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

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy in Law
Title The paradox of underdevelopment amidst oil in Nigeria: a socio-legal explanation
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
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.
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.
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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