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Disregard for rule of law threat to economy

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By Abraham Adekunle

Nigeria's image and economy affected by failure to upload rule of law.

In Nigeria’s socio-political landscape, the principle of the rule of law stands as a beacon of hope for justice, accountability, and progress. Yet, recent years have witnessed a troubling trend—a gradual erosion of this fundamental pillar of democracy. Kayode Ajulo, the Ondo State Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, warns that the persistent disregard for the rule of law poses a grave threat to Nigeria’s economy, tarnishing its image and deterring both local and foreign investors. In a recent interview with Leadership Newspaper, Mr. Ajulo underscored the far-reaching consequences of flouting the rule of law. He lamented that the government’s failure to uphold legal norms and principles not only undermines investor confidence but also breeds corruption, weakens legal framework, and fuels social unrest.

These ramifications, he stressed, can severely impede economic progress and damage the country’s reputation on the global stage. The concept of the rule of law encompasses the idea that all individuals and institutions, including the government, are subject to and accountable under the law. It ensures that laws are applied consistently and fairly, providing a framework for resolving disputes, protecting individual rights, and fostering trust in governance. In the context of Nigeria’s economy, adherence to the rule of law is paramount for several reasons. Firstly, it creates a conducive environment for business and investment by guaranteeing legal protection and enforcing property rights. Investors, both domestic and foreign, seek assurances that their investments will be safeguarded by a robust legal system that upholds contracts and resolves disputes impartially.

Rule of law and economic stability in Nigeria.

Moreover, the rule of law promotes transparency and accountability in governance, reducing the risk of corruption and rent-seeking behaviour. When institutions are bound by legal norms and procedures, there is less room for arbitrary decision-making and favouritism, which can distort markets and deter investment. Furthermore, a strong legal framework underpinned by the rule of law is essential for enforcing contracts, securing property rights, and facilitating economic transactions. It provides the necessary certainty and predictability for businesses to operate effectively, attract capital, and drive economic growth. However, when the rule of law is disregarded or undermined, the consequences can be dire. Mr. Ajulo highlighted several key areas where the erosion of the rule of law can have a detrimental impact on Nigeria’s economy.

First, investors, whether domestic or foreign, rely on a stable legal and regulatory environment to make informed decisions about allocating capital. When the rule of law is compromised, and legal protections are weakened, investors may perceive heightened risks and hesitate to commit funds to projects or ventures in Nigeria. This reluctance can result in capital flight, reduced investment inflows, and missed opportunities for economic development. Again, a disregard for the rule of law can foster an environment conducive to corruption, cronyism, and rent-seeking behaviour. When laws are flouted, and legal institutions are undermined, individuals in positions of power may exploit loopholes for personal gain or engage in illicit activities with impunity. Corruption siphons resources away from productive investments, distorts market mechanisms, and undermines public trust in government institutions.

Recommendations for reforming Nigeria’s legal system.

Furthermore, the rule of law provides the foundation for a well-functioning legal system that ensures the enforcement of contracts, protection of property rights, and resolution of disputes. However, when legal frameworks are weak or inconsistently applied, businesses face uncertainty and insecurity, hindering their ability to operate efficiently and expand. This lack of legal certainty can deter investment, stifle entrepreneurship, and impede economic growth. A breakdown in the rule of law can also contribute to social unrest, political instability, and civil unrest. When citizens perceive that their rights are not protected, or that the legal system is biased or corrupt, they may resort to protests, strikes, or other forms of civil disobedience. This instability can disrupt economic activities, deter investment, and undermine confidence in the government’s ability to maintain law and order.

While discussing the challenges facing Nigeria’s legal system, Mr. Ajulo emphasized the critical role of the judiciary as the guardian of the rule of law and the protector of individual rights. He acknowledged that the judiciary, like any other institution, faces its share of challenges, including inefficiency, corruption, and backlog of cases. Mr. Ajulo offered several recommendations for reforming Nigeria’s legal system and restoring public trust in the rule of law. The government must demonstrate its commitment to upholding it by respecting constitutional norms, enforcing court decisions, and holding individuals accountable for violations of the law. This includes safeguarding judicial independence, protecting human rights, and promoting the rule of law as a cornerstone of democratic governance.

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Also, efforts should be made to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the judiciary, including reducing case backlogs, streamlining court procedures, and enhancing access to justice for all citizens. This may involve investing in court infrastructure, deploying technology to expedite case processing, and increasing the number of judicial officers to handle the workload. Public education and awareness campaigns should also be conducted to enhance understanding of legal rights and responsibilities among citizens. This includes educating the public about their constitutional rights, providing legal aid services to indigent individuals, and fostering a culture of compliance with the law. Measures should be taken to root out corruption within the legal system, including strengthening anti-corruption institutions, prosecuting corrupt officials, and promoting transparency and accountability in legal proceedings.

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