THE CONCEPT OF RULE OF LAW IN NIGERIA
Rule of law is a legal maxim that suggests that no one is above the law and governmental decisions must be made only by applying known legal and moral principles.
THE CONCEPT OF RULE OF LAW IN NIGERIA
Rule of law is a legal maxim that suggests that no one is above the law and governmental decisions must be made only by applying known legal and moral principles. The Rule of Law limits the powers of Government by judicial defense of laws and the Constitution which is based on recognized basic legal values, established in international law. The Rule of Law is meant to prevent dictatorship and to protect the rights of the people.
The Rule of Law is especially important as an influence on the economic development in developing and transitional countries. Constitutional economics is the study of government spending, which, in many transitional and developing countries, is completely controlled by the executive. The standards of constitutional economics can be used during annual budget process. The availability of an effective court system, to be used by the civil society in courts in situations of unfair governmental distribution of national money is a key element for the success of the rule-of-law in developing countries.
The rule of law is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “The authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behavior; (hence, the principle whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes”. The phrase “the rule of law” refers to a political situation, not to any specific legal rule.
The contemporary definition, as developed by the International Commission of Jurists states that it Rule of Law is the conditions, structures, institutions, processes and procedures that must exist so that the individual can enjoy his life in dignity, security and prosperity.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE RULE OF LAW
SUPREMACY OF THE LAW
The rule of law is legal principle that law governs a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of people who wield power. Those with power must themselves be constrained by laws in exercising their powers and not act according to their whims and fancies. The law is the highest reference point in every situation.
CERTAINTY OF THE LAW
No person may be punished or made to suffer unless the person has committed a distinct breach of the law and a person is innocent until proven guilty. What this means is that there must first be a law enacted which creates the offence. This is one of the reasons why laws are made, so that a citizen knows what he or she is prohibited from doing.
At all times the law must be clear on exactly what it is. If there are no clear set of laws, a person will not know if he or she is committing an offence. The person alleged to have committed that offence must be charged and the charge must be proven by an independent tribunal, such as a court, before the person can be punished.
EQUALITY BEFORE THE LAW
Another important characteristic of the rule of law is that every person is equal before the law. Equality before the law means that the law must not be based on the class of the person. It also means that every person must be entitled to equal protection of the law.
If a person who holds power has committed a wrong on a citizen, the citizen must be allowed to seek redress from the person in power. There can be no exclusion from the application of the law based on class or social status, for example.
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS TO PERSONAL FREEDOM
The rights and freedoms of the individual must be guaranteed and respected by law. Laws are made in a country to protect the interests of the citizens. If the law is to be seen to work well, it must preserve and protect the rights and freedoms of individuals. Every person has a right to life, no person shall be subjected to torture or to any form of inhuman or degrading treatment and she or he also has the right to work, personal safety, education, property and the right to vote and to stand as a candidate for election.
While it is the duty of the state to provide necessary rights and liberties to citizens in order to ensure greater happiness of the individual, it is the citizen’s moral obligation to refrain from interfering with the rights and freedom of other citizens. It is to this end that the fundamental human rights are entrenched in modern constitutions.
Recall that judicial independence is the concept that the judiciary should be independent from the other branches of government. That is, courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government or from private or partisan interests. Judicial independence is important to the idea of separation of powers.
Judicial independence serves as a safeguard for the rights and privileges provided by a limited constitution and prevent executive and legislative encroachment upon those rights. It serves as a foundation for the rule of law and democracy. The rule of law means that all authority and power must come from an ultimate source of law. Under an independent judicial system, the courts and its officers are free from inappropriate intervention in the judiciary’s affairs. With this independence, the judiciary can safeguard people’s rights and freedoms which ensure equal protection for all.
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