A Lawyer’s Duty is to Protect the Rule of Law
President Margee Ensign’s remarks at the inauguration of the Executive Committee of the AUN Law Students Society (AUN-LSS) on September 17, 2021
When we established the school of law in 2016, we envisioned a different approach to law—built on our vision as Africa’s development university— As our vision statement says: To fulfil its vision, AUN will foster the creation of leaders committed to sustaining a democracy in which diverse people share in the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, proficient in creating and applying technology to wise purpose, and dedicated to securing a humane and prosperous world.
As future lawyers, you have a special role to play in that vision.
Democracy is built on the Rule of law and at the foundation of democracy are:
- Accountability for leaders
- Everybody is treated the same before the law--playing by the same rules—a better chance at equity
- Protection of human rights
- Fair enforcement of laws and regulations
- Laws and regulations that restrain both citizen and government actions
- Equal access to the law for all citizens
- Independent and effective judicial system
So the lawyer’s job is to shore up the rule of law, yes?
How does Nigeria rank now in the global democracy, rule of law and corruption rankings?
Freedom House was established in 1940 in the US to assess the level of freedom in each country in the world, with a numerical score and ranking as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free. The report is known as Freedom in the World.
Nigeria--Partly free in political rights and civil liberties but deep concerns “Security challenges, including the ongoing insurgency by the Boko Haram militant group, kidnappings, and communal and sectarian violence in the restive Middle Belt region, threaten the human rights of millions of Nigerians. The response by the military and law enforcement agencies to the widespread insecurity often involves extrajudicial killings, torture, and other abuses.
Civil liberties are also undermined by religious and ethnic bias, and discrimination against women and LGBT+ people remains pervasive. The vibrant media landscape is impeded by criminal defamation laws, as well as the frequent harassment and arrests of journalists who cover politically sensitive topics.”
Corruption undermines rule of law, democracy, governance, human rights.
How do we measure corruption: Transparency International established in 1993 defined it as misuse of public power for private benefit Nigeria is currently ranked 149 out of 180 on the Corruption Perception Index?
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) describes Nigeria as a Hybrid Regime.
Ranks 110 out of 160
A Hybrid regime is defined as one that has:
“Regular electoral frauds, preventing them from being fair and free democracies. These nations commonly have governments that apply pressure on political opposition, non-independent judiciaries, widespread corruption, harassment and pressure placed on the media, anemic rule of law, and more pronounced faults than flawed democracies, low levels of participation in politics, and issues in the functioning of governance”
Human Development Report:
Established 30 years ago. The index measures life expectancy, education and income Nigeria HDI 161 189 Democracy is under attack here in Nigeria—and in many parts of the world, including my own So your role as future lawyers is critical and essential, and I ask you--
WHAT SORT OF LAW WILL YOU PRACTICE?
Will you help the rich get richer? Entrench privilege?
Remember our vision-you embody that—
AUN will foster the creation of leaders committed to sustaining a democracy in which diverse people share in the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, proficient in creating and applying technology to wise purpose, and are dedicated to securing a humane and prosperous world.
Let me close with a quote from Nelson Mandela:
On democracy: “It is not our diversity which divides us; it is not our ethnicity or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not.