Rule of law as society’s foundation

Text of the Dignity of Man Lecture by the Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Peter N.C. Umeadi during the Alumni’  Day of the Founders Day celebration of the University of Nigeria (UNN) Nsukka

 

Our alma mater, University of Nigeria Nsukka, was founded in 1955 by The Right Honourable Dr.   Nnamdi Azikiwe GCFR, P.C, 1st President of the Senate of Nigeria, 3rd Governor of Nigeria, 1st President of the Federal Republic of Nigerian,  Zik of Africa  Owelle Onitsha and was officially opened on 7th of October 1960.  ‘After he became the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1963, the great Dr. Zik returned on 15th May 1964 under the auspices of Nigeria Political Science Association and gave one of his many lectures at the Princes Alexandria Hall, Nsukka.  I privileged and feel happy indeed to be invited to deliver the 8th Dignity of Man Lecture on the Alumni’s Day of the Founders Day Activities 2016 at Princess Alexandria Hall, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

 

While attending the Law School at this citadel of learning at the Enugu Campus we came to know that the Federal Government of Nigeria did not sponsor law students in the pursuit of their learning the Federal Government had generous scholarship programmes in all other disciplines not in law. It was the East Central State Government of Nigeria which later set up a programme to grant bursary awards to assist students pursuing law as a course of study. The Federal Government of Nigeria it – seemed was following in the footsteps of the Colonial Government who also in their time generously assisted students in Administration and the Sciences but could not contemplate any help for those who wanted to be lawyers.

 

Our colonial masters were British and they had a highly stratified society where background determines how a child turns out in life. They would find disagreeable, anyone who struggled to improve his circumstance from that into which he was born. They would refer to such exertion as social climbing. The sons of butlers were expected to be better butlers and so on. There would be a conscious effort to train their own people to end up working in the multi-chain stores laden with mind-boggling fabulous goods, and in their factories and technology craft yards.
It was your family name and background that decided how you fared not how much marks you made in class. This stratification had spurned many devastating riots in their society but they do not look like letting go.

 

The sons of lawyers were expected to head for law schools. Even those admitted to read law were further segregated depending on the law school one could attend. Such that it was said that one lawyer who trains from the regular schools could make a brilliant comment before a court which is largely ignored. The same submissions coming from a lawyer who trained at Cambridge or Oxford were instantly celebrated. Invariably the Judge would have come from either Cambridge or Oxford himself. Essentially, we could not expect our colonial masters to spend their money to train the sons of the natives in the study of law only for them to return to ma-c “trouble” for them. They knew better and invested heavily in the type of manpower they needed. The Federal Government of Nigeria inherited that lacuna, perhaps unwittingly, and the intending law students had to look for sponsorship elsewhere. It would take a long time for students offering all courses to enjoy Federal Government assistance. Back home the first Nigerian University opened its doors at University of Ibadan in 1948. It has indeed an ivory tower as any could be the world over. U.l. as it is fondly called, has produced a veritable list of accomplished academicians and men and women in their chosen fields of study. Again the study of law was not contemplated. Its Department of Law was carved out from the Faculty of the Social Sciences in 1981. More like an afterthought which occurred thirty three (33no.) years after the University was founded. 1 hat Department of t.aw was accredited by the Council of Legal Education In 1984. The Faculty of Law of the University of Nigeria has a webs.tc on which the Dean of Law, Professor Chukwunonso Okafo, PhD, a proud alumnus and long-standing member of the Faculty said in his statement.
Inter alia “This is the premier Law Faculty in Nigeria established in 1961 (15 part of the University’s vision to restore the dignity of man by educating him on rights and duties in society”. The emergence of the Faculty of Law at the Enugu Campus of University of Nigeria with the acronym of UNEC heralded the opening of many such law faculties across Nigeria
universities. of Lagos/Ahmadu Bello and Obafemi Awolowo, all in 1962. when I was sworn in as a Judge of Anambra State in 1997 I met my Law of Equity Professor on the bench. I shared time with Justice S. Mb lbeziako. In his retirement he would be drafted back to the classrooms. He went to Madonna University Okija where he assisted to build up the Faculty of Law as Dean and full time teacher. He would tell me how the great Dr. Zik and Sir Ahmadu Bello, The Premier of Northern Nigeria and the Sarduana of Sokoto enjoyed a close friendship.

 

The Sarduana, a visionary leader prevailed on the great Dr. Zik to allow Justice Ibeziako to come to Zaria and use the same links to also establish the Faculty of Law at Zaria. Justice Jbeziako told me of his many trips and personal meetings with the Sarduana to accomplish that assignment.

 

Wikipedia, put it that the Rule of Law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials. Lexis Nexis, says the Rule of Law in its most basic form is the principle that no one is above the law. It is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance, whether by a
totalitarian leader or by mob rule. Thus the Rule of Law is hostile both to dictatorship and to anarchy. Plato and Aristotle approved the Rule of Law.

 

The Magna Carta of 1215 pointed to the irreversible way to go. Article 39 therein read as follows “No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or diseased or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land”, In modern times Albert Venn ‘A.V’ DiceyKC, a British jurist and Constitutional theorist, and Vinerian Professor of English Law at Oxford, it was who popularized the phrase Rule of Law. He established the three principles as follows (1) the absolute supremacy or predominance of the regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power (2) equality before the law or equal subjection of all classes to the:
ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary courts and (3) the law of the Constitution as a consequence of the rights of individuals as defined and enforced by the courts”.

 

The courts translate to the Judiciary. The Judiciary in Nigeria have exhibited exceeding understanding of the jurisprudence of the Rule of Law. In the beginning all of our legal practitioners trained in the Commonwealth especially Great Britain. Later many would attend universities in the United States of America and Continental Europe. In 1962 the Federal
Government of Nigeria established the Nigerian Law School which up till today has a curriculum which provides the Nigerian law content for students with law degrees from foreign Universities. In all the time when the first Nigerian legal practitioners arrived with their golden fleece to Colonial Nigeria, the members of the legal profession have set a mark
which is widely acclaimed and resonates with genuine respect the world over. It is in this light that we should appreciate the Judiciary in Nigeria.

Our Judiciary have exhibited patriotism, erudition, lucidity, candour, and courage, in their work. Our Judiciary has kept in full view the expectations of prosperity, safety, well-being, the respectability and dignity of our citizens. The work of our Judiciary are embedded in the respect and observance of the immutable, inevitable, inscrutable adherence and acquiescence and upholding of the Rule of Law. Suit No. SC/58/69 (1) E. O. Lakanmi (2) Kikelomo Ola (by her guardian and next friend E. O. Lakanmi) versus (1) The Attorney General (west) (2) The Secretary to Tribunal (3) The Counsel to the Tribunal; came up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 1969. I think of this as one monumental work, relevant to the  topic of today which stand in good credit to the Nigerian Judiciary. The appellant was represented by Chief F. R. A. Williams assisted by K. A. Doherty Miss. For the Respondents Dr. F. A. Ajayi, Attorney General, Western State assisted by Y. O. Adio, Principal State Counsel and S. A. Onadele, State Counsel appeared. My Lord, Hon, Justice Adetokunbo Ademota, Chief Justice of Nigeria delivered the judgment of the court, which panel constituted of Hon. Justice Ian Lewis, Hon. Justice Charles Olusoji Madarikan, and Hon. Justice Udo Udoma, Justices of the Supreme Court, on Friday the 24th of Apri1 1970. In unraveling the matrix of the  facts, the Supreme Court of Nigeria, exhibited uncommon commitment to work and dexterity when it elected, on its own, to delve into issues which arose in the matter but which the courts below did not deal with. In the final analysis the Supreme Court invoked its powers not to remit the matter “for hearing to the Court of Appeal but ended the suit, allowing the appeal and declaring both Edict No. 5 of 1967 and the Decree 45 of 1968 ultra vires, null and void. Let me set out kindred issues which appeared in both Edict No.5 of 1967 and Decree 45 of 1968 for ease of reference. Section 21 of Edict No. S of 1967 states that “No defect whatsoever in anything done by any person with a view to the listing of, or otherwise in relation to any inquiry under that Decree and this Edict, shall effect the validity of the things so done or any proceedings finding, order, decision or other act whatsoever of any person, the tribunal or the special tribunal and In particular, no action or proceedings in the nature of quo warranto, certiorari, mandamus, prohibition, injunction or declaration or in any form
whatsoever against or in respect of any such thing proceeding, finding order, decision or other act, as the case may be shall be entertained in any court of law”. Section 2 (1) of Decree 4S of 1968 reads as follows “2 (1) For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that the validity of any order notice or document made or given or our purported to be made or given or of any other thing whatsoever done or purported to be done under the provisions of any enactment of law repealed as mentioned in subsection(1) of Section 1 of this Decree or the circumstances under which the same has been so made, given or done, shall not be inquired into in any court of law and accordingly nothing in the provisions of Chapter III of the
Constitution of Federation shall apply in relation to any matter arising from the Decree or from any enactment or other law repealed as aforesaid.”

The Judiciary in Nigeria is populated with jurists of caliber, pedigree, honesty, forthrightness, courage and many sterling qualities. The Election Tribunal of which I was a member heard the Petition No. EDGV/EPT/l/07, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomohole & Anor. V INEC & 2 Ors. On Thursday 20/3/2008, I had the singular privilege, while delivering The unanimous judgment, to refer to the Judiciary in Nigeria as follows “On our part, we with humility shall repeat the words of Sir Isaac Newton and say that we are standing on the shoulders of giants, giants of the Nigerian Judiciary which have afforded us all the judicial precedents we have used”. The Judiciary in Nigeria has continued to knock down unconstitutional laws and actions. See AG Abia State V AG Federation (2006) 16 NVVLR pt. 1005 @ page 265; AG Ondo V. AG Federation (2002) 9 NWLR pt. 772 @ page 222 AG Bendel State V. AG Federation 1983 1 SCNLR 239 and Jombo V. PEFMB (2005) 14 NWLR pt 945 @ page 423. A search on La v Pavilion website show that the Supreme Court alone pronounced on issues of Rule of Law in 2760 cases.

 

I respectfully recommend that the three arms of government in all tiers in Nigeria ought to go back and read this Lakanm’s case Judgment. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the Nigeria Police, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, the Nigeria Bar Association and indeed all the distinguished personages in this hall ought to read this judgment again. It was about fighting corruption and the Supreme Court took sides with the Rule of Law which translates to justice according to
law. The Rule of Law connotes observation of rules. It could not function without civility. Law enforcers often get impatient and sometimes frustrated with what they term the slow pace of bringing those who have been charged with crime to justice. The hexameter first issued by an unknown poet, then quoted by Sextus Empiricus and then by Plutarch would suffice as follows “The millstones of the gods, grind late, but they grind fine”.

 

Now, having shown what the rule of law is and establishing that the courts In Nigeria are willing and able to defend and apply its principles let us fathom the relationship between the rule of law and the development of nations. At this juncture the explanation from the Law Teacher on the web IS helpful and run thus “The rule of law does not have a fixed and precise definition and its meaning can be different between nations, legal traditions and people from all kinds of life styles”. As the title given to me suggests, I would also answer positively that the rule of law could and does lead to the development of a nation. Listen again to portion of the judgment of the Supreme Court In Lakanmi’s case inter alia, “‘we are in no doubt that object of the Federal Military Government, when it engaged in this exercise is to dean up a section of the society which had engaged itself in corrupt practices – those vampires in the society whose occupation was to enrich themselves at the expense of the country. But if, in this pursuit the Government, however well-meaning, fell into the error of passing legislation which specifically in effect, passed judgment and inflicted punishment or in other words eroded the jurisdiction of the courts, in a manner that the dignity and freedom of the individual, once assured, are taken away, the courts must Intervene. Every case we reiterate, must be considered on its own facts and the materials placed before us In this matter lead to no other conclusion than that the provisions of the Deer NO. 45 of 1968 are such as are not reasonably necessary to achieve the purpose which the Federal Military Government set out to fulfill.

 

This appeal will therefore be allowed and both the Edict No.5 of 1967 and the Decree No. 45 of 1968 are declared ultra vires; they are null and void”. Let us always bring to mind the situation in Nigeria in 1969 when this matter came to the Supreme Court up till 1970 when the judgment was delivered.

 

The rule of law is a cornerstone of democratic societies. See Australian collaboration.com. It becomes focal therefore that the many facets of the rule of law form essential components of sustainable development in communities where it is given the pride of place. I hope I have now laid enough foundation as we hear lawyers say in court to begin to enumerate and evaluate specific areas where the rule of law could make the difference.

 

The Weight and Measures Act Cap W3 LFN, 2004 repealed the Weights and Measures Act of 1962 and introduced additional provisions to facilitate the change over to the metric system. This legislation are backed up with subsidiary Regulations covering a wide field providing for appointment of superintendents and inspectors, forms of stamps examination of weights, measures and Instruments, verification of weights, measurement regulations, verification of weighing instruments, definition of counter machine, simple counter machines, self indicating and semi-self indicating machines and spring balances, dead weights, scales, crane weighing machines, automatic weighing installations, examination of liquid fuel etc, instruments, and conditions for acceptance for verification thereof amongst many others. We are all familiar with the discomfort of fuel scarcity and how accusing fingers are pointed at the dealers of such commodity who run the fuel filing stations. We are very elated when one of the many adhoc task forces descends on the erring fuel filling stations.

 

They find their dispensing pumps not to be of the required, approved and thereby legal measurement standards, and those outlets are sealed. Our Weights and Measures Act envisages that the superintendents and Inspectors provided for ought to carry out their checks on the instruments of weights and measures and the goods which they control, be they fuel or meat or whatever that is measurable on a regular and continuous basis. It is not expected to be carried out only in time of fuel scarcity. The scarcity of fuel should be a phenomenon which is distinct and separable from the accurate measurement of the dispensing pumps. There is nothing in fact that suggests that one could engender the other. The routine of inspection and verification of weights and measures is a mark of a civilized standardized environment, when the correct value of transactions should be transferred in all Circumstances. While riding in a taxi in Washington DC, I had teased a taxi driver about the correct reading of his meter. He asked me not to go there as every taxi driver knew it was the quickest way to loose one’s license and be prosecuted. He told me that the meters were locked in and it was only the Police and the Inspectors who could open it.

Without any notice or apparent reason they could stop you anywhere and anytime, and with their tools open the meter and conduct an on the spot check. If it was rigged in any way they would find out and that would be the beginning of one’s brush with the law. In the simplest of terms, where citizens have earned money and pay more than they should for a commodity because the weight or measure is faulty, they ore short changed. In the long run they would not be able to meet their needs with the income they have earned legitimately since they do not get the correct value for their money. The distribution of their income would fail to meet their needs which translates to poverty and rubs off on the collective economy. Section 16 of the Act provides for, General powers of inspection and scaling of premises. In this regard subsection 6 (c) (supra) It.; important, dovetailing much of societies activities to adjudication by tr-e courts and I quote “the total period of the sealing of such premises shall not, without a court order in that respect, exceed 28 days”.

The sustenance of the rule of law arc bestowed on the ordinary courts. Now there is the weights and Measures Act 2004. We could apply it to the letter, put its aims to ‘York for us, reap its benefits and uplift our nation. We should follow our laws especially in the area of weights and reassures observe the metric measurements, sell designated goods in specified
quantities, sell packaged goods sealed, with specified weights and same weight or volume as other products of the same weight refrain from us using domestic scales to weight goods you intend to sell and keep records of our packing system. The mandate would be to put the weight or volume of our package goods on he label, which would be permanent, easy to see and meet minimum height requirements. See the website of gov.uk. These would not detract from the peculiar displays of contents of goods sold or declarations to be put on certain goods like alcohol and cigarettes.

In Nigeria, our development in this area of the law have followed common sense and there is enacted regulations cited as Weights and Measures (Standardization of Indigenous Measures) Regulations 1992 enacted first since 1975. It is interesting to find that attention was focused on the materials and principles of construction of indigenous measures, their shape and depths, the scourge of false bottoms, verifications and penalties. The web is replete with materials showing history, origin, advantages and materials with weight and measures laws and regulations of diverse countries. I was thrilled in the process of making this paper to come across a post on Osundotlife of 4/5/2016 that the Osun State Government had produced standardized measuring weights and gauges in great numbers ready for distribution and their consequent usage all over the State as directed by the Federal Government. These are modern,
scientific and practical ways in which the law operated under the wide canopy of the rule of law doctrine as administered by the ordinary courts would turn around, to enrich and stabilize a nation.

 

The law should not be for the charted courses alone. It is to be expected that persons who think they would be adversely affected by a new law are entitled to challenge the making of same. My mind is going to houses mainly residential, or doubting as business premises. Majority of these imposing buildings lining the streets of the South East of Nigeria for instance, still carry the paints on them when the houses were completed. Very many years later, their paints have flaked off.  The brunt of the weather of sun and rain have left moulds of green and brown with lines of dripping water. Even in the United States of America there are only two States, New York and California where apartments are required to be repainted every 3 years and 2 years respectively. In West Hollywood of California, apartment owners must repaint every 4 years at the minimum.

The fact still remains that much of the repainting happen inside than outside. The landlords allover would continue to battle these innovations. We should take a closer look at our Landlord and Tenancy Laws and the covenants in the tenancy agreements. I think that the rule of law serve the ends of issues such as these. Let the Anarnbra State Government sponsor a law through the House of Assembly that all the mid-rise buildings which adorn Onitsha show visible proof of repainting every 5 years. The buildings at Onitsha are marvelous to behold, whether one is coming in from Asaba across the majestic River Niger or descending from the Army Barracks. Every first time visitor has had something to say about the city, of her mid-rise buildings. It would actualize the paint industry which in itself would be regulated as to the minimum quality of
the paints to be used on the buildings. We would be very surprised as to what such legislation would engender. It would be that My Lord the Chief Justice of Nigeria had nominated me to attend the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association (CMJA) Conference from 18th– 22nd September 2016 in Georgetown, Guyana, The Co-operative Republic of
Guyana was the only British Protectorate in South America. Guyana dubbed the land of many waters is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil. It has a size of 214,969 square kilometers  (83,000 square miles) and by their census of 2012 a population of 744,884 persons. Georgetown is their capital city. I vouch to you here that as I was leaving, the dainty houses in Georgetown from my hotel in Kingston Georgetown to Cheddi Jagan International Airport, all looked newly painted, in astounding colours of shades of green, (bright green, olive green, mangrove green), orange, shades of blue, red, yellow, white, touches of black, pink, violet, burgundy, many more different shades, tones and contrast of colours. I am yet to find out if there was a legislation that brought about such vivacity in a city. The environment is enlivened, and the people inhabiting them would find happiness. The inner
potentials would be released and in an atmosphere of respect for persons and respect for the laws nations are bound to thrive. I think that to make
laws for repainting in Anambra State would open up clogged valves of
creativity in our people.

As I think of the famous mid-rise buildings in the South East, especially at Onitsha, the issue of piping portable water to all the floors, many up to 4 floors, become urgent. Truly these are responsibilities of the governments at all tiers especially State and Local Governments who apart from receiving allocation from the Federation subject the citizens to all manner of taxes and rates. I would expect that we should factor the provision a portable water into the designs of those rnid-rise buildings such that it would not be approved unless such is shown in clear details. The law ought to cater for the well being of people. Water is life. It is not possible to maintain hygiene without water. After building the inspectors should return to certity that water flows. Where it is agreeable sanctions could be fixed and enforced. The government should pay attention to standard of drinking water, protection of water supplies and bodies of waters, public drinking water system requirements, desalination of marine sea water for drinking water, drinking water provision, protection of public water supplies, licensing and registration of persons who perform duties relating to public water supplies, approve plans required for public water supplies, advertised quality of water supply, drinking water supply, comparative rating information and so on. See Health and Safety Code of Texas USA.

 

We have gone through the definitions of the rule of law. We have seen the understanding by Nigerian Courts of their role to sustain the rule of law. The rule of law doctrine is ubiquitous. t touches all spheres of our existence. The rule of law as a doctrine includes the making of the law itself. This brings the legislature unto the center stage. The legislature should always think of what serves the good of the people in greater numbers. The rule of law implies that every citizen is subject to the law. As one often hear, the law enforcers in the developed countries always say, that is the law. Their notices and bill boards make the same bold and proud pronouncement. It is the taw. In 1776 Thomas Paine wrote in America,” the law is King. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the taw ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.” We have seen our salvaging efforts of the interests of other nations at great costs to our own national interest which were not requited. There is the ECOWAS and the cultural, economic, financial, fiscal and other protocols attached. I agree there is free movement across ECOWAS. Perhaps we should think of more legislation which would be of benefit to our citizens. Osun State followed the Weights and Measures Act and seek to apply them for the benefit of its citizens, the Child Rights Act is yet to be domesticated by a large number of States. (Anambra has done so). On the Criminal Justice Administration Act only, Lagos, Anambra, Ekiti and Cross River States have domesticated them. Our Legislatures should match the speed with which things change. We are still implementing laws made in the United Kingdom before 1900. It should always be borne in mind that the good of the people and the strengthening of the foundation of the nation ought to be the purpose of legislation which is then enforced by the ordinary courts. That is what President Barack Obama of the USA meant when on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which in his characteristic
dogged fashion he is pushing through Congress, stated thus “This partnership levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products. It includes the strongest commitments on labour and the environment of any trade agreement in history and those commitments are enforceable, unlike in past governments. It promotes a free and open Internet. It strengthens our strategic relationships with our partners and allies in a region that will be vital to the 21st century. It is an agreement that puts American workers first and will help middle class families get ahead”, the rule of law is hinged on a machinery of justice that delivers at all times for all manner of persons. In a paper titled “Providing Sufficient Resources for the Courts and the Judiciary as a Fundamental Constitutional Obligation delivered by Lord Justice Peter Gross at the CMJA Conference in Guyana, I come away with this quote from that erudite paper. “A properly independent judiciary is however a necessary but not sufficient condition for a robust commitment to the rule of law. It must be complemented by a properly resourced and accessible infrastructure. That infrastructure must be capable of delivering the proper
administration of justice, courts, court buildings, court staff with relevant expertise and so on. It also requires the provisions of sufficient resources for innovation given the pace of technological and societal change”. In England. and Wales they hope to achieve a system which is “just, proportionate and accessible”.

 

I thank the University of Nigeria Alumni Association for nominating me to deliver this 8th Dignity of Man Lecture 2016. The letter of invitation is a collector’s item which I would laminate and continue to treasure. I would end with a portion of the welcome address which I read at the 5th Annual Chief Judge’s dinner and award night held at Awka on Saturday 19/3/2016 pertaining to the Rule of Law “From the Judiciary to the Executive. A look would show that the Anambra State wheel of Development are broken into Pillars, Enablers, and Outcomes. With humility, it is located that the Pillars omit one cardinal, irreducible, irreplaceable, yet fundamental element of development which is the Rule of Law. Let the Rule of Law be added as one of the Pillars, bringing the total number to 5. The enablers for this new pillar would be the erection of infrastructure for the dispensation of justice coupled with the systematic funding of the Judiciary to enable training and re-training of the requisite manpower. The outcomes would include, unenforced inflow of foreign investments, protection of intellectual property, enhanced standard of living and the tendency to explore the realms of science and technology”. Well, much like appealing that the cornerstone be put at no 5.

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