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YOU & THE LAW

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 BUILDING NIGERIA IS A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY

 FULFILLING OBLIGATIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT & THE GOVERNED

The strength of any government lies in its ability to fulfill its mandate to the citizenry.  Most of the problems inherited and which are being tackled are the results of years of degeneration and degradation. It is easier to destroy than to build. While Governments are in place to manage societies on behalf of the general citizenry, people must realize that they must always hold their representatives in governments accountable in a responsible and civilized manner.  It is also incumbent on citizens to fulfill their obligations to the State.  Part of the social responsibility expected of the citizenry is respect for the provisions of the constitution by being socially responsible and exhibiting behaviour that would promote national development and cohesion. It happens quite often that many citizens compare Nigeria with the developed world and lament that the nation is yet to develop appreciably, without necessarily bothering about certain indices, including whether or not such people are fulfilling their obligations to the country. If social services work in the Western world, it is evidently because their people abide by regulations and the rule of law; while also supporting their nations to make facilities and infrastructure work. If the correct statistics are taken, it would be revealed that only a fraction of those who benefit from existing infrastructure and social services pay for the services provided. The society and government must collaborate to stop the dangerous trend of vandalizing public infrastructure, while attention is to be focused on long range visioning and planning that would cater for the development and expansion of infrastructure, in relation to projected demands and population figures.

 

Most certainly, any society that demands for good roads and other welfare services without supporting Government by way of fulfilling civic responsibilities cannot help to develop the country. In Nigeria, this situation has, in the past led to the collapse of state-owned institutions, with the nation opting for a system that encourages the private sector to be the engine for economic growth and rapid industrialization. People appear not to be aware of the fact that failure to fulfill their obligations to Government is unconstitutional. We usually say ‘’Government’s business is nobody’s business’’ and in the process lost the national airline and shipping business. While ignorance is no excuse in law, it is to be noted that the citizenry must be prepared to bear some pains to allow for the evolution of a better tomorrow. But the pains must be felt by both the government and the governed as a way of encourage the people to bear pains without complaining. Policies and measures have to be strengthened to encourage people to pay their taxes and rates willingly. It is the duty of the strategic planner to map out the appropriate campaign strategies to make things work out well, and also create the desired awareness and public acceptance of measures introduced in public interest. It is highly imperative that all citizens must demonstrate that they are socially responsible by respecting the relevant provisions of the Constitution. For instance, Section 24 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) expressly states the duties of the citizenry as:

 

  • It shall be the duty of every citizen to – (a) abide by this Constitution, respect its ideals and its institutions, the National Flag, the National Anthem, the National Pledge, and legitimate authorities;
  • help to enhance the power, prestige and good name of Nigeria, defend Nigeria and render such national service as may be required;
  • respect the dignity of other citizens and the rights and legitimate interests of others and live in unity and harmony and in the spirit of common brotherhood;
  • make positive and useful contribution to the advancement, progress and well-being of the community where he resides;
  • render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order; and
  • Declare his/her income honestly to appropriate and lawful agencies and pay his/her tax promptly.

 

Government has to adopt a strategy to make people create interest and enforce compliance subtly given the current economic conditions and hardships being experienced by the populace..

 

OBLIGATIONS OF GOVERNMENT

  1. 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria affirms that ‘’The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice,’’ and goes further to state that ‘’Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority; the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government: and  the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.’’ What could be termed part of the responsibilities of Government is the provision of welfare and security as recorded in S.16 which states further, the responsibility of the State to the citizenry:

 

  • Harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, dynamic and self-reliant economy;
  • Control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity;
  • Without prejudice to its right to operate or participate in areas of the economy, other than the major sectors of the economy, manage and operate the major sectors of the economy;
  • Without prejudice to the right of any person to participate in areas of the economy within the major sector of the economy, protect the right of every citizen to engage in any economic activities outside the major sectors of the economy.

 

S.16. (2) of the extant constitution also states that ‘’The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring:

  • The promotion of a planned and balanced economic development;
  • That the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good;
  • That the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group; and
  • That suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.’

 

CULTURE OF GENUINE & SELFLESS SERVICE

With time, Nigeria will surely reach the Promised Land. What follows is for the citizenry to be re-orientated to be highly assertive in demanding for good governance as sovereignty, under the 1999 constitution, belongs to the people of Nigeria, from whom “government derives all its powers and authority” under the constitution.  People must be ready to collaborate with government for the purpose of development, while alsotaking the political class to task and make them accountable to the people at all times. What follows, therefore, is the need for the political class to ensure that the wishes of the majority are respected and enforced.  We must realize that governments are held in trust for the citizenry.  The ideal situation therefore calls for the political actors to be constantly established with the people and identify with their hopes and aspirations.  This will not only aid politicians to serve effectively, but will also aid the path of their reintegration when they finally quit the stage. A culture of genuine and selfless service needs to be embraced