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Lecture Titled: The rule of law in an age of impunity

By   /  March 29, 2016  /  1 Comment

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OmatseyeWhile the poor grovelled in their carpetless hovels and lightless homes at night, these men romped in nameless opulence. They soared in private jets, while the poor choked in danfos that trundled on potholes. They had power from diesel-fuelled, quietly whirring generators while the poor sweated at home, in spite of their sputtering generators known as ‘I better pass my neighbour’.

Their children’s minds were nourished in the tony schools of the Western world, while the average Nigerian could not pay fees to schools, the quality of which education was sometimes only a little better than phony.

So, if these big men stole so much and advertised it with impunity, why not yank them from their purloined palaces and squeeze them into the few centimetre-square apartments, known as the jail room? Forget the law, because the thieves, in the first case, had contempt for the law when they committed the crimes.

Nigerians’ contempt for the rule of law under the past military era and even currently is not encouraging, so is the Fulani herdsmen’s killings and abduction for marriage in the North, among others.

Even the presence of multiple constitutional institutions operating within the country also contribute to such impunity.

Omatseye condemned Nigerians’ contempt for the rule of law under the past military era and even currently.

In our society in Nigeria, the notion of the rule of law is problematic for historical reasons. One: we have had monarchy among us for centuries and the monarchical sensibility is still resonant and potent… Two: we have had military dictatorship since independence and its martial impulses are still undeniable, in spite of our strong claims to the republican spirit…

The law still has to come to terms with some of the sources of law, such as faith, tribe and monarchy in a republican setting.

So, we live in a conflict of legal universes in which, on the surface, we pledge allegiance to the superiority of the constitution, which is the only body of laws that binds us together – whatever our tribes, faith, regions or kings. But because of our parochial fidelities, the constitution is abstract. We regard it as a law that matters only when it comes to such matters that do not conflict with the mores and dictates of our tribes or faith or monarchy.

Nigerians should be careful in their quest for jailing the looters, without following due process of the law so that justice can take its course, regardless of the personal misgivings towards the law.

Whatever we do, we have to be careful not to make the law a scapegoat and, if we do that, we install anarchy. We must always know that the law will haunt us once we treat it with contempt… So, when majority of Nigerians did not care what the law said and merely wanted the criminals to be punished, they did not understand the power of precedent. If we neglect the law to catch a true thief, a murderer will refer to that example to escape justice… That exactly is what we should pursue: how to make law and justice meet.

I believe that the law is as important as the gravitas of the leadership and how they carry the mass of the people on the wave of their moral high values… and we are bound to the violence of the paedophile, the religious bigot, the impunity of the public thief and all of that until we have the sort of political elite that can coalesce for one Nigeria and enact a cohesive body of laws.

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1 Comment

  1. Alas, the article was able to harvest the solution to our weak institutions. Nice one sir.

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