By Aida Nath Ogwuche
The term “trias politica” or “separation of powers” was coined by Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, an 18th century French social and political philosopher.
His publication, Spirit of the Laws, is considered one of the great works in the history of political theory and jurisprudence, and it inspired the Constitution of our great nation, Nigeria.
Under his model, the political authority of the state is divided into legislative, executive and judicial powers. He asserted that, to most effectively promote liberty, these three powers must be separate and acting independently.
The intent of which is to prevent the concentration of power and provide for checks and balances.
The entire gamut of separation of powers is primarily to avoid an absolute government of dictatorship where there is excess power concentrated in the head of government or any arm at all.
Hence, why checks and balances is a sine qua non to achieving effective governance and separation of powers by checking the excesses of any arm of government.
It therefore goes without saying, that the Legislative arm in this country has failed the citizenry and in the most sacrilegious manner, continuously betrays the oath of office it swore to uphold.
This piece seeks to remind the Legislative arm of its functions, powers and raison d’etre and further implore it to act expeditiously to protect human rights, the Constitution and prevent a total breakdown of law and order in Nigeria.
Our Nation has in the last couple of weeks witnessed a mass action by Nigerian citizens, mostly the youth, against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigerian Police Force whereby the youths made known their grievances towards the brutality and professional misconduct by operatives of this particular police unit who have for too long derailed from the core mandates of their establishment to curb incidents of armed robbery and other similar crimes, and have become threats to the same citizens that they were meant to protect in line with the general mandate of the Police under the Nigerian Constitution.
It is of serious concern that the Nigerian government and the Police responded to the protest through further acts of police brutality that resulted in the loss of lives of protesters, unlawful detention of protesters and disruption of peaceful protests.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides for various fundamental rights, including the rights to life, human dignity, personal liberty, privacy, freedom of expression and the press, freedom of assembly, and association.
It is, however, clear that the Executive arm of government has lost all sense of responsibility and thrown caution to the wind. In a further annihilation of rights of protesters, the Executive arm has proceeded to arbitrarily arresting certain protesters, block their bank accounts and deny them of travel outside the country.
It is completely disheartening and reprehensible that the government will deploy tax payer’s money to pursue frivolous actions in court against protesters and surreptitiously arrest/detain them.
It is in the light of the foregoing that I feel very concerned, as a Citizen, a Lawyer, a Youth and a staunch advocate for efficient democracy in Nigeria, to implore the Legislative arm to perform its constitutional functions of checking the excesses of the Executive arm in its stride to suppress the rights of the people.
Otherwise, we run the risk of further unrest in this country whereby the center will no longer hold, the falcon will not hear the falconer, and the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. A situation where the celebration of innocence is drowned.
I therefore call upon our distinguished and honourable Legislators to wage into the dire situation we find ourselves in this country.
May I also take this opportunity to salute the efforts of our lawmakers thus far in passing effective laws. However, Nigeria’s problems have never been the unavailability of laws, but rather, the unwillingness to execute and enforce the existing laws.
I also use this medium to appreciate our youths for exhibiting unparalleled interest towards the betterment of this nation and not losing hope in the bright future we all long for.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
(Barr. Aida Nath Ogwuche, former aspirant to the Benue State House of Assembly, writes from Ogbadibo, Benue State).