Criss Crossing Law and Jurisprudence: Festschrift for Oyebode
Book: Criss Crossing Law and Jurisprudence
Editors: Ayodele V. Atsenuwa, Abiola Sanni, Babatunde A. Oni and
Ihuoma K. Ilobinso
Reviewer: Waziri Adisa
Year: March 2020
The book, Criss Crossing Law and Jurisprudence, is a festschrift in honour of Professor Akindele B. Oyebode, a retired Professor of Law at the University of Lagos and one of Nigeria’s foremost professors of international law. The book is written in simple language and is meant to systematically discuss the role and journey of law in the enforcement of the rule of law and the protection of human rights in a developing society like Nigeria.
With 16 chapters written by prominent lawyers, a presiding justice of court of appeal and distinguished academics, the book discusses how law as a discipline and practice traverses every aspect of human life—be it economy, environment, commerce, land, industry, justice, and transnational organised crime. More importantly, the book stresses the importance of reform in the justice sector as well as how long-term reform of the justice institutions can ultimately guarantee a fair and democratic society.
In the first chapter of the book, Wole Olanipekun opens up the discussions by interrogating the future of Alternative Dispute Resolution in a developing society like Nigeria. Olanipekun states that, given the historical antecedents of Nigeria and the slow pace of justice administration, the adoption of ADR as part of the mainstream court system in Nigeria, is not only timely but also justifiable. While the conventional court system has its own advantages, Olanipekun argues, ADR and arbitration create a natural environment for the administration of justice and ensures that justice is done to the parties in the shortest time using customary procedures, considering that ADR mechanisms have reduced the number of cases in court and increased citizens’ confidence in the courts. To be sure, challenges such as short-circuit arbitration clauses, post-arbitration litigation, cost and time of arbitration and conflict between ACA-LSAL portend grave danger for the future of arbitration in Nigeria.
Helen Moronkeji, a Justice of the Court of Appeal, then examines the benefits of obedience to court orders and the enforcement of court rules to the stability of the court system. By analysing the application of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria rules and some provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the revered justice concludes that obedience to court order is a sine qua non for an orderly and peaceful society. She however notes that this cannot be achieved unless lawyers and judges are mindful of court procedures and regulations in the administration of justice. While obedience to procedural laws is important, it is also important that judges ensure they do not obstruct the course of justice or encourage the miscarriage of justice.
Babajide Alo’s concern in Chapter 3 is Nigeria and international community’s commitment to the regulation of the production, sale, use and disposal of hazardous chemicals such as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP). He notes that the Nigerian government has over the years, through various ministries and parastatals such as the Federal Ministry of Environment, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Environmental Standards Regulation and Enforcement Agency, shown unalloyed commitment to the implementation of international conventions on the regulation of hazardous chemicals. Alo reports that the country’s commitment to the core principles of the Stockhholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Basey Conventions on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and the Minimatal Convention on Mercury has enabled it to create and maintain a relatively safe and stable environment for her citizens. Alo believes that the future of the control of hazardous chemicals will also depend on government’s ability to enforce environmental safety standards in corporate organisations.
Taiwo Osipitan’s chapter moves slightly away from international law into procedural law. It examines the context within which the principle of Stare Decisis is observed in Common Law courts founded on the English legal system; the principle, which entered the Nigerian legal system via Ordinance No. 3 of 1873. Osipitan admits that, despite the fact that Stare Decisis gives the court some semblance of order in the administration of civil and criminal justice, conflicting judgments of superior courts, particularly the Supreme Court, can rubbish the excess upon which this principle was institutionalised in the court system. Citing the judgments of the apex courts in NEPA V. Edegbenro & Jack v. University of Agriculture, Makurdi, he urges the Supreme Court to avert confusion and conflicts that may face the lower courts in the course of justice administration in Nigeria.
In Chapter 5, Oluwole Smith interrogates the steps that the Nigerian legal system has taken to improve on the conveyance law inherited from the colonial masters. Although Nigeria practises English common law, the judiciary has, via judicial activism, removed technicalities in land and property conveyance and ensured that justice takes precedence over the technicality of law.
