest elective positions determinable by ordinary party members, and not some incoherent patronage system as currently obtains. The Law must enforce unadulterated internal democracy in all political parties, to ensure the best persons accepted by the people ultimately find their way into public service as against the current awkward cronyism that will do nothing but weaken the democratic process in the long run.

To take a second example, the President has indicated in the unfolding agenda that ‘pervasive corruption’ is one of the enormous challenges confronting Nigeria. No rational person doubts this. But is the Law currently modeled to treat corruption as a National emergency that requires dynamic and sustainable annihilation? One is unsure but either way, the Law must now align itself, and quickly too, with the aspiration of Nigerians to end corruption. Corruption cannot be successfully fought without a reduction of the mindless public salaries and allowances, especially of Law makers, to make public service emoluments come in alignment with the realities of our battered economy. The Law must therefore be clear that no public official can earn beyond wages and allowances fixed by the requisite agency of Government which is currently the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and it must be clear that the wages and allowances cannot be fixed outrageously by even the RMAFC itself.

Corruption also cannot be fought without open and transparent governance that gives the public access to unfettered information on the true state of public finance, and its use. Here, the Freedom of Information Act must now be allowed to take its prime place in the anti-corruption crusade. First, every State must pass it failing which; it should be made a Federal Law binding on every State irrespective of whether the States pass it or not. This will task the Law-making and Law interpretation foots of the Legal Order. But none should fail to lend its weight to a long cheated people’s quest for transparency in the affairs of their Government.

Every lofty idea, however revolutionary, must have a sturdy legal framework to succeed and be sustainable in the long term. When America needed to lay its foundation for universal freedom and rights, we saw the American Declaration of Independence and the accompanying American Constitution which have both helped to deepen the Nation’s democratic growth and its enviable experimentations with the endless possibilities of human freedom. When it needed to checkmate slavery, we saw the Proclamation Act. When Civil Rights had to be made universal, we saw the Civil Rights Act. When Britain had to lay foundation for civil rights, we saw the Magna Carta.

When Depression came, threatening to obliterate the US economy in the 1930s, we saw the Social Security Act, Emergency Banking Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act among several other Laws which were all Legal frameworks designed to breathe life into the ‘New Deal’ vision of the remarkable President F. D Roosevelt. The US Congress recognized the urgency of the times and did not constitute itself as a clog to the people’s recovery; neither did any member of its judiciary derail the recovery efforts of the administration with reactionary law interpretations.

Yes, none of these instances have made the respective Countries become fully challenge-free; but the alignment and support of the Legal Order had helped in making the countries far better off than they would have been had the Legal Order used Law making or Interpretation to delay, or obstruct the progresses made.

So, for sustainable progress, Law must always be remodeled to align with the pressing expectations of the people it serves. And now that a new agenda to reverse decades-old decadence is unfolding in Nigeria, the Nation’s Legal System must brace up to the reality of changing times and the legitimate expectations of the people that must be met. With the leadership promised to be provided by the Law enforcement foot of the tripod, the Law-making and Law-interpretation foots must align themselves, to ensure that never again would any foot super-intend the making, enforcement or interpretation of Laws that deepen citizens’ experiences with socio-economic, political and electoral injustices. The Law must not be exploited to abort the legitimate rebirth now being earnestly awaited for the Country.