Breaking the Rules

I was in Nigeria for 13 days a couple of weeks ago. The last time I was in Nigeria was 2002. Some things have changed in the intervening years but a lot still remained unchanged. The enforcement of the rule of law is one thing that hasn’t improved.

It was a Thursday evening and I was due to fly back to the UK the following day when my sister suggested we visit my cousin who lives in one of those gated Lagos estates. This particular estate was like an American suburb where residents were expected to abide by certain rules and regulations.

My cousin’s wife told us a story about an Alhaji who lived in the estate with his two wives. These women got into repeated public fights with each other and the Alhaji was asked to leave the estate because he couldn’t control his wives. The estate’s governing board sold his house for 40 million Naira and he was reimbursed the proceeds.

Nigeria is a country where its laws are not always respected or obeyed especially by its leaders and law makers. In a country where the leaders are lawless; it is unfair to expect their followers to be lawful. They are just following their leaders’ example. People become law breakers when they know they are unlikely to be punished for breaking them. There is no fear to restrain them from disregarding and disobeying laws.

This is why I admired the estate’s no nonsense approach of punishing residents who break its rules and regulations. The judicious punishment of law breakers ensures that others with the desire to be law breakers are deterred by the punishment meted out to offenders. I doubt anyone with two wives will be allowing them to engage in a public brawl if he wishes to still live in my cousin’s posh estate. If Nigeria could be as effective as this estate in dealing with its rule breakers, no matter their status, then it would be a better country.

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