Promoting the Rule of Law and Social Inclusion: A Panacea for Living above the Poverty Line – Fredrick Okagua

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Rule of Law

Abstract

The concept of rule of law as propounded by Prof. A.V Dicey is entrenched on three major principles. These principles in my view emanated from the natural and utilitarian school of legal philosophy which purpose is to serve the greatest good for members of the society, promote peace and prosperity, and a crime free society where there is equal opportunity for everyone. Thus improving the welfare opportunities for others (especially the disadvantaged and less privileged) to take active part in the society is one of the few ways for curbing the menace of poverty in our society and living above the internationally recognized poverty line of $1.90 per day.

The vision 2030 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No.1 which is geared towards eradicating poverty in all of its forms everywhere seems to be a mirage or far from reality owing to the prevailing harsh economic and social difficulties bedeviling most developing nations like Nigeria especially in the Niger Delta regions where the youths have been used as political thugs by egocentric, unscrupulous and disgruntled politicians and have also been subject to reckless abandon and degrading inhuman treatment by the government of the day. The catastrophic effect of oil spillages on their land, water and agricultural produce coupled with the gas flaring activities in the region has made life difficult for the people.

The focus of this paper is not just to highlight the causative factor responsible for poverty generation in Africa particularly Nigeria but to examine the concept of the rule of law and social inclusion as a veritable weapons that can be used in combating the scourge of poverty if promoted and encouraged by the administrative government agencies of government, the civil society, pressure group, stakeholders, NGO’s and members of the organized private sector

INTRODUCTION
Poverty is more than absence of money, its manifestation includes: limited access to education, hunger and malnutrition, social discrimination, exclusion from participation and decision making process. The mere presence of poverty in any society is a threat to prosperity in every society. This is because there will be an influx or massive migration of people from one impoverished naked society to the rich prosperous society which often create room for egregious social discrimination, unequal access to opportunities and exclusion from involving in the daily life.

According to the United Nations statistical data analysis reveals that More than 700 million people still live in extreme poverty and are struggling to fulfil the most basic needs in life like health,education, and access to water and sanitation. It is estimated that 767 million people live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day. In 2016, almost 10 percent of the world’s workers live with their families on less than $1.90 per person per day. This is incredibly alarming. It is also on record that overwhelming majority of people living below the poverty line is from Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the World Bank Group economic growth, political modernization, the protection of human rights, and other worthy objectives are all believed to be hinge, at least in part, on the rule of law. The concept of the rule of law is anchored on three pillars:
1. The supremacy of the constitution
2. Equality of all persons before the law
3. Recognition of the fundamental rights of every citizen.

The rule of law plays an important role in national development and the eradication of poverty. It provides an institutional framework as an agency to exert influence for developmental change. Hence, there must be inclusive governance, social equality/inclusion and responsible leadership.
Since the rule of law emphasizes a fair impartial and accessible justice system with a representative government. It suffices to add that social inclusion and rule of law can used as instruments of national development to eradicate poverty and that governs development actors and can be equally used in the enforcement process of development policies. In this paper we shall examine the concept of rule of law together with the concept of social inclusion as a national instrument to live above the internally recognized poverty line and examine some of the factors responsible for breeding poverty in our socio-economic space.

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THE RULE OF LAW AND SOCIAL INCLUSION AS INSTRUMENTS OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
The rule of law and social inclusion are emerging factors for national and international concerns. It is based on good governance which requires accountability, transparency, equality, corporate social responsibility and community development which fosters rule of law with other component part of national development such as democracy, human rights, combating corruption and inequality and freedom of information. The absence of rule of law forestalls development process.
For the rule of law to be practical the citizens must accept the law as it is, abide by its norms and what is considered right, fair, just, equitable and acceptable by all. Thus the rule of law is an independent agency of social control and social direction in eradicating poverty especially in Nigeria.

According to Professor A.V Dicey in his 1885 book ‘Introduction to the Study of law of the Constitution, he opined that the rule of law is absolute predominance or supremacy of the ordinary laws of the land over all citizens, no matter how powerful. The legal concept in his view is based on three principles which can be categorized as

  1. Legal duties, and liability to punishment, of all citizens, are determined by the ordinary (regular) law and not by any arbitrary official fiat, government decree, or wide discretionary-powers. (Supremacy of the Constitution)
  2. Disputes between citizens and government officials are to be determined by the ordinary courts applying ordinary law, (Equality of all persons before he Court of law) and the
  3. Fundamental rights of the citizens (freedom of the person, freedom of association, freedom of speech) are rooted in the natural law, and are not dependent on any abstract constitutional concept, declaration, or guaranty. (Recognition of Fundamental Human Rights)

The first ambit to Dicey’s principle is on the Supremacy of the Constitution which entails that the constitution which is the grund-norm (the chief law of the land) is supreme and its provisions is binding on all persons and authority in Nigeria. Section 1(1-3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended) provides that the constitution is supreme and no one can unilaterally take control of the government except in line with the law as stipulated in the constitution and if any law is inconsistent with the provisions of the law in the constitution the constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of its inconsistency be declared void. The second ambit of the principle emphasis on equality of all persons before the law to be bound by the declarations of the court who must follow what the law stipulates. This means no one is above the law and everyone should be treated equally.

The third ambit of Dicey’s principle emphasizes on the recognition of the fundamental rights of everyone. The law is no respecter of persons. Whether you are rich or poor, young or old, literate or illiterate, government official or ordinary citizen, the same law applies to us all.

