Banwo & Ighodalo Logo

The Place of Law In National Development

After a sufficient number of nations had ratified the IBHR, it took on the force of international law in 1976. The Constitutions of most countries of the world today are widely known to have domesticated the clauses of the IBHR while most international treaties executed among sovereign States ever since, for example, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights which was adopted in Banjul in 1981 by African nations; have borrowed copiously from the IBHR.

Kevin Davis and Michael Trebilcock in their 1999 research paper, “What Role Do Legal Institutions Play In Development?” noted that the post-WWII period marked a growing interest in the poor nations of the world among scholars and policymakers in industrialized countries, particularly the United States; which advocated for modernization policy as a panacea for development. “Modernization theorists contended that a society’s underdevelopment was both caused by and reflected in its traditional (as opposed to modern) economic, political, social and cultural characteristics or structures. In order to develop, underdeveloped societies would have to undergo the same process of transition from traditionalism to modernity previously experienced by more developed societies”. The nucleus of modernization, which had helped transform economies of world’s advanced nations into open and progressive societies, is a well-developed legal and judicial system.

It was agreed that law would provide the necessary elements for the functioning of a modern market system, including contract and private property rights, and universal and uniformly applied rules that allow for predictability and planning. Furthermore, modern law was viewed as essential to political development as it would help create a pluralist, liberal democratic state, and serve as the primary restraint on arbitrary state action. This was the beginning of the development of economic law as a catalyst for national development.

How individual nations have fared in development indices is a measure of the degree of freedom allowed, through the instrumentality of their respective laws, for private talents and capital to be harnessed alongside States’ social works. It is also a function of how relevant laws are constantly enacted, which will promote adequate participation of their local economies, in the increasingly capitalistic global economy.

Law And Development: Nigeria’s Experience

Through the efforts of lawyers, most of whom had participated actively in Nigeria’s struggle for independence and the various constitutional development processes in the pre and post-independence eras, the essential clauses of the Magna Carta and the major development-triggered laws and treaties which had evolved therefrom, have been entrenched in our Constitution.

The Fundamental Human Rights (FHRs) provisions, which guarantee freedom of expression and association etc., and protect the citizens’ rights of property ownership, as well as the power of the courts to adjudicate fairly between parties based on the rule of law, where allegation of unlawful derogation from the FHRs is made; are entrenched in Chapter IV (Sections 33 – 46) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

Chapter II (Sections 13 – 25) of the Constitution states the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. All executive, legislative and judicial powers of the federation are to be exercised in conformity with the Chapter; which provides direction for Nigeria’s sovereignty and political,