Coming from a social science background, Adebayo Ninalowo’s chapter entitled ‘Intellectual Qua Intellectual, The Rule of Law and the Human Condition’ interrogates the role of the intelligentsia in the pursuit of justice and enforcement of the rule of law in a developing country like Nigeria. While intellectuals are generally drivers of development, Ninalowo notes, organic intellectuals, particularly those with aligned ideological bents of the working class, tend to make resounding contributions to development. Ninalowo’s chapter is arguably an exposition of Akin Oyebode’s intellectual commitment to human rights protection in Nigeria that spans over 40 years.
Segun Awonusi’s chapter, ‘The Intersection of Hate Language (Speech) and Law’ sets the tone that law is not only interested in justice administration within the courtroom but also in the symbiotic relationship that exists between law and public order. The Hate Speech Bill, Awonusi states, has become a subject of national discourse in Nigeria because it opposes the spirit and letter of the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees citizens’ right to freedom of expression. He, however, holds that all stakeholders in Nigeria should avoid vulgar language that can divide the country.
In Chapter 8, Oluyemisi Adefunke examines the human organ trade, one of the most pernicious and inhumane transnational organised crimes in the West African sub-region. According to her, the human organ trade has become increasingly alarming with the globalisation of the capitalist system coupled with the weak border control systems in most developing countries. Although Nigeria has some provisions in the 1999 Constitution against the trade and has also shown some commitment to enforcing international conventions on The Protocol Concerning Transplantation of Organs and Tissue of Human Origin, the future of the war against the human organ trade will depend on the country’s ability to enact appropriate laws to criminalise this inglorious practice and also empower National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and other security agencies to deal decisively with the crime.
Ige Bolodeoku, in Chapter 9, critically engages laws on corporate personality by examining the changing nature and contexts of the legal definition of corporate personality. He states that corporate organisations have changed from being under the sole ownership and control of some individuals, as used to be the practice in the early period of industrialisation, to systems where corporate organisations are now set up and run by professionals and other informed individuals. Besides this, the legal connotation today has now created a separate legal entity for corporate organisations as stated in Section 37 of Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) so that they can function properly and be allowed to own property. Additionally, the jural relationship has been explained in such a way that companies are allowed to enter into contract on their own but with the supervision of boards of directors appointed by stakeholders. Bolodeoku believes that developments in the corporate world require that academics now pay increased attention to legislators’ construction of a corporate personality that connects companies to the collective interests of all stakeholders while mandating them to invest in corporate social responsibility, thus allowing them to survive volatility and market shock while also helping them to stabilise investors’ shares, interests and property.
In Chapter 10, Hakeem Olaniyan examines the controversies surrounding Federal Government withdrawals from the Excess Crude Oil Account (ECA). He believes that the controversies emanate from the fact that the 1999 Constitution does not provide for the Excess Crude Account and from the fact that the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly expect the Executive to take orders from them before money can be withdrawn from the account. Olaniyan’s conclusion is that, since the 1999 Constitution only recognises the Federal, State and Local Governments as the bodies saddled with the responsibility of withdrawing from the Federation Account and does not allocate any role to the legislators, their request can only be advisory rather than directive. He however cautions the Federal, State and Local Governments operating Federation accounts to be prudent and transparent in their handling of funds.
While Olaniyan’s chapter is an expose on how law transverses the management of federation accounts in Nigeria, F.A. Adeleke’s work is a critical assessment of the three major theories in the field of international law on human rights and women’s reproductive rights, i.e., universalism, relativism and minimalism. Adeleke argues that, although the arguments pushed forward by the three schools are sustainable, there are challenges in the implementation of their submissions in some jurisdictions. For instance, in Islamic countries women are not allowed to enjoy certain rights, whereas these rights are guaranteed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adeleke argues that it is imperative for stakeholders to move away from these controversies and focus on synergising the debates for the purpose of getting reproductive justice for the girl child and women around the world.
Emmanuel O. Akingbehin’s chapter focuses on the derogability of human rights in Nigeria. Whereas some developing countries like South Africa and India have made appreciable progress in the interpretation of the right to life to include right to decent living, the Nigerian judicial system’s restrictive approach to the interpretation of the right to life has not helped the Nigerian government from committing itself to other rights that border on the welfare of the citizens, such as the right to qualitative education and affordable healthcare. This, according Akingbehin, accounts for government’s lacklustre attitude to the provision of qualitative education and health care system.
