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The paradox of underdevelopment amidst oil in Nigeria: a socio-legal explanation

By Mamman Alhaji Lawan


The trend in development discourse is to explain underdevelopment in terms of bad governance which lack of rule of law brings about. Development in this sense is understood as economic growth while rule of law is limited to an institutional version which is market-oriented. In this thesis, development is examined from a people-centred perspective. Abject poverty, dysfunctional educational and health systems sitting side by side with reasonably sufficient oil wealth is the problematic premise which the thesis seeks to explain. While acknowledging that it could be explained from a range of disciplines and perspectives, this thesis offers a socio-legal explanation in terms of public corruption spurred by absence of rule of law in practice.\ud Corruption is high in Nigeria though national law has criminalised it and the country has ratified international law frowning at it. Among its myriad upshots is depleting resources for development. It is a dependant variable; and this thesis links it to absence of rule of law in practice. But because the orthodox rule of law privileges the market, it is inappropriate in explaining corruption in the public realm. The thesis therefore departs from it and instead proposes a rule of law version which would ensure management of resources for human development. It constitutes the following elements: supremacy of the law; equality before the law, trusts over public funds; code of conduct for public officers; and restraint on executive powers.\ud The thesis argues that the Constitutions in Nigeria have made adequate provisions for this version of rule of law. However, the provisions have either been suspended or substantially breached over the years. For a large part of its existence, Nigeria was under military rule which is antithetical to rule of law through its subordination of the constitution, sacking of the legislature, and muzzling of the judiciary. Despite the existence of the Constitution and democratic institutions during civilian regimes, the rule of law provisions remained largely unimplemented. In both regimes, the executive arm of government, unto which public funds are entrusted, enjoyed absolute powers. This situation, the thesis argues, explains the development-impeding corruption

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