That Law May Not Obstruct ‘Change’ | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Agenda, Opinion

That Law May Not Obstruct ‘Change’

Posted: Jun 4, 2015 at 12:32 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Iwilade Akintayo, a Legal Practitioner based in Lagos, in the first of his  two part essay,  makes a case for certain sections of the Nigerian laws to be reviewed. 

“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose, they become dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress”

– Martin Luther King (Jnr.)


To an appreciable extent, the people of Nigeria, and the rest of the world, look to Nigeria’s newly inaugurated administration with a good dose of justified optimism. The President’s inaugural speech, and the tone of conviction evident in the manner of delivery, gives greater hope that a Leadership sincerely committed to halting Nigeria’s decline, and re-inventing its progressive rise, is probably here. Many hope the era of meaningful ‘change’, away from the malfunctioning that had defined Nigeria for decades, has come. Some have, understandably, called for cautious hope, but theirs is also an expression of ‘hope’, however cautious.

But will what has happened in Nigeria’s electoral space that saw a rejection of the old order, engender ‘changes’ of a scale never before seen in the Country; or will it merely bring minimalist improvements incapable of ending the misery that has unjustifiably dotted the Nigerian inhumane space for decades?

Well, it depends first on the availability and clear articulation of a robust socio-political and economic vision to be fiercely driven by the personal moral authority and intellectual depth of the current Leadership. Next, among other variables, is the question of how far Law would be adroitly remodeled to become progressively unified with the dynamics of the said robust socio-political and economic vision.

Unfortunately, the Law has not been spectacularly impressive in giving vent to Nigerian people’s yearnings for progress over the years. Law, be it in form of Decrees, Statutes, the Constitution or judicial interpretations that advertently legitimize inequality, corruption and electoral injustices, cannot be absolved of complicity in the avoidable under-development of Nigeria over the years. In some poorly veiled ways, Law itself had unfortunately undermined the goals of equality, true federalism, self-determination, economic progress, electoral liberty and the overall well being of the people of Nigeria at various turnings.

With its absurd unitarist scope, though falsely called Federalist, the Constitution and some fundamental Laws purporting to derive authority from it, appear to have been deliberately designed to deny the attainment and experience of social justice, a sense of equality, economic liberty, self-determination, competitive growth, true federalism and prosperity to majority of the citizens. The complicit role, of a burdensome unitarist Constitution; and some fundamental Laws deriving from it, have long provided fortresses from which Institutions of State, and actors within them, ‘legitimately’ perpetuate injustices against citizens’ rights to dignified life, economic development, self-determination, equal opportunity, freedom from discrimination, electoral liberty, true federalism etc. Ultimately, the Constitution will have to fundamentally change to significantly re-mould Nigeria into the truly Federal Nation it ought to have been over decades. The Law-making foot of the Legal Order must not be allowed to stand in the way of such fundamental changes that sooner than later must take place.

Though not conclusive of all that needs to be fundamentally fixed in Nigeria, the issues already identified in the President’s inaugural speech would need an ideologically sturdy and well retooled Legal Order for them to get sustainable resolutions.

But except the Law’s complicity is curtailed; and the Legal Order consequently rise firmly to align with the progressive agenda being set by the new administration, justice will remain a merely theoretical rather than a felt aspiration in Nigeria. In what may well turn out to be an epic battle between an existing old order and, hopefully, an emergent new one, the Law cannot afford any complacent neutrality.

The Legal Order must radically and sustainably harmonise its tripod branches of Law-making, Law enforcement and Law-interpretation towards ensuring the attainment of genuine unbiased justice, fair economic progress and the protection of the vulnerable henceforth become the key focus of Law-making, enforcement and interpretation in Nigeria.  None of the tripods of the Legal Order should stand in the way of changes that must take place for the Nation’s rebirth to become an incontestable reality.

For instance, to entrench a democratic culture across all levels in Nigeria and ‘to consciously work the democratic process’ as the President has indicated, amongst other agendas, requires that the democratic space at all levels of governance; including the civil and professional societies, be opened. A good starting point is to henceforth halt the aberrations which have made Local Governments retarded appendages of undemocratic State Governors over the years. To help the administration ‘work the democratic process’ as it has indicated, the Local Governments must be freed from the chains of authoritarianism which have robbed Nigerians the opportunity to legitimately choose their Leaders at the Local Levels of governance.

The Law would be conniving to work against the democratic process if State Governors are allowed to continue pocketing the Local Governments. The condescending practices of State Governors such as the unbridled penchant for disallowing periodic, transparent and definitive Local Government Elections across the States while preferring to unilaterally appoint stooges to lord over the people at the Local levels must be halted, by Law. Such condescending practices emboldened Governors to openly violate the Constitution by appointing so-called Caretaker Chairmen for Local Governments and also creating all sorts of dubious subversive mechanisms, to starve and control the funds constitutionally meant for Local Governments thereby stalling meaningful governance at the Local Level.