Principle of Equality before the Law in Nigerian Government and Politics

The application of the rule of law is the principle that governmental authority is legitimately exercised only in accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws adopted and enforced in accordance with established procedural steps that are referred to as due process. The principle of the rule of law is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance, whether by a totalitarian leader or democratic leader. Samuel Rutherford was one of the first modern authors to give the principle theoretical foundations, in Lex, Rex (1644), and later Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws (1748).

In his Law of the Constitution, Dicey identified three principles which together establish the rule of law: (1) the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power; (2) equality before the law or the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary courts; and (3) the law of the constitution is a consequence of the rights of individuals as defined and enforced by the courts.”

This is the fundamental rules governing the conduct of government business. The emphasis here is on the principle of equality before the law. Every citizen – irrespective of educational qualification, social status, position, gender, religion, and age is expected to be treated equally in the event of breach of the law of the land. For example, if the president c of Nigeria stole a Goat, and an ordinary man on the street stole a Goat, the duo should receive similar punishment for the offence. In fact, the president should receive a more severe punishment their economic status and social placement.

Many Americans might have been involved in raping unnoticed. But when the former American president, Bill Clinton was alleged of sexual harassment in the famous Monica Lewinsky saga, he was called for open interrogation and defense. This scenario is literally impossible in Nigeria. Here, contracts are awarded after close door ‘meetings’ in Sheraton Hotel, Bolingo Hotel, Hotel Presidential, or any other popular hotel in town. The same mess takes place in our institutions of higher learning where passing an examination is a function of meeting-up with the sexual and/or financial desire of lectures both male and female alike. In Nigeria, the atrocities of the leaders are covered by presidential and parliamentary immunities while the common man on the street is exposed to untold harassment in the name of law enforcement.

Equality before the law has been and will remain illusory in Nigeria. It is in Nigeria that governance is to the interest of few individuals and to the detriment of the ever-increasing mass of greatly impoverished, oppressed and depressed people. It is a point that has caused and will continue to cause mass exodus of people in search of greener aperture hence aggravating brain drain in the country. Some people are living as second class citizen in there country. Recently, I was traveling from Abuja to Lokoja and a man frankly told me that he prefers being a slave in somebody’s country that being a slave in his own country. That is the thinking of many Nigerians because of the ever-increasing misery and deprivation.

When some people are sacred cows and others suffer for their mischief, the inevitable consequence may be the accelerating spate of armed rubbery and organized crime. For instance, an administration that introduced the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) shouldn’t have been enmeshed in a deep rooted crisis of $16 billion power sector scandal. But my worry with Nigeria and Nigerians is that such fellow will still escape the eagle eye of both the legislators, executives and even those ‘crime fighting institutions’. Somebody may ask why? Well you can answer the question yourself. What has happened to the likes of General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and a whole lot of others that looted our treasury and send Nigeria to the comity of Highly Indebted Poor Countries of the World (HIPC). The truth is that Nigeria is not poor but has been impoverished by it leaders. That reminds me of the comment made by Professor C. Achebe as far back as the 80s that the problem of Nigeria is the “problem of leadership.”

The trial of Ministers involved in the sharing of N300 million is another trying period for Nigeria the Lawmakers and other stakeholders who partook in this unholy act should be brought to book as well. This is an onerous task of the administration of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. I do hope that fairness, due process, accountability, respect for the rule of law will be vigorously pursued. The enforcement of the principle of equality before the law through an expression of dogged political will is expedient of a stable political system.

We believed that as the present administration musters the desire political will and commitment, the whole notion of sacred cow which has hitherto privilege some few individuals above the avalanche greatly impoverished people will be drastically reduced. The declarations of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and his action hitherto have clearly proved that there is hope for Nigeria and Nigerians.

PETER, Abraham,,