Ekweremadu: Disregard for Court Pronouncements, Rule of Law, Threat to Democracy

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Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, monday identified strict adherence to the rule of law and respect of the provisions of the constitution as sure ways to prevent tyranny and oppression in a democracy.

He also bemoaned the alleged selective approach in the present anti-corruption fight, noting that: “It’s being pursued according to the whims and caprices of those in power who persecute people according to the party they belong to.”

The lawmaker who disclosed this while speaking on the topic: ‘Strengthening the Foundations of Rule of Law in Nigeria’, at a public lecture in honour of late Prof. G. O. S Amadi, a renowned Professor of Law from the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu Campus (UNEC), noted that anything short of respecting the rule of law would lead to anarchy.

He insisted that flagrant disobedience to judicial pronouncements remained a major threat to rule of law and survival of Nigeria’s democracy.

“The efficacy of the rule of law is hinged on the compliance by governmental bodies and agencies with decisions of courts and other judicial or adjudicatory bodies. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, disobedience to court orders appears to be the norm rather than the exception in many facets of our national life,” Ekweremadu stressed.

At the lecture, organised by the Faculty of Law, UNEC, and Prof. G. O. S Amadi Foundation at the Moot Court Complex, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Ekweremadu further stressed that the rule of law was indispensable in any society that craves for justice, equity, and fairness.

While noting that the foundation of the rule of law in Nigeria was the 1999 constitution, as amended, the Senate deputy president who is an alumnus and former lecturer at the Faculty of Law, was however quick to add that to make the foundation strong, all Nigerians have a duty and role to play.

“Those who think the strengthening of the rule of law is not their business are only playing the dangerous game of the cockerel, which refuses to attend a meeting of the animal kingdom, claiming it is not his business. But, sadly for him, it is agreed at the meeting that his lineage would be used as sacrifice to the gods. The cock and his kindred are yet to recover from that I-don’t-care attitude. The rule of law is, therefore, everybody’s business.
“We must all be ready and willing to live by the spirit and letters of our laws. Much of our problems are not about the laws themselves, but about our disrespect for them.”

Indeed, a major difference between us and the developed world is that while we choose which rules, laws, or court judgments to obey or not to obey, they command obedience to their laws through strict enforcement that does not respect persons. We need to imbibe that attitude and culture in order to strengthen the foundations of the rule of law in Nigeria,” Ekweremadu noted.

He also called on leaders at all levels to lead by example, insisting that it was one sure way to entrench the rule of law in Nigeria.

“On leading by example, the words of Justice Louis D. Brandeis in Olmstead vs. United States are instructive. In his dissenting opinion, he states: ‘Our Government is the potent, omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto him and it invites anarchy’.

“It is very clear, therefore, that impunity and lawlessness are contagious. If those at the helms of leadership have no respect for the rule of law, their subordinates are not likely to respect the rule of law also. If they by any means show that the law is meant to catch their opponents and perceived enemies alone, they have unwittingly licenced their purported friends to scorn the rules and break the laws. And certainly, as a leader, you cannot choose which law or court verdict to obey or which to disobey,” he declared.

Drawing from the words of United States former President, Thomas Jefferson, Ekweremadu maintained that even under the best of leadership, no man was good enough to exercise power outside the dictates of the constitution or law, as that would amount to an invitation to tyranny and anarchy.

While eulogising the late Professor Amadi who he described as a true “trade unionist,” Ekweremadu said labour leaders of these days live ostentatious lives but turn round to criticise those in power.
According to him, “The other day, some labour leaders came to the Senate to protest against plans to acquire Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) for senators and members of the House of Representatives but when some of our people went out, they took pictures of the SUVs these labour leaders drove to the National Assembly.”

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the event, Hon. Justice Peter Umeadi, Chief Judge of Anambra State, who described Ekweremadu as “an icon” and a worthy alumnus of the UNN, emphasised the need for strict adherence to the process of arraignment, stating that there is nothing like “Holden Charge” under the Nigerian legal system.