The rule of law promotes the general welfare of the community. It is a system in which the law, not people, is supreme. What is required in a society to stop dominance and tyranny and to advance the common good as determined by the law. As people seek justice through the legal system, the rule of law originally originated with men because they uphold the laws they view as just and rebel against the ones they see as unjust.
Because it ensures justice, guards against arbitrary rulings, and forbids tyranny and oppression, the rule of law has value. It restricts the authority of people in positions of power. Before being forced to control itself, the government must first exert control over the populace.
In Nigeria, a democratic country with three branches of government, the value of the rule of law cannot be overstated, for both the governed and those in political office. There are various ways in which the rule of law benefits Nigeria, from avoiding abuse of power to upholding judicial independence.
Principles of the rule of law
The World Justice Projects defines the rule of law as a framework that upholds the following four principles: These are additionally known as the four tenets of the rule of law:
The law holds everyone, including private individuals and businesses, as well as the government’s officials and agents, accountable.
2. Just law
Laws that guarantee fundamental rights, such as the safety of people and property, are transparent, well-publicized, stable, and just.
3. Open Government
The procedure used to enact, carry out, and enforce the law is transparent, equitable, and effective.
4. Accessible and impartial justice
Timely delivery of justice through impartial, capable, and independent representatives.
Importance of the rule of law in Nigeria
1. It prevents government officials from abusing their power
It is well known that a man will get corrupted by ultimate power. The goal of the rule of law is, therefore, the division of powers among the branches of government, which, when combined with checks and balances, aids in preventing such abuses of power. It is simple for the other branches of government to carry out checks and balances on one another because too much authority isn’t given to one of them. Thus, it stops individuals in government from abusing their positions of authority.
Let’s look at the legislative process in Nigeria to see how checks and balances are guaranteed by the rule of law. A bill is first introduced by the government’s legislative branch, which then votes on it. The executive arm will then handle the measure. The President may sign a bill into law if he believes it would benefit the nation.
However, if the President has a different opinion, he vetoes the bill. If the judicial branch of the government, on the other hand, disagrees with the executive branch’s veto, it can amass sufficient support to override the decision, and the measure becomes law.
2. It improves the efficiency of the government in performing its duties
One of the tenets of Nigeria’s legal system is the separation of powers in democracies. All of the governmental duties would have been burdensome if handled by a single branch of the government, which would have resulted in a poor handling of responsibilities.
The executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government are each given fewer duties due to the division of powers among them. With the duties and authority divided across the three branches of government, each one may concentrate on carrying out its constitutional duties, which boosts government effectiveness.
3. Judicial independence is ensured
The separation of powers between the three branches of government—the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary—is guaranteed by the rule of law. Because of this division of powers, the judicial branch of government is free to carry out its duties without interference from other branches of government, partisanship, or corporate interests.
The absence of external influences from other state actors, litigants, the media, and influential parties like large businesses gives judges the ability to effectively carry out their constitutional duty to render fair and unbiased judgements in accordance with the law.
People can approach courts with their issues, knowing that their problems will be resolved in accordance with the law thanks to the independence granted to the judiciary. Judges can therefore make decisions about matters solely on the basis of pertinent facts (evidence) and the law. As a result, unfairness and prejudice in the legal system will be prevented, protecting people’s freedom and rights.
4. To ensure equity
The equality of all Nigerian citizens before the law is one of the tenets of the rule of law. This means that, in the eyes of the law, everyone must be treated equally without bias, privilege, or discrimination, regardless of status, tribe, or circumstance. The courts must enforce equal justice and equal protection in order to ensure that no individual or group is given an unfair advantage over others.
The foundation of the rule of law is a set of values. The supremacy of the law, equality before the law, the separation of powers, the avoidance of arbitrary decision-making, procedural and legal transparency, legal accountability, and justice in the application of the law are some of these concepts.
The observance of the aforementioned principles is necessary for the rule of law to succeed in Nigeria, or any other democratic country, for that matter.
5. To ensure that only the law is supreme
The idea of the rule of law states that all citizens of the nation, regardless of whether they hold political office or are mere subjects, are subject to the country’s adopted laws as found in the constitution and other authorized legislation. As a result, those in positions of authority cannot just act arbitrarily or according to their whims. As a result, both the governed and the governed are subject to the established laws of the land.
6. To ensure the certainty of law
Laws that clearly define what constitutes a penal offense in the country should also be made known to the public, just as citizens are informed of the rights guaranteed to them as enshrined in the constitution. Without a clear-cut set of laws, a person will not be able to recognize his wrongdoing. But when laws are in place that make it plain what is illegal, the populace will understand what is wrong and abstain from it.
However, if someone is accused of committing a crime, they are presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the law. The rule of law further states that each accused person must first be charged with the offense, and only if the charge is substantiated by an impartial tribunal like a court, can the accused person be punished.
6. To assure the fundamental rights of all citizens regardless of class
According to the rule of law, all Nigerians’ basic human rights, which are enshrined in the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, must be respected and safeguarded. Some of these rights and freedoms include the right to life, the right to a private and family life, the freedom of conscience and religion, the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to be free from discrimination, the freedom to move around, the freedom of expression and the press, the right to own property, and the right to liberty.
19 other importance of the rule of law
- To improve global peace and security, secure justice, equality, and responsibility for all.
- To encourage societal and national growth on a whole
- In order to advance political stability
- To promote and advance economic and social growth.
- To promote equity and transparency.
- To stop the infringement of human rights.
- To prevent corruption.
- To stop the abuse of power and authority.
- It is to create a social compact between the people and the government.
- It advocates judicial independence.
- Maintaining the Constitution
- It stops despotism and arbitrary rule.
- Fairness is encouraged, and conflicts are resolved in an open, fast, and predictable manner.
- Laws that make legal rights certain and enforceable are readily available.
- It actively encourages greater economic growth.
- It is associated with better health results and more tranquility.
- It offers people high-quality services.
- Individuals and groups are empowered by the rule of law to use their own justice systems.
- Public confidence in the legitimacy of the government is increased by the rule of law.