RECENT COURT DECISION ON PEACE CORPS OF NIGERIA IS GOOD FOR OUR YOUNG DEMOCRACY
Despite its imperfections the Nigerian judiciary is making sure that the Nigerian Constitution is not only standing out as a framework for good governance but as the guarantor of the right to freedom, the right of speech, and the right of association that every person or institution must understand. The new Judiciary, as recently unfolded in the decision of Justice Evon Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja on the Peace Corps of Nigeria (PCN), serves to educate our public institutions such as the Nigeria Police and the State Security Service that the nation, at least since 1999, is a system of democracy that is progressively moving forward.
Our democratic system, like that of every other nation that went through political development, is a system of democracy that is fashioned to pursue openness, freedom, and accountability. Justice Evon Chukwu’s decision is a guide for truth and justice, which shows that the old mindset of institutional abuse and organizational tyranny as uncovered by the Court will slowly be erased from the gradually progressive Nigerian society.
The Court saved these national security agencies from being continuously defined by many, both nationally and internationally, as partly anarchistic, partly wayward, and partly barbaric. As simply defined in the Nigerian Constitution, law abiding individuals and groups have the right to form, express opinions, and establish associations of whatever kind among groups of like-minded people in order to foster and spread such opinions. The Court took it upon itself to educate the Nigeria Police and the State Security Service about the implicit rights of persons and groups in a growing democracy like Nigeria. Any view by our highly challenged security and law enforcement agencies about the Peace Corps of Nigeria as controversial, unusual, intolerant, or just too bold is meaningless as the constitution gives civic groups such as the PCN space and time to stand out under the rule of freedom of association and its related rights of thought, expression, and movement. In essence, what the Court expressly showed to executive agencies like the Nigeria Police and the State Security Service is that it will cost you great punitive damages, huge fines, and clear public shame if you try to screw up the legal rights of others.
The Court sent a plain message that voluntary associations like the PCN must be respected as long as they follow the law of the land. On a psychological basis, the Nigeria Police and the State Security Service saw the PCN as a possible rival group because of their international status, official outlook, and charming influence, as well as their expansive appearance. This sort of institutional resentment or envy is a great slip in the psyche of these security agencies, especially when groups such as the PCN are generally civic, preventive, devoted, development driven, and unifying, as well as a collectively intrepid guardian of our constitution. In other words, the PCN, through trial and error, could continue to grow and strengthen itself as a democratically peaceful, nonviolent, caring body as most of its work has shown in and across the nation and internationally.
In these trying times the Nigerian Courts should continue to follow the call of our Republic in terms of ongoing contributions to strengthen our democracy. The courts by nature can at any time exercise almost unlimited power as long as it is done healthily; therefore, it should make sure that our young system of democracy, through its public agencies, rests solely on the ideal of genuine respect and protection of democratically placed private organizations or groups like the Peace Corps of Nigeria.
Written By John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D.