Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Augustine Alegeh, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria has said only strict adherence to the rule of law remains the sure way to sustain the nation’s democracy. He said democracy without the rule of law would inevitably result in anarchy.
The former NBA president, who spoke as a guest lecturer at an event organised by the Law Students’ Association of the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Enugu said in regardless of socio-political and religious affiliations, the country’s nascent democracy would not progress except there was a stricter adherence to the rule of law.
Speaking on “Politics, Interest and Rule of Law: the Equilibrium for Sustainable Democracy”, Alegeh, however, hailed the ongoing fight against corruption by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. Alegeh whose paper was predicated on politics, interest and the rule of law in sustaining the nation’s democracy took time to highlight ways by which democratic experience would be impacted through politics and personal interest.
Among cases he highlighted included the conflict that existed between the federal government and the Lagos state governmment as a result of the creation of new local government areas, resulting in the withholding of Lagos allocations by the federal government, the impeachment of Senator Rasheed Ladoja as Oyo state governor 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 Peoples 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. All this, Alegeh said were obvious interplay of politics, interest and the rule of law, noting however that in most of the cases, rule of law triumphed over personal interests.
Besides, he 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 had yielded to rule of law. According to him, the development did not only portend good omen for the country but had shown there was hope for the nation’s future, saying that 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.
Alegeh said: “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.
However, the judiciary still has sufficient room for improvement and can still up its game and become more efficient, time conscious and make its rules more friendly to ensure that there’s access to justice and speedy resolution of disputes.
“The exercise of state power must be done fairly and in conformity with the 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.”