Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Augustine Allegeh, SAN has said strict adherence to the rule of law remains the sure way to sustain the nation’s democracy insisting that the absence of the rule of law would inevitably result in anarchy.
The legal luminary who spoke as a guest lecturer at an event organised by the Law Students’ Association of the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus un Enugu said no matter the circumstance, for a nation to mature in the democratisation process, all interests whether political, personal, economic,Â religious, tribal and howsoever must yield to rule of law.
Speaking on the topic: “Politics, Interest and Rule of Law: the Equilibrium for Sustainable Democracy”, the Fellow, Chattered Institute of Arbitrators, United Kingdom however hailed the ongoing fight against corruption by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Allegeh whose paper dwelt so much on the interplay between politics, interest and the rule of law in sustaining the nation’s democracy took time to highlight â€œthe different ways that our democratic experience had been impacted by politics and personal interest.â€
Among cases he highlighted included the conflict that existed between the federal government and the Lagos state government as a result of the creation of new local government areas by the later resulting in the former withholding allocations to the state,Â the impeachment of Dr. Rasheed Ladoja as governor of Oyo state following his misunderstanding with his then political godfather, late Chief Adedibu and the controversy that trailed the emergence of Senator Ifeanyi Ararume as candidate of the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party (PDP) for the governorship of Imo state in 2007.
Other cases included the court-ordered inauguration of Rotimi Amaechi as governor of Rivers state following the issues that arose in the PDP governorship primary election in the state, the tension that arose following the demise of former president Umaru Yar’Adua, the defeat of President Good luck Jonathan in the 2015 election among others.
He said there were obvious interplay of politics, interest and rule of law in virtually all the cases, noting however that in most of the cases, rule of law triumphed over personal interests.
He also noted that the recent suspension of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the Director General of Nigeria Intelligence Agency, Oke pending investigation of matters involving them showed that the political and personal interest have yielded to rule of law. According to him, the development not only portends good omen for the country but shows there is hope for the nation’s future.
“Democracy has been hailed as the preferred system of governance as it vests ultimate power in the people. However the role of the judiciary is critical in ensuring that rule of law always prevails over all other interests whether political or economic.
“The judicial authorities referred to in this paper show clearly that our judiciary has performed its functions creditably in several of the cases that came before our courts.Â However, the judiciary still have sufficient room for improvement and can still up its game and become more efficient, time conscious and make its Court rules more friendly to ensure that there’s access to justice and speedy resolution of disputes.
â€œThe exercise of state power must be done fairly and in conformity with laid down constitutional and lawful procedures. Procedural guidelines for prosecution of crime must be complied with to avoid allegations of human rights abuse and lack of fair hearing. Orders of court must be obeyed and complied with to the latter,” he said.
Speaking further he said the various agencies of government must act in conformity with laid down procedures and within the dictates of the law to give legal protection and cover to actions taken in the exercise of political powers and the enforcement of laws.
“Our representatives in government should focus in the discharge of their official duties in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. Political parties should leave governance for elected officials and not overwhelm them with unreasonable demands and requests. This will ensure the timeous implementation of governmental policies and programmes for the betterment of the general public.
“We must all as Nigerians play our roles in ensuring that rule of law always prevails and is never compromised for political and personal interest; for it is only then that we can guarantee our collective enjoyment of true democratic dividends,” he said.