In Chapter 13, Adekile examines the role of international laws in the protection and promotion of the Occupational Safety and Health Rights of Nigerian workers. He observes that the rising influence of globalisation is continually changing the boundaries of health and safety laws in common-law countries and around the world. For instance, many countries have since advanced on the English Workmen Compensation Act of 1897, which imposes heavy responsibilities on employers of labour, and now mandates both employers of labour and workers to take safety precautions very seriously in the workplace.
Adekile contends that, although the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Factories Act 2004 is instructive and useful, implementation of safety standards in industries by relevant Federal and State Government Ministries is one of the several ways of guaranteeing a sustainable work environment and ensuring the welfare of Nigerian workers.
In Chapter 14, Sesan Fabamise revisits the issue of the role of international laws in the control of human trafficking in the world, particularly in Nigeria where a combination of transnational organised coalesced to increase the volume of human beings being moved out of Africa illegally. The legal expert, is concerned that despite the adoption of several conventions and laws, e.g. the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, the Protocol on the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, and the Convention On the Rights of the Child, perpetrators of this crime are unrelenting in moving hundreds of people out of Nigeria for illicit trade and commercial sex work. Of these numbers, women and girl children remain the most vulnerable because a combination of poverty, family influence and smugglers’ tricks makes it impossible to resist the temptation to move. Fabamise hopes that with the current efforts of the international community and the National Agency for Trafficking in Persons in Nigeria (NAPTIP), the Nigerian government will be able to significantly reduce this heinous crime.
Abiola Sanni’s chapter on the intractable problem of multiple taxation in Lagos State in particular and Nigeria in general reminds us of how the unregulated and inadequately regulated tax system in Nigeria since independence has imposed a heavy burden on the citizens, slowing down foreign investment and creating avoidable conflict between the government and the people.
Sanni explains that tax collection before the era of the military was largely regulated, since the Regional Governments and the Federal Government knew what was to be collected. With the entry of the military, the tax regime produced a default fiscal federalism. Specifically beginning from 1975, and through series of decrees, the Federal Government strangulated revenues accruing to the states and concentrated most of the money from taxation in the hands of the Federal Government.
The result of this was that state and local governments resorted to arbitrary tax systems that multiplied the taxes and levies imposed on the citizens.
Gradually, Nigeria moved from this era to one where the Federal and State Internal Revenue Boards began to monitor both the collection of taxes and enlistment of tax defaulters. Sanni concludes that solutions to the Multiplicity of Taxes (MOT) include repealing Decree 21 of 1998 and other relevant laws in Lagos State, pursuing policy objectives that ensure that administrative bottlenecks are removed completely in the collection of taxes from individuals and corporate bodies, closely monitoring the taxes collectable by local governments and ensuring that multiple levies are eliminated.
Femi Falana, in the last chapter of the book, critically examines the role of ECOWAS West Africa Court of Justice on human rights protection in the region. As a region faced with multiple human rights problems, the legal luminary argues, the creation of the Community Court is not only timely but also creates awareness for both the government and the people that the international community will no longer condone dictators in the region.
Notwithstanding its numerous achievements, Falana points out, certain challenges that currently hinder the court’s effectiveness, notably the mechanism for enforcing judgments. He therefore suggests that ECOWAS should further strengthen the Community Court and encourage national governments to enforce the independence of the judiciary. These measures will not only help West African states to guarantee justice to all aggrieved parties but also help to stabilise the rule of law.
Except for minor typographical errors and the fact that it does not cover energy laws and cases, the 520-paged book is a true documentation of developments in the postcolonial and post-military eras of Nigeria. In content and language, the book is indeed a testimony to the fact that law traverses every aspect of human society for the purpose of stabilising it and creating an enabling environment for individuals to exercise their rights. On the strength of these qualities, I am recommending this book to both students and legal luminaries who are interested in Alternative Disputes Resolution, Court Rules, Public and Commercial Law, Tort Law, International Law and Human Rights as well as transnational organised crime in the West African sub-region.