Ekweremadu: Disregard for court orders, rule of law threaten democracy

By The Citizen

The Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, on Monday identified strict adherence to the rule of law and respect of the provisions of the constitution as sure ways to prevent tyranny and oppression in a democracy.

The lawmaker who disclosed this while speaking on the topic: 'Strengthening the Foundations of Rule of Law in Nigeria, ' at a public lecture in honour of late Prof. G. O. S Amadi, a renowned Professor of Law from the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC), noted that anything short of respecting the rule of law would lead to anarchy.He also bemoaned the selective approach in the present anti-corruption fight, noting that 'it's being pursued according to the whims and caprices of those in power who persecute people according to the party they belong to'.

He insisted that flagrant disobedience of judicial pronouncements remained a major threat to the rule of law and survival of Nigeria's democracy.

'The efficacy of the rule of law is hinged on the compliance by governmental bodies and agencies with decisions of courts of lae and other judicial or adjudicatory bodies. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, disobedience to court orders appears to be the norm rather than the exception in many facets of our national life,' Ekweremadu stressed.

At the lecture, organized by the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria and Prof. G. O. S Amadi Foundation at the Moot Court Complex, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Ekweremadu further stressed that the rule of law was indispensable in any society that craves for justice, equity, and fairness.

While noting that the foundation of the rule of law in Nigeria was the 1999 constitution, as amended, Ekweremadu, who is an alumnus and former lecturer at the Faculty of Law, was however quick to add that to make the foundation strong, Nigerians all have a duty and a role to play.

'Those who think the strengthening of the rule of law is not their business are only playing the dangerous game of the cockerel, which refused to attend a meeting of the animal kingdom, claiming it was not his business. But, sadly for him, it was agreed at the meeting that his lineage would be used as sacrifice to the gods. The cock and his kindred are yet to recover from that I-don't-care attitude. Maintaining the rule of law is, therefore, everybody's business.

'We must all be ready and willing to live by the spirit and letters of our laws. Much of our problems are not about the laws themselves, but about our disrespect for them. Indeed, a major difference between us and the developed world is that while we choose which rules, laws, or court judgments to obey or not to obey, they command obedience to their laws through strict enforcement that does not respect persons. We need to imbibe that attitude and culture in order to strengthen the foundations of the rule of law in Nigeria'.

He also called on leaders at all levels to lead by example, insisting that it was one sure way to entrench the rule of law in Nigeria.

'On leading by example, the words of Justice Louis D. Brandeis in Olmstead v. United States are instructive. In his dissenting opinion he states: 'Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto him; it invites anarchy''.

'It is very clear, therefore, that impunity and lawlessness are contagious. If those at the helms of leadership have no respect for the rule of law, their subordinates are not likely to respect the rule of law also. If they by any means show that the law is meant to catch their opponents and perceived enemies alone, they have unwittingly licensed their purported friends to scorn the rules and break the laws. And certainly, as a leader, you cannot choose which law or court verdict to obey or which to disobey', he declared.

Drawing from the words of the American statesman and former President, Thomas Jefferson, Ekweremadu maintained that even under the best of leadership, no man was good enough to exercise power outside the dictates of the Constitution or law, as that would amount to an invitation to tyranny and anarchy.

While eulogising the late Professor Amadi who he described as a true 'trade unionist', Ekweremadu said labour leaders of these days live ostentatious lives but turn round to criticise those in power. 'The other day, some labour leaders came to the Senate to protest against plans to acquire Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) for senators and members of the House of Representatives but when some of our people went out, they took pictures of the SUVs these labour leaders drove to the National Assembly in, ' he said. – Thisday.