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Despite this widespread of these legal principles in different jurisdictions there seems to be a lackluster effect in terms of its efficacy. It has not yet been justified because poverty is a limiting factor for people to pursue or sue anyone that infringes on their inalienable right. Therefore, government at all levels must as a matter of superlative urgency strive to promote the full implementation of the rule of law in all of its administrative divisions as a palliative measure to live above the poverty line.

FACTORS CAUSING POVERTY IN NIGERIA

The causative factors of poverty in Nigeria stems from the following:

  1. Corruption: Corruption is an endemic malarkey that has greeted our socio-political space. It is now the first born and the poster child of Nigeria’s problem. The question is the present government doing enough to wipe out corruption from our national space? Although President Muhammadu Buhari has been on the forefront in the fight against corruption and the recovery of looted funds in foreign countries. His government has recorded some tremendous achievement in the fight however there is still much that needs to be done when considering the poor.
  2. Dependence on Oil: From 1956 when Oil was first discovered in commercial quantity in Oloibiri in the Old Rivers State. Oil was not sold in commercial quantities. The British government by virtue of our colonial heritage with them monopolised the market through the seven sisters and their vertical integration system. They acquired a land mass of 35,000sqm. They gave too little for the much they acquired. That system was an economic exploitation of our political ignorance. Corruption has become the first born and the poster child of Nigeria’s problem. Prior to 1971 when Nigeria became a member of OPEC our eyes began to open and we soon realized the huge economic benefit of the oil. Thus a condition precedent to be a member of OPEC is that the host state must have its own national oil Company and 60% of the annual profit and revenue realized should be given back to the host nation as part of the contribution to the growth of the nation by the international oil companies (IOC’s). The failure by government to diversify other sectors of the economy was the genesis of Nigeria’s problem and the over dependence of one sector of the economy which now contributes about 90% of the total revenue generation and economic sustenance of the nation which has created a lacklustre effect, a narrow and weak economic base.
  3. Low economic growth performance
  4. Weak Government policies
  5. Abuse of Power and non observance of the rule of law
  6. Lack of social security
  7. Discrimination of all kinds and egregious violation of human rights
  8. Unequal distribution of resources: some get while others don’t.

FACTS AND EFFECTS OF POVERTY IN MODERN SOCIETY

Reports from the United Nations show that high poverty rates are often found in small, fragile and conflict affected community like the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. One out of four children under the age of five has inadequate height for his age as a result of poor nutrition, hunger and extreme poverty. In fact it is sated that every day in 2014, about 42,000 people had to abandon their homes to seek protection from civil unrest and conflict infested areas in some communities
Unarguably, over 80% of them live in developing countries like Nigeria and face poverty. Out of the 180 million people in Nigeria only 33.3% live above the poverty line.
Research has also shown that out of the 7 billion populations of people on planet earth only 1.1 billion people have risen from extreme poverty since 1990. However, millions of people still slide back into the threshold annually because of the downtrodden economic hazards.
Indigenous people like women, children, youths and the less privilege from developing countries suffer a high degree of infant and maternal mortality rates.

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ACHIEVING THE VISION 2030 GOAL

To end extreme poverty worldwide in 20 years, economist Jeffrey Sachs calculated that the total cost per year would be about $175 billion. This represents less than one percept of the combined income of the richest countries in the world.
The 2030 Agenda adopted by World leaders in 2015 recognizes that the only way to achieve sustainable development is to completely eradicate poverty. Therefore, to make this realizable all hands must be on deck to fight the scourge of poverty. The philosophy of corporate social responsibility must be enhanced and encouraged.

WHAT GOVERNMENT MUST DO

  1. Promote social inclusion and increase the social welfare package especially to the disadvantaged in the society
  2. Accelerate social inclusiveness, economic growth and sustainable development that will not leave behind the vulnerable population.
  3. Address issues of unemployment, discrimination (ethnic and social) among the people.
  4. Promote strict adherence of the rule of law, social welfare, inclusion, policies and protection of citizen that will ensure economic growth
  5. Empower people living in poverty with skill acquisition programs
  6. Improve access to sustainable livelihood and boost entrepreneurial opportunities and productive resources.
  7. Enact workable and doable laws that promote the rule of law and punish crimes and corruption
  8. Intensify international cooperation for poverty eradication.

WHAT THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS CAN DO

The Malamute Foundation is a good example of what the private sector can do to end the scourge of
poverty. An organization designed to socially alleviate the poor and economically empower Women, children, youths etc.
The private sector, as an engine of economic growth, has a major role to play in determining whether the growth it creates is inclusive and hence contributes to poverty reduction.

It can promote economic opportunities for the poor, focusing on segments of the economy where most of the poor are active, namely on micro and small enterprises and those operating in the informal sector. Even those in the entertainment industry have a big role to play in eradicating poverty through public enlightenment, music, movie and awareness campaigns.

CONCLUSION

Poverty is a feeling of helplessness, negative thinking. It’s a self destructive disease that eats into the fabrics of the mind of an individual that makes him/her worthless and useless. In relation to the society it is like a deadly parasite that kills the economic potential and the socio-political well being of any modern society.
The rule of law and social inclusion on the other hand are legal weapons that can be used to aid national development, foster economic growth and drive capacity building by frustrating discrimination in all of its forms, discourage social exclusion and stop violation of fundamental human rights only if properly utilised and promoted by government at all levels in the society.

Fredrick A. Okagua DIL, LL.B BL, is a legal counsel with the China Civil Engineering Construction Company.

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