US Envoy: Citizens’ Engagement Key to Improving Rule of Law in Nigeria

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

The United States of America has identified citizens’ engagement as vital in the implementation of the rule of law and overall development of Nigeria.

According to the US, while it is pertinent for the government to put in place mechanism that would effectively eradicate corruption which is the major bane of Nigeria’s development, government must endeavour to get the cooperation of Nigerians if it must succeed.

Acting Deputy Chief of Mission of US Embassy in Nigeria, Alan Tousignant, stated this in a keynote address he delivered at the Access Nigeria Share Fair 2017 in Abuja.

He said: “Just as the government has its own responsibility, the citizens should take up their own roles. You need to ask the government what they are doing, at the same time, ask yourself what you are doing to improve the country.”

While he assured Nigerians that the US is geared towards supporting Nigeria on how to strengthen the rule of law and eliminate corruption in the society, the envoy said: “Each Nigerian should determine to eliminate corruption and promote integrity in service,” adding that “by this the country will move forward.”

He commended Nigeria’s developmental effort particularly, in the last eighteen years of democratic rule and remarked that there is however much more to be done.

“There is still room for further development. We hear of town hall meetings where the leaders meet with the citizens and determine its level of success and failure.

The use of hotlines and personal phone numbers where the leaders can be reached is also a good development that will enhance the rule of law in the country.”

Also speaking, a board member of the Police Service Commission, Hon. Justice Olufunlola Adekeye, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, stated that though Nigeria has been operating democracy in the last 17 years, there are still challenges inherent in her democratic process.

Speaking on the topic: ‘The Rule of Law and the Nigerian State’, the retired justice noted that judges/ magistrates/khadis are insufficient compared to the workload of cases and administrative responsibilities. “Our courts still write with long hand therefore delaying the process of justice,” she said, adding: “Delays from the point of arrest to delivery of judgement are contributory factors to challenges still faced in the justice sector.”

She commended the various reforms initiated by the government, intergovernmental organisations as well as NGOs and CSOs, adding that there is need for the reforms to be carried out holistically to ensure their sustainability.