Malami: Rule of Law Not a One-way Traffic Arrangement

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Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami

•Says a balance of both sides is respecting the law

Tobi Soniyi

Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has addressed the constant allegation of abuse of the rule of law and disrespect to court orders by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, saying the misinformation lies in the assumption that the rule of law is a one-way traffic arrangement.

Speaking during the week on the Arise Television Morning Show, Malami contended that since the accused and the accuser rely on the same rule of law, the balance of the principles, process and procedure of the rule of law is what speaks to its application.
“Let me start by addressing the first question, which is, what the rule of law means to me. I want to give a general response to it regarding what constitutes the rule of law. A rule of law is operated within the context of the law, taking into consideration the prevailing rights within the law and enforcing them. Taking into consideration the prevailing rights available to individuals and personalities as enshrined in the constitution over legislation.

“So, in essence, a rule of law is about compliance. A rule of law is about upholding the tenets of constitutional requirements, the constitutionally established rights, upholding them and ensuring that they prevail. For you to put the rule of law into proper context, you need to understand what the rule of law means and how it operates, then you will have to situate it, access it, and x-ray it within the context of the constitution and prevailing legislations.

“So, now, what are the constitutional provisions, what are the legislative provisions, as far as compliance with court orders and judgments are concerned. First, if you are talking of a judgment of a court of law, a judgment is passed against the interest of the government, and what are the remedies available to the government.

“For instance, in a simple case of bail application, someone is charged with treason before a court of law, he files an application for bail, and the court of law granted an application for bail. So what is the rule of law element associated with application, both on the part of the government and the accused? On the part of the accused, the rule of law component is that the accused has been granted bail and he is entitled to bail.
“On the part of the government, the rule of law component is that if the government is aggrieved and not happy with order granted, it may want to consider the possibility of appealing the order, to consider the possibility of filing an application to set aside the bail that has been granted, if it is indeed within the context of law.
“There are grounds that justify the application for setting aside the order. Thirdly, to consider the possibility of staying the execution of the order, if indeed an appeal has been launched by the government.

“So, within the context of the rule of law, if the government decides to appeal and file an application for stay of execution, if the government decides to file an application for setting aside, both the government and the accuser are operating within the context of the rule of law, and the way the judicial processes and system operate, is not for the government to follow it hook, line and sinker, and unconditionally comply with the court order, where it has a legislative power to appeal and file an application for stay of execution.

“So, when the government decides not to release the accused, on the grounds that it has filed an application for stay of execution, and the application for stay of execution is being considered and determined by court, you are still operating within the context of the rule of law, because the rule of law gives an opportunity for the accuser to apply for bail. It is the same rule of law that gives the government the opportunity to challenge the order by way of an appeal, stay of execution or by section aside.

“So, it is the act of submission to court and not resulting to self-help that constitutes the rule of law and the components in general situation. The rule of law is not a one-way traffic arrangement. While you have to consider the interest of the accused in criminal cases and the interest of the government, what are the interests that are provided? Are the two operating within the context and spirit of law or they are resulting to self-help? Provided you don’t result to self-help and if you applied for an exercise of the right of privilege, you’re indeed operating within the context of the rule of law.
“It is never a one-way traffic affair, whereby you look at it from the perspective of complying with an order or judgment hook, line and sinker without factoring the associated counter rights and privileges available at the expense of the other. So, that is the rule of law and that is the constitutional context of it,” he explained.

When asked to address the future of the EFCC with respect to the rule of law, he contended that, “Our understanding of the rule of law as I have stated earlier, is a function of the constitution and function of the law, and not taking into consideration what remedies, redress and options are available for you in law provided your actions are rooted in law, and they are never arbitrary.

“I think the clear position is that you are operating within the context of the rule of law, more so, when a public interest and individual are in issue, the responsibility and office of the Attorney General is to ensure the public interest.
“So, I think that makes the record clear as far the function of rule of law is concerned and we shall continue as a government to operate within the context of taking advantage of what options and remedies that are available to us as a government within the context of the constitution and existing legislations and I think the rule of law, is about law and if the law provides that you have certain options, and you take advantage of those options, you can never be charged for operating arbitrarily.

“I think the function of the rule of law is the function of the law. Is there a law in existence that supports what you are doing? If the answer is yes, certainly, you’re operating within the context of the rule of law. The issue is when you decide to go over the prevailing legislative options, redresses, and remedies available to you, if your remedies are rooted in law, and you’re pursuing a remedy within the context of the law and you’re operating within the context of the rule of law, and not otherwise.”