The Rule of law is a very important principle of governance, the Rule stipulates that all persons, institutions, and entities both public and private including the state itself, are accountable to enacted laws that are to be equally enforced and independently adjudicated. The Rule of law suggests that no one is above the law and governmental decisions must be made only by applying known legal and moral principles. The phrase the Rule of Law‟ is derived from the French phrase “la principe de legalite” (the principle of legality) which refers to a government based on principles of law and not of men, the Rule of Law presupposes that everything should be done in accordance with law thereby excluding any form of arbitrariness. According to Aristotle one of the exponents of the Rule of Law, where the rule of law prevailed, the government will be better organized unlike rule by the whims and caprices of the leader which will likely cause chaos.
Fundamental Characteristics of the Rule of Law – the Rule of law encapsulate principles such as the supremacy of the law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application and enforcement of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness and procedural and legal transparency.
The supremacy of the law – this presupposes that the law is supreme and that it is supreme both to the government and the governed whose powers, functions, and rights emanates from the law itself. It is the predominance of the law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary powers, that governance must be in accordance with the law and not by the whims of any person. In Nigeria the Constitution is supreme, its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout Nigeria, it is the Grundnorm every other law must conform with the constitution, where any law is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, the Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void. The supremacy of law also requires generality in the law. For the rule of law to be supreme, the people whose conduct and affairs are governed by such law must be actively involved in the Lawmaking process either directly or through their democratically chosen representative.
Equality before the law – The Rule of Law connotes equality before the law, which means that everyone is equal before the law irrespective of their class or status (that the law is no respecter of persons) and that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law on one hand, and has equal right to resist any infraction into his person and or interests in his property on another hand. Equality before the law presupposes the equality of all persons before the law or equal subjugation of all classes to the ordinary laws of the land, administered by the ordinary courts. in other words, no man is above the law, and that every man whatever his status or condition, is subject to the law of the land and the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts and there should be no undue privileges, favoritism, and discrimination in the society.
Protection of the Liberty, freedom, and fundamental human rights of Citizens – The rule of law promotes the protection of the liberty, freedom, and fundamental human rights of the citizens, that every breach of the laws must be adjudicated by the ordinary law court, that no person should be unduly punished until he has gone through the due process of law, or normal trial in the ordinary court of law, that the law should not be retroactive, it also promotes separation of power, independence and autonomy of the judiciary which ought to be free from executive or legislative control, transparency, consistency, and accountability in the administration of law, equity, justice, and fairness. It also recognizes that individuals are born with inalienable rights that cannot be denied even by legitimately constituted governments.
In conclusion, it is worthy to state at this point that the Rule of law is the bedrock of democracy and the system of justice in Nigeria, thus its importance cannot be overemphasized, to ensure strict adherence with the Rule of law, certain measures have to be put in place, and also the enactment of positive laws which preserves and embodies order.