By Philip Agbese
“A democratic freedom-loving society does not accept that investigation use any means to uncover the truth—at times, the price of truth is so high that a democratic society is not prepared to pay it.” Justice Barak of the Supreme Court of Israel.
Yes, there have been debates about the rule of law and the implication for National Security in Nigeria. While I have hesitated to jump into the fray, I was somewhat challenged to put my thoughts in the public domain in an attempt to put issues in proper perspectives. As a start, one question comes to mind. And it is, can the rule of law be canvassed in a state of insecurity?
Off my head, the rule of law implies that every person is subject to the law. In a commentary titled “Protecting Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law in the Age of Terrorism” by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, Middle East Program, and Rule of Law Initiative, it was stated that “during times of war, individual liberties and certain protections under law may be limited and the society accepts this temporary loss of rights as a reasonable cost to defend the homeland and defeat an adversary”.
This brings me to the crux of this article which is the rule of law in the age of terrorism in Nigeria. The first question I would like to ask is what the fundamental objective of democracy is. Democracy and the rule of law are whole concepts that make it possible for modern societies to function effectively and thus guarantee peace, harmony, and egalitarianism in the nation. It has also become the most fashionable and enduring form of government in modern times. On the other hand, the rule of law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation. It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, mainly as a constraint upon behaviour.
It is therefore apt to state from the preceding that, the rule of law is the bedrock of modern constitutional democracy. It follows, therefore, that, to avoid tyranny and oppression of the citizens, the rule of law should equally embody the separation of powers, so that each organ or arms of government shall be a check on the other arms. It is on this premise that democracy can thrive in a state. However, there is a snag, which is the expression of the rule of law concept in the age of terrorism using Nigeria as an example.
Agbese is a public commentator