Rule of Law in Nigeria: What Does It State?

The rule of law is embedded in the Nigerian constitution.  However, it is unfortunate that many Nigerians despise the rule of law and treat it with total disregard, especially those at the helm of affairs in the country.


The most depressing thing about this is that these are the same individuals that sworn to always uphold the rule of law. The rulers have receded into the suppression of free speech, executive lawlessness, unfair trials, unjustifiable arrest, and undue domination of minorities.

It can, therefore, be concluded that leaders in Nigeria have turned the rule of law to mere myth in the Nigerian constitution. In this write-up, you will learn one or two things about the Rule of Law in Nigeria and what it is all about.

The rule of law

Rule of law is essential in every society.  Rule of law was defined as “that aspect of the law that envisages a political system, where life is organized according to laws that guarantee a good degree of objectivity in dispensing justice, defending freedom, promoting peace and prosperity because the law is a reasonable expression of integrity” (Onwanibe, 1989).

According to John, 1999, “if the law is an obligatory rule of action prescribed by the supreme power of a state, then the rule of law means that every citizen shall not be exposed to the arbitrary desire of the ruler and that the exercise of the powers of the government shall be conditioned by law. No one can be lawfully restrained or punished except for a definite breach of law established before the courts in ordinary legal manner”

Interpretation of the rule of law

  • The regular law of the country has absolute supremacy and it stands above the influence of arbitrary power. This means that an individual can only be tried and punished for breach of law, but the individual cannot be punished for anything else other than the offense for which he is accused.
  • The rule of law promotes equality of all humans before the law of the country and this is supposed to be administered by the ordinary law court of the country.  This means that no individual, irrespective of his official or social position, is ever above the law. It also means every individual is duty-bound to always obey the same law.
  • The rule of law equality states that “the legal rights of the subjects are secured not by guaranteed rights proclaimed in a formal code but by the operation of the ordinary remedies of private law available against those who unlawfully interfere with this liberty of action, whether they are private or official citizens.”

The Nigerian experience     

The government of Nigeria is claiming to be a democratic government and they also claim to uphold the rule of law. It is, however, unfortunate the opposite is exactly what obtains in reality.

It is also unfortunate that many of the judges are respecters of persons, which is not proper since they are supposed to place everyone on the same pedestal.

Many of them  are also not independent in decision making; they have also been accused of not being impartial  or courageous in upholding the laws of the land when dealing with certain individuals of high social and political standings.


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