Can Law & Policy Sustain Development in Nigeria?

No doubt law and development are inter-related as the laws of a country largely need to support the economic policies in place to encourage growth and sustain development. However, how effective laws can be must be determined. As stated by David Kennedy, “the idea that building the rule of law might itself be a development strategy, encourages the hope that choosing law can substitute for the perplexing political and economic choices which have been at the centre of development policy making for half a century. The legal regime offers an arena to contest those choices but it cannot substitute for them.” Therefore, even when the law aligns with the economic visions of the country, failure to adhere to it, paralyses the effectiveness of such economic programmes.

Let’s take for instance, Nigeria Vision 20:2020, which says “by 2020 Nigeria will have a large strong diversified sustainable and competitive economy that effectively harnesses the talents and energies of its people and responsibly exploits its natural endowments to guarantee a high standard of living and quality of life to its citizens”. Can we honestly say  that we are very well on our way to realising this 2020 goal with the current state of the economy? The answer is a big ‘NO’ because a major setback for us in realising our development programs is Corruption. There are laws in place and governmental organisations (EFCC, ICPC etc.) set up to combat corruption yet the law does not prevail and so development is unrealistic for Nigeria.

Nigeria has a great track record of putting necessary development schemes in place. The First and Second Development Plans between 1962 – 1970 & 1970 – 1975, despite the electoral crisis and civil war, achieved most of its aims as there was less corruption. It was also the period of oil boom and the first major loan received by Nigeria from the World Bank. However, the Third National Development 5- year plan of 1975 failed in implementation because oil earnings fell by 1 billion Naira. This is possibly why the current NV20:2020 plan is stunted because these economic policies usually depend on the expected oil revenue without giving proper thought to the eradication of corruption and rule of law.

So where do we go from here? Recently, development policies have shifted their focus to Agriculture such as the Agricultural Transformation Agenda which aims to ‘rediscover griculture’. However, this demands that import laws are tightened while export policies flourish and the government provides the necessary environment for businesses to thrive i.e. good roads, clean water, security, 24 hrs electricity etc. The law can only do so much, but nothing can work except we do. We do not expect corruption to be eradicated in a day, (even in developed countries, corruption still exists) but we do expect the government to do the work they have been appointed to carry out as we all do our best in upholding the law.

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