Rule of law should not be optional — Belgore SAN

Foremost lawyer Muhammad Dele Belgore (SAN) has said meaningful progress in the justice sector in Nigeria would depend on the rule of law applying to everyone and not just to a segment of the society.

“The rule of law is not optional, it is not a tool of convenience, you are talking about progress, and what is the rule of law in this instance? It is running the society in an orderly fashion based on the law,” Belgore said late Friday on a Channels TV programme to commemorate the 21st anniversary of Nigeria’s Democracy Day.

“What that means is that everybody is subject to the law. The highest person in government is just a subject of the law as your ordinary person. But when it suits the powers that be, they obey court orders, when it doesn’t suit them, they do not obey court orders. That, for me, is the biggest obstacle and the biggest drawback to the rule of law.”

Belgore also said he supported the arguments for technology-driven and faster approaches to the law but he warned that such mechanisms must not sacrifice justice for all the parties involved.

He also called for attitudinal change in the sector, saying no legislation or technology can replace the need for every stakeholder to change their attitude to the rule of law.

He added: “Delay is a function of a number of things; one, it is a function of the law, it is a function of the judges, and it is a function of the rules in which they operate.

“The Administration of Criminal Justice Act has attempted to cut the delays, but you have got to change people’s attitude. If you don’t change their attitudes, if you have new laws but people are still operating with the same attitude, you are not going to get much in terms of progress. Also, we have to bear in mind the fact that justice must not be rushed. In an attempt to cure delay, you might cause injustice.”

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