THE ROLE OF THE JUDICIARY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF DEMOCRACY (A CASE STUDY OF NIGERIA FOURTH REPUBLIC)
1.1 Background of the Study
The judiciary which is often regarded as the third tier of government has so much in common with democracy. Democracy is generally believed to have originated from Greece, this notion is supported by the fact that the concept ‘democracy’ derives its name from two Greek words ‘demos” meaning “people’ and Kratien which means ‘rule or ‘power.
In a simple way and following from the translation of Greek words “demos” and “Kratien’, democracy means “the rule of (by) the people”. In the Greek city State, the assembly of the people convened together to take decisions on the affairs of the State.
In a nutshell, democracy is a long time form or system of government which was liberally practiced in the Greek City States. It considered not only in the rule according to the wishes of the majority of the people, but also in the actual participation of the people, to Aristotle is an instrument for the management of powers which makes the government (Rotimi, 2007).
It has been regarded as the watchdog of democracy, whose main aim and duty is to settle disputes and punish law breakers, it also functions as interpreter of the laws made by the legislature, and the constitution. It settles disputes between the citizens and the government (Alapiki, 2004).
The judiciary also has other notable functions according to Akpan (2008) which include punishing offenders of the laws, swearing in of the President and other important public officers, granting letter of administration of estates and above all, guarding against an arbitrary use of power by the other arms of government etc.
Hence, it is almost impracticable to think of democracy without the judiciary since democratic development and sustenance rest on an independent and fair judiciary and also the task of develop democrat rest upon the judiciary. This has been responsible for its role in any democratic state being clearly spelt out and stated in the constitution to avoid any ambiguity and failure to do this will lead such a state into anarchy, tyranny and a state of confusion and predicament.
In Nigeria, the 1960, 1963, 1979, 1989 constitutions made provisions for judicial autonomy and roles. The 1999 constitution of Nigeria which is the constitution in practice clearly provides for the establishment of the various arms of the judiciary with their clearly stated roles in all respect (section 203 – 296).
In any democratic setting or system the judiciary is always demonstrated in the courts and this is not different in Nigeria. Section 6 of the judicial powers of the federation and States (1 and 2) vests judicial powers in the courts; it is therefore the responsibility of the various justices and judges in the various courts to protect and promote democracy by giving judicial independence have remained a very serious and controversial issue in the process of judicial exercise of its roles hence, several modalities have been developed over the years to safe-guard any influence in judicial decisions by other arms of government. Nigeria’s history was dominated by fraudulent elections, violent political conflict and military coups. The country’s two previous attempts at democratic rule (1960 – 66 and 1979 – 83) were both dogged by allegations of electoral fraud and violence before they were cut short by military coups (Lewis, 2003). Despite repeated promise to abide by rule of law, election continued to be perceived as a do or die affair, as soon as election results were announced, defeated political aspirants will engineer their political thugs to unleash violence and try to have their perceived enemies and when this fails, issue open invitations to the military to seize power.
Since the return to democratic rule on 29th May, 1999, a major behavioural shift has occurred among Nigeria politicians. While some politicians continue to practice violence and political thuggery many more now prefer to embrace judicial channels for conflict resolution. This change springs from the transformation within the judiciary itself which has since 1999 played an increasingly exertive role as courage our and impartial arbiter in country’s democratic politics in general. The clearest evidence of this fact is the increasing number of judicial decisions that have upturned the result of several rigged elections in favour of opposition parties or individuals opposed to the government and the dominant political party. Democratic government is therefore organized in accordance with the principles of popular consultation, majority will, political and economic equality, majority rule and popular sovereignty of the people. This study therefore seeks to find and establish the role of the judiciary in the development of democracy using Nigeria’s fourth Republic as a case study.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Decade after the entrenchment of democratic institutions in Nigeria, the system is still shaky and unstable, Ologbenla (2004) has described the situation in Nigeria as “not yet democracy, due to the amount of problems the system is experiencing. This is because the military blew the bugle of their retreat into the barracks, Nigeria is still years away from viable democracy as well as a true democracy and also the power of the judiciary have been infringed upon which make the judiciary not to act and function well.
Instantly, the role of the judiciary which is regarded as the watch-dog of democracy and also the judiciary is expected to be the defender of the citizen’s rights as well as the protector to the constitution etc.
The judiciary is performing its role and function in order to institutionalize democracy and if the judiciary shys away from its constitutional role on the basis of being manipulated by any other arm, Nigeria cannot make any political progress or advancement and it is on the bases of these stark realities that this research becomes necessary. Arising from this, the basic questions are:
1.3 Research Questions
The following research questions are raised for this research study:
- To what extent has the judiciary contributed to the development of Nigeria’s democracy in the Fourth Republic?
- To what extent has the judiciary exercised its role independently?
1.4 Research Hypotheses
The following hypotheses are postulated to guide this study:
- There is no significant relationship between a free and partial judiciary and sustainable democracy in Nigeria’s Fourth republic.
- There is significant relationship between a free and partial judiciary and sustainable democracy in Nigeria’s Fourth republic.
1.5 Objective of the Study
The objectives of this study are:
- To examine the extent to which the judiciary has contributed to the development of Nigeria’s democracy in the Fourth Republic.
- To assess the extent to which the court of appeal and the Supreme Court has contributed to the development of Nigeria’s democracy in the Fourth Republic.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The research on completion will act as a reference in this area of study. The study will also serve as a wake-up call to the judicial aim of government as they strive to establish their prominence to rise up and consolidate on the gains of Nigeria’s democracy. Equally, the research will ensure that other arms of government respect their constitutional bounds in respect of their exercise of power and authority. Nothing that attempt to encroach or trespasses into the responsibilities of the judiciary may result in anarchy or crises. It will also acts as a motivations factors top the vast citizens of Nigeria to inculcate the attitude of approaching the courts for respite whenever their right are tempered with instead of sitting back and condemn court for inaction. The study will also widen the knowledge horizon of the students especially in Law and Social sciences as well as serving as a panacea to the problems associated with democratic practice in the country.
Finally, the study will open-up serious studies and discussions on this area which will lead to the overall political development of Nigeria as a whole.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The scope of this study is Nigeria’s Fourth Republic to access the role of the judiciary and it’s specifically restricted to the fourth republic which spans between May 29, 1999 till date. The research itself is restricted to the role of the judiciary in the development of democracy in Nigeria.
1.8 Limitation of the Study
The problems that the researcher encounters in the course of this study were lack and sufficient materials, apart from this, judicial issues are very professional, technical and sensitive issue hence very few could contribute immensely.
Finally, the short time that was allotted for this study, being an academic exercise as well as financial pressure were limiting factors.
1.9 Definition of key Concepts
Democracy: This is a government of elected representatives where the rule of law and fundamental human right is applied and as well prevails, it referred to as a government of the people, for the people and by the people, because what the people wants prevails, it is a system of rule that is organized in accordance with the principle of popular sovereignty.
Republic: This according to Political Science points of view is generally applied to a state where the government political power depends solely on the consent and the power is held by the people’s representatives.
Fourth Republic: This is the Republican Government in Nigeria since 1999, and it is ruled according to the Fourth Republican Constitution of 1999, it is in many ways a revival of the Second Republic, which was in placed between 1979 and 1983, before being truncated by the military.
Judiciary: This is the third tier of government responsible for law interpretation, it checks the activities of the executive and legislature and settle dispute when only arises, it is reflected in the courts, with its apex in Nigeria being the Supreme Court having the Chief Justice of the Federation as it Head, it is always referred to as the last hope of common man because it is expected of it to defend the people against the oppression by other arms of government.