Saturday, 12 April 2014

Rule of Law and Jobs for Nigerians

Rule of Law and Jobs for Nigerians
About three weeks ago, a national tragedy happened when the Ministry of Interior conducted a recruitment exercise into the Nigeria Immigration Services (NIS) and over a score of Nigerians, determined to get a legitimate means of livelihood, were killed in the process. The tragedy sparked a justifiable outrage with calls for the sack of the concerned Minister, Mr. Abba Moro. Clearly, there are immediate reasons why the exercise went awry which border on the way and manner the Ministry went about the conduct of the exercise; but what concerns us here is why, in the 21st century with all of the opportunities it offers, tens of thousands of young Nigerians will go fighting for only 4500 positions in the NIS. It only speaks to the fact that in Nigeria generally, people do not see how they can easily plug into the economy and make a reasonable and legitimate living outside government. The truth anywhere, however, remains that governments can hardly provide jobs for 20 percent of their population directly. This piece seeks to show how remotely at the back of disasters like this is simply the lack of rule of law.
The online legal dictionary defines rule of law thus: that individuals, persons and government shall submit to, obey and be regulated by law, and not arbitrary action by an individual or a group of individuals. The World Justice Project sees the rule of law as a system of rules and rights that enable fair and functioning societies. It asserts that four universal principles are upheld in this system: first, the government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law. Second, the laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property. Third, the process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient. And fourth, justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
The World Justice Project goes on to point to some critical factors in an environment of rule of law, some of which include the following: constraints on the government; absence of corruption – conventionally defined as the use of public power for private gains; open government, which involves engagement, access, participation, and collaboration between the government and its citizens; order and security; civil justice, where ordinary citizens are able to resolves their grievances and obtain remedies in conformity with fundamental rights through formal institutions of justice in a peaceful and effective manner, rather than resorting to violence and self-help; and effective criminal justice, which constitutes the natural mechanism to redress grievances and bring action against individuals for offences against society.
Nigeria scores very low on the whole in the above context, and this has stifled investor confidence, especially with regard to SMEs which really form the rump of opportunities in terms of jobs in any economy. The big investors that have seemed to flock into Nigeria only do so for the entropy that reigns and their ability to further deal unfairly with the system. But the fact is that commitment to the rule of law is able to provide immense job opportunities for the teeming able-bodied and willing Nigerians so that they don’t have to go and get mangled to death for positions whose successful candidates have long been known. We will look at only one law, the Copyright Act.
One drives on the streets and sees, at hold-ups, books like Witness to Justice by Bishop Kukah being sold for N1500.00 as against the minimum of N5000.00 that it ordinarily goes for from the proper sources as yet. One also sees CDs and DVDs of Nigerian artistes and movies pirated thus, rendering many hardworking people hungry. Some years ago when the president gave a grant to Nollywood of N20 or so billion in a bid to boost the industry, I was pained because it was clear that the issues are not well understood. If the president had instead committed to fight piracy by enforcing the law as enshrined in the Copyright Act, he would be protecting investments in that sector and thus, giving it the opportunity to boost.
A simple example will suffice here. Nigeria has an estimated population of 170million. If an artiste retails a CD at N150 and targets only a quarter of the population, being 42.5million, in two years and makes a net profit of only N10 per CD, he will be raking in the sum of N425m in that period. That leaves the sum of N140 per CD, by 42.5million, to be shared within all the showbiz works which include the record company, the songwriters, the musicians, the PR people, the marketers, the lawyers and taxes. This is huge opportunity!  Banks and insurance companies will fall over themselves to have a piece of that huge cake. Writers and actors will be protected. Huge allied opportunities will emerge, only because one law – only one law – is made to work.
If we, especially the leadership of this country, want to be taken seriously, then rule of law must be enthroned. That way, young Nigerians will not troop out only to be killed for legitimately looking for means of livelihood.

(Published in the BLUEPRINT Newspaper: April 3, 2014)

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