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My take on rule of law

The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, at the just concluded Nigerian Bar Association annual general conference held in Abuja, was reported to have said that ‘national security is more important than rule of law’.

The 29th president of the NBA, Paul Usoro (SAN), recently tried to enlighten members of the bar, as well as the general public that may be the president meant individual rights of citizens, and not Rule of Law. In the same vein, erudite legal professionals have expressed their opinion from the legal stand point on the implication of the statement credited to the President of Nigeria on the principle of rule of law.

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As is the norm in this country, the statement of the president has sparked wide debate amongst Nigerians on whether he was right or wrong in that statement on rule of law; even Nigerians who know nothing about the principle of rule of law had something to say. One layman opined, when asked, that national security is more important, since rule of law does not exist in Nigeria; another said he doesn’t know the difference between the two, and so cannot say which is more important, but if the president said national security is more important, then he is right.

It is for this reason, that we shall be discussing the principle of law in a lay man’s language to the understanding of both the lettered and learned so Nigerians can constructively analyse the issue, and be a better judge of the statement credited to the president.

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In simple terms, the principle of Rule of law makes it impossible for one person to have unrestrained exercise of power over a society, or nation, it is founded on supremacy of the law, the principle of equality before the law, and the principle of individual rights, thereby making no one above the law of the land.

On the other hand, national security is the ability of a country to protect its citizens against external and internal threat, ensuring that the lives, and properties of her citizens are safe, and secured from attack of any form, be it Boko Haram, killer herders, kidnappers, etc. It means applying any means necessary, and legal to ensure that the lives, and properties of Nigerians are safe from attack.

Looking at the above, both Rule of Law, and National Security are important to the livelihood, and well being of Nigerians. The question however remains, which is more important of the two. The principle of Rule of law is what determines if there would be national security or national chaos in a country; it is upon the foundation of rule of law that national security is built, and for that purpose, it is impossible for national security to outweigh Rule of Law.

It is possible that the president meant individual right in his speech, and not rule of law, that is to say a particular individual, let’s say Nnamdi Kalu’s right can be compromised on the basis of national security. Simply put, if the freedom of a particular individual would lead to chaos, and insecurity in the country, then such individual’s right can be breached for the overall peace and security of the country.

The same cannot be said of rule of law. The principle rule of law cannot be compromised, it is what ensures that a particular individual doesn’t possess unrestrained power over another individual due to position, status, or wealth. It is rule of law that ensures everyone is equal before the law thereby being the fulcrum of national security. A country without rule of law promotes anarchy in the society, since survival would be based on the strongest/fittest man, and not governed by the laws of the land.

In summary, inasmuch as national security is imperative to the well being of Nigerians, it is the principle of Rule of law that ensures that every act/omission of any citizen, including the President of the Federal republic of Nigeria is determined by the tenets of the law, in the instant case, the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended) thereby preventing a major threat to national security ‘lawlessness’.

Godspeed!

Do send your comment{s}, observation{s} and recommendation{s} to danielbulusson@gmail.com or like us on www.facebook.com/theadvocatewithdanielbulusson

 

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