The blatant disregard for the due process of the law being exhibited by all classes of people in our country is a cause for serious concern. Often, the law is twisted and circumvented by unscrupulous elements to suit their selfish goals.
This is a dangerous trend that will birth nothing but chaos and anarchy. Any nation that renders its laws impotent is naturally heading for chaos. A situation where the law becomes nothing but mere written words to line up the book shelves of law firms, court rooms, libraries and academic institutions portends great danger for all. Of what essence are finely crafted laws that cannot be enforced or effectively applied?
In Nigeria today, it is not uncommon to hear of suspects escaping from police custody or innocent citizens being arrested unlawfully. It is also not unusual for the rich and powerful to unlawfully engage the instrument of the law to oppress the poor or negatively influence the course of justice.
The challenges associated with seeking justice in Nigerian is frustrating and debilitating as many cases carry on endlessly with adjournment after adjournment; needless and frivolous adjournments that only serve to derail the course of justice.
The flagrant disregard for court injunctions and rulings by Government agencies is unprecedented while the shameful abuse of the rule of law by top officials at different levels is quite unbecoming.
How do we explain a situation where top public and private figures who defraud the nation of huge sum of money walk free after returning some percentage of their loot? In my opinion, recent clamour for amnesty for looters by some members of the public and top political figures is nothing but an endorsement of corruption. This is a slap on the face of the law and an affront on our collective psyche as a people.
Equally, the spate of lawlessness in the country is quite worrisome. A situation where gun men had the effrontery to launch an attack on a legitimate government law enforcement agency such as the EFCC and the recent gruesome attack on hapless worshippers in a Catholic church in Anambra state attest to the level of depravity and lawlessness to which the country has sunk. This is unacceptable in a lawful society.But then, does ours really represent a lawful clime?
It is also unimaginable and shocking that a group of Nigerians will go on the social media to clamour for the release of an alleged hard core criminal kingpin and kidnapper like Evans. This depicts the poverty of our values, the paucity of our thinking and the depravity of our mentality.
In so many ways Nigeria and Nigerians have exhibited a penchant for disobeying the law, ranging from inability to obey simple traffic rules and regulation to adherence to safety and routine environmental sanitation laws.
The consequences of a lawless society are enormous and far reaching with multiplier effects on the entire society. It does nothing but encourages increase in crime and corruption. The apparent disregard for value, culture and ethics is an offshoot of the state of lawlessness in the country.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Government officials tookN400b bribes in one year. The NBS also reported an increase in crime rate in areas such as offence against persons, offence against property, offence against lawful authority and offence against local Acts. The need to revitalize the Judiciary and all components of our legal machinery becomes expedient in the face of these imminent crises.
The role of the law in any society cannot be over emphasized as itshapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people. The effective application of the law helps in combating crimes and lawlessness. The reason for the increased rate of compliance and obedience of the law in developed nations compared to developing Nations like ours is the efficacy of the law. The system is such that you can’t evade the law, no matter how long it takes, the long arms of the law will eventually catch up with a criminal. A good example of this is the famous James Ibori’s case in the United Kingdom.
The law has been defined as a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or government institutions to regulate behavior. In other words it is the whole body of such customs, practices, or rules that preserve law and order in societies.
Consequently, when laws are obeyed there is peace and tranquility within the society and a drop in crime rate. The quick dispensation of justice also promotes compliance nonetheless maximizing obedience is a crucial element in a law being successful. Thus, a straightforward measurement of whether a law is achieving its goals or its impact is the extent to which there is compliance with it.
However, the law on its own cannot function, enforcement is necessary for rules to be obeyed; it must be implemented by state bodies and apparatus of government. Government must possess the political will to fight crime and corruption while the people must be aware of the various laws guiding their engagements or activities.
Agencies of government such as the EFCC, ICPC, FRSC, VIO, LASTMA, KAI, Judiciary, Police Force and others that are responsible for enforcing the law must be pro-active rather than being reactive and act in an organized manner to enforce the law by discovering, deterring, rehabilitating, or punishing people who violate the rules and norms governing the society. Their work also involves making sure a rule or standard or court order or policy is properly followed. They must be seen to be above board and disciplined.
The law as system of rules which may be enforced by the imposition of penalties must be seems to be active and alive. That means it must be applied without fear or favour and it must be seen to be absolute. This will not only breed respect for the law but will build fear and compliance within the society. Above all, the Judiciary must be seen to be independent.
In the word of American author, attorney and diplomat, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, “The bedrock of our democracy is the rule of law and that means we need to have an independent judiciary, judges who can make decisions independent of the political winds that are blowing”.
Aruya is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos