…Says rule of law central to a democracy
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has disagreed with the Presidency on the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest over the rule of law.
NBA said on Friday that it rejects the presidential statement on Sunday subordinating the rule of law to national security, adding that “the rule of law is central to a democracy and any national security concerns by the government must be managed within the perimeters and parameters of the rule of law.”
This was part of a communique issued on Friday in Abuja by the NBA at the end of its 2018 annual conference.
The communique, which appears as a response to the statement made by President Muhammadu Buhari at the opening of the NBA conference on Sunday, “that rule of law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest,” also frowns at the present growing trend whereby government decides on which court orders to obey.
The NBA maintained that the court has exclusive duty under a democratic dispensation to interpret the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and other laws, and government and the citizenry must comply with court orders at all times until set aside.
The conference also raised objection to the issuance of executive orders in respect to matters already in court and observes that any such order is a breach of the principle of separation of powers.
It however, counsels that executive orders be issued for good governance and to manage operations of government, and not to encroach or usurp upon the constitutional powers of other arms of government, lest executive orders become attempts at decree-making.
The communique stated that Nigeria’s democracy can be better strengthened by an independent judiciary. Consequently, the NBA called for a budgetary arrangement that allows for funds to be directly allocated to the judiciary at Federal and State levels.
On the part of the Judiciary, the conference welcomed the ongoing reforms in the Justice Sector especially as it pertains to technological innovations that will improve access to justice by the citizenry.
The conference acknowledged that strength of character is required for the building of strong institutions. In this regard, the NBA urged government and civil society to invest in the rebirth, through ethical, moral and value reorientation, of a new type of citizen.
The conference called for the institutionalisation of higher standards for transformational leadership and in this regard, called for new laws to set higher standards of academic qualifications for political office holders in Nigeria.
On good governance and transition, the conference advocated for structures that can aid Good Governance and, in this regard, called on NBA members to use the already existing skills of advocacy and persuasion to encourage citizens to vote for competent leaders. It said candidates must accept election outcomes rather than encourage violent protests.
The conference called upon the Executive and Legislative arms to learn to practice mutual respect for their respective functions as a tool for building institutions and achieving sustainable development.
In this regard, public interest must be enthroned as a central pivot of governance, and the current bickering must be reduced to the barest minimum.