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Friday, 27 July 2018

Rule Of Law

The rule of law means the law pre-eminent and superior to the rule of any human leader. It presupposes that the law is above any individual in the system and should be obeyed by all. It is a principle of governance in which all persons including the state itself are all accountable and answerable to laws of the land which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. The rule of law holds that the law must be prospective, well-known, and have characteristic of generality, equity and certainty. Under the rule of law, the law is pre-eminent and can serve as a check against the abuse of power.
     The rule of law has been considered as one of the key dimension that determine the quality and good governance of a country. When a political leader takes the oath of office, they affirm that the rule of law is superior to the rule of any human leader. They then set up measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy.
         The rule of law implies rights and freedoms; it implies an independent judiciary and social, economic and cultural conditions conducive to human dignity. Credit for popularizing the expression "the rule of law" in modern times is usually given to the popular British Jurist, Professor A.V. Dicey. In 1885, he formulated the three interpretations of the rule of law in his book entitled "Introduction to the Law of the Constitution", as:
(i) The supremacy of the law
(ii) Equality before the law
(iii) Fundamental human right of the individuals.

A. The Supremacy of the Law: This aspect explains that nobody should be punished or subjected to any degrading or crime treatment or punishment except for a breach of law proven in an ordinary court. A person is presumed innocent and subjected to fair and public trial without undue delay until pronounced guilty by ordinary court devoid of secret trials. This also entails that the law is above every citizen and should not be used to oppress the weak and the minorities by the government and their agents.

B. Equality Before the Law: This entails that no one is above the law of the land. There should be equal access to the law legal process; and a rational and propotionate approach to punishment. This recommends fairness and equal access to justice, rights and freedoms. Nobody is above the other under the law. The law binding governor and a president is also binding ordinary citizens and if they break the law; they should be subjected to the same fair trial and punishment if found guilty by the law courts.

C. Fundamental Liberty of the Individuals: 

This entails that the judicial decisions are binding and courts should have the power of judicial review over the way in which the other principles are implemented. It implies that the rule of law includes the results of judicial decisions determining the rights of private persons which are alienable. These rights of citizens should be adequately safeguarded and protected by strong and independent judiciary. The fundamental rights of citizens are :
  • Right to life
  • Right to freedom of expression
  • Right to work 
  • Right to vote and be voted for 
  • Right to freedom of association 
  • Right to education 
  • Right to social security, etc. 

Importance of Rule of Law

(I) The rule of law helps to institute social justice in the society. It develops social, economic an cultural conditions conducive to human dignity. That is why it is regarded as the foundation of a civilized society. 
(ii) The rule of law prevents tyranny and bad governance. It prevents the government and their agents from infringing on the rights and freedom of ordinary citizens. 
(III) The rule of law protects the rights and freedom of citizens; most especially the minorities in a Democratic system. It allow for equity and fair treatment of citizens irrespective of their status. 
(IV) It promotes accountability of the government to the law and to the people upon whom political sovereignty resides. 
(V) It promotes political participation as against political apathy of the citizens. 
(VI) The rule of law strengthens democracy. It protects democracy and serve as the foundation. 

There are some problems that may stand as impediment to the smooth application of the rule of law. Some of them are as follows:
  • Under international law; ambassador and high commissioners are not subject to punishment under the law of the country where they reside when they disobey the law. This is because they enjoy diplomatic immunity. They can only be repatriated to their country. 
  • When there is a civil unrest, the government may call for a state of emergency where all Democratic structures will be suspended pro-tem-pore. 
  • Also, a mentally deranged person who is unable cannot be allowed to stand trial. 
  • In Nigeria, the chief executives, that is, the president and the state governors as well as legislators and judges enjoys immunity under the law. 
  • Another problem of the rule of is the use of special courts, for example, tribunals etc. To handle cases which may in turn pervert justice. 
  • The rule of law cannot be upheld in a system where there is no democratic government. 
  • The rights of the citizen is limited by the respect for the rights of the other citizens for example, citizens have freedom of expression, but they are not allowed under the law to say things that may affect the dignity and personality of other citizens. 

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