Equality before the law

Equality before the law or legal egalitarianism is the principle that all people must be equally protected by the law. The principle requires a systematic rule of law that observes due process to provide equal justice and requires equal protection ensuring that no individual or group of individuals be privileged over others by the law. Sometimes called the principle of isonomy, it arises from various philosophical questions concerning equality, fairness and justice.

Equality before the law is one of the basic principles of some definitions of liberalism. It is incompatible with legal slavery. Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. Thus, everyone must be treated equally under the law regardless of race, gender, color, ethnicity, religion, disability or other characteristics, without privilege, discrimination or bias.

In Nigeria, the state social order is founded on ideals of freedom, equality and justice.

In furtherance of the social order, every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law; Section 17 of the 1999 Constitution as amended provides that a  citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not by reason only that he is such a person be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject

Thus from the provisions of the Nigerian constitution, we can beat our chest and say Nigeria is in the league of nations that sees equality before the law `as important. The question now is: are the laws being observed strictly as they should? No, and it is time to allow equality take root.


Suwaiba Haruna,

ATAP, Bauchi


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