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The rule of law is the most important concept in public law and indeed, in every democratic society.

The cogent considers every citizen as equal before the law. It sanctifies the priority of the law-common good, over personal, sectional and group concerns. In this way, the law is enabled to provide a common measure of acceptable social behavior in the absence of which anarchy and lawlessness will reign, making, social life and government impossible.

In the previous republics in Nigeria, the rule of law has not been quite impressive. What the case was had been an irregular rise and fall of the rule of law. But in the wake of the further republic, the situation has significantly improved.[1]   

Statehood is a function of law for without the law, there can be no state. It is the law that organizes the people and regulates their affairs in such a way that accords with the requirements of a state.[2]

The rule of law is a distinguishable concept that refers to such ideals as government under the law, equality before the law and the independence and autonomy of the judiciary.[3] 


Nigeria, throughout her historical and political experience, reflects a differential appreciation of the sanctity of the rule of law. Incidents of lawlessness and/or rule by man as against the rule of law have occasioned quite enormous disservice to the progress of Nigeria especially at the economic and political frontiers. But it is not enough to have law, it is even more important that it rules over all; for there is only as slim margin between the rule of law and the rule by law. In the latter case, law assumes the nature of a contrivance for the subjugation of the minority, the inferior and the weak. This will inevitably lead to a dialectical situation whereby revolutions supplant revolutions is very quick succession to the end of anguish of man in society. Little wonder Plato observes that:

Where the law is subject to some other authority and has none of its own, the collapse of the state in mu view, is not far off; but if law is the master of government and the government is its slave, then the situation is full of promise and men enjoy all the blessings that gods shower on a state[4].

        The rule of law is a legal maxim according to which no one is immune to law. It prescribes for equality of all before the law and binds governments as well as simple citizens. According to Olongi the rule of law “may be interpreted either as a philosophy or political theory that lays down fundamental requirements for law, or as procedural deice by which those in power rule under the law”[5]. In essence, the rule of law is simultaneously prescriptive and protective. Precisely as being prescriptive, it dictates the conduct required by law and as being protective, it insists against unlawful subjugation, domination and exploitation of citizens by fellow citizens and governments.

Albert Venn Dicey, one of the most famous jurists who taught on the subject of the rule of law articulates it to represent:

a.   The absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power and excludes the existence of arbitrariness of prerogative or even of wide discretionary authority on the part of the government.

b.  Equality before the law or equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary courts.

c.   The law of the constitution is the consequence of the rights of individual and not otherwise.[6]       

Notwithstanding that the Dicey’s construction of the concept of the rule of law fails to recognize the necessary immunity provided in the constitution for some office holders, it nevertheless ranks as one of the most articulate presentations of the rule.[7]


        The objective of this project is to analyze the important and inevitable nature and role of the rule of law in the society.

In all democracies, the rule of law is obviously pre-eminent and it had since, been the office of the judiciary to see that the rule of law is upheld.[8]

This work aims at portraying the rule of law as the only tool in our legal system that can be used to achieve balance and equality in the society.


This project work is quite significant as it creates an enlightenment as to the workability of the Doctrine of the rule of law within the sphere of our legal system towards upholding our democratic tenets.


        Research has been carried out to demystify the mystery and in deed enigma behind the Doctrine of the rule of law as it is perceived to be operational in our Nigeria legal system as the only instrument for the establishment of Justice as far as time, resources and other factors could permit. This research work has been circumscribed to the number of pages contained therein and the topic has been limited to few sub topics.


The method employed was inspired by available educational and research materials. Ideas were gotten from textbooks and also online researchers were made to garner relevant information and materials for this project.

Personal research and ideas and thorough evaluation and analysis all summed up to the method and technique deployed in this project.

[1] Maurice Izunwa et al: A Jurisprudence of the Rule of Law: An Appraisals of its application in Nigeria democracy Today, JILI 2010, P. 217 .

[2] Cf. B. Sheila, (ed), Concise Law Dictionary, 9th ed., Sweet and Maxwell, London, 2001, 0.360

[3] Nwogu, Mary-ImeIda Obianuju: The Rule of Law in Governance in Nigeria, JILI 2010. P. 190

[4] F.N.J. Cooper et al, Complete Works by Plato, London, Hackett Pub., 1997,  P. 1402

[5] A. M. Olong, Administrative Law in Nigeria, 2nd Ed., Malthouse Press Ltd. Lagos, 2009, P. 11

[6] A. V. Dicey, Law of the Constitution, 10th ed. Spectrum Books, Ibadan, 1997, P. 202

[7] Ibid, P. 217 - 219

[8] Ibid, p. 220.

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