Putting an end to one nation two laws
Sir: One of the major factors militating against Nigeria’s progress as a nation is none other than the existence of two separate laws within the Nigerian nation-state.
Although in theory, the country has a single constitution ostensibly governing every citizen, it is however an open secret that there are different laws for different people and the one applied for each individual depends on their social standing in the society. How then can any nation make any progress in the face of brazen injustices perpetrated through the ages?
Nigeria began to operate two different laws as soon as there was a power shift after independence and the baton was handed over to the politicians. The first problem to rear its ugly head was that of ethnicity and a mad-rush to dominate the centre. From then, those who had a full grip of the centre became the lords of the land taking on the form of the-gods – can-do-no-wrong, choosing whoever should man the courts and also deciding whatever laws to obey and the ones to shun.
The churning out of various repressive decrees was however only a tip of the iceberg of the disaster wrought on the nation by the military. Their arrogance and total refusal to subject themselves to civil rule is the greatest havoc and one of the main reasons for the existence of two different laws within the country. It is difficult to find vehicles belonging to military personnel having up to date papers and no law enforcement officials dare to stop them to demand their particulars.
All traffic officials, be it LASTMA, VIO, or Federal Road Safety Corps know their limits and only harass helpless motorists endlessly whereas they turn the other cheek when the military is involved. The amount lost to the nation’s internally generated revenues due to the uncooperative attitude of the men of the force amounts to a great financial loss and a complete disservice to the entire nation.
Traffic officials themselves are known to apply two laws in their relationships with members of the public while innocent private motorists are often targets of constant harassment, commercial vehicle operators move freely with utterly rickety vehicles without up to date particulars. In Nigeria, it is possible for a man caught stealing a thousand naira to be sentenced to a ten-year jail while those found guilty of embezzling billions of naira are given a soft landing and allowed to return home to enjoy their loot.
The war every Nigerian must, therefore, get set to wage is that of the abolition of the doctrine of two laws operating within Nigeria. Whatever it would take, everyone must be made to obey the nation’s law and whatever applies to one should apply to all.
Jide Oyewusi, coordinator of Ethics Watch International, wrote from Lagos.