Best Practices for Regulatory Inspection: the Place of the Rule of Law
A Paper Presented at the 0ne-day Training & Workshop for Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) of the Directorate of Road Traffic Services (DRTS) Abuja by the Directorate of Anti Corruption, Rule of Law and Good Governance (DARG) of the Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON)
SUNDAY KENECHUKWU AGWU, Esq., ACIArb.,LL.M
CLINICAL LAW ADMINISTRATOR, BAZE UNIVERSITY, ABUJA
& EXECUTIVE SECRETARY SABILAW FOUNDATION
The World has advanced rapidly. And gone are the days when countries could exist independently of each other. Globalization has further blurred the lines and there has become a global standard for virtually every activity. Given the existence of a global standard or global best practice as the case may be, it has become imperative for Governments and businesses to adopt best practices in different spheres of existence.
2.0 WHAT ARE GLOBAL BEST PRACTICES?
Global best practices refer to certain methods, techniques, mechanisms, and practices that have been tested and found to be result-oriented at a global level. They refer to those practices that have worked and produced results globally and as such, can serve as examples and templates; and set the pace for others to follow.
Investopedia also defines Global best practices as a set of guidelines, ethics, or ideas that represent the most efficient or prudent course of action in a given business situation.
Global best practices may be established by authorities, such as regulators, self-regulatory organizations (SROs), or other governing bodies, or they may be internally decreed by a company’s management team.
Global best practices are also regarded as a panacea for increased productivity in business, governance, and service delivery.
In Nigeria, a sincere adoption of global best practices by the relevant authorities would also entail increased productivity, foster a greater sense of duty and efficiency amongst businesses, and regulatory agencies alike.
3.0 THE DIRECTORATE OF ROAD TRAFFIC (VIO) IN THE FACE OF GLOBAL BEST PRACTICES.
The Directorate of Road Traffic or Vehicle Inspection Office is no stranger to any road user in Nigeria. The enthusiasm and drive of its officials set it out amongst regulatory agencies in Nigeria.
This famed zeal and enthusiasm also make it notorious, and to a large extent, despised by road users.
In determining or even speaking about the DRT or VIO in respect of global best practices, it is important to even understand the extent of their lawful powers and functions.
The DRT was established with the following functions:
- Total planning, controlling, and managing of all aspects of Vehicles registration, documentation, and licensing.
- Vehicle Inspection and Certification.
- Testing and inspection of Vehicles for Roadworthiness certification.
- Testing and inspection of vehicles involved in accidents and production of accident inspection reports.
- Driver Training, Testing, and Licensing.
- Motor vehicle-related trades control, registration, and licensing.
- All other matters related thereto, including the collection of fees and levies on the matters stated above.
- Traffic management, monitoring, and control.
- Public enlightenment on road safety.
The functions of the VIO can also be summarized as below:
- Ensuring that all vehicles are properly inspected and certified before registration or renewal of vehicle particulars.
- Public Education and advocacy.
- Effective patrols on roads and highways to carry out routine checks and enforce compliance.
- Effective enforcement through vehicle impoundment and payment of fines will ensure compliance.
- Ensuring that all vehicles are properly inspected and certified before registration or renewal of vehicle particulars.
- Ensuring that vehicle inspection plazas are well distributed for easy access within the metropolis.
- Collaboration with companies with a large fleet for onsite vehicle inspection to ensure compliance using Mobile Vehicle Inspection Units.
- Periodic Training, Retraining Seminars, and Conferences for officers towards the achievement of mastery in Motor Vehicle Administration.
From the foregoing, it is clear, what the limits of the VIO or DRT’s powers are. And of course, as far as adhering to global best practices is concerned, the exercise of the VIO or DRT’s powers must be in conformity with their designated functions and powers. This in effect means that the first step with respect to compliance with global best practices is concerned is adhering to the designated or established functions and powers of the DRT or VIO and not acting outside of them.
4.0 RULE OF LAW
The concept of rule of law is easily one of the most notable legal and democratic concepts. The rule of law is the bedrock of constitutional democracies, world over. However, beyond the popularity that the concept has garnered, it is important to have a simplistic understanding.
The Black’s Law Dictionary defines the rule of law as the supremacy of regular law as opposed to arbitrary power. Every person is subject to the ordinary law within the jurisdiction.
According to renowned legal scholar, A.V. Dicey, rule of law is the absolute supremacy or predominance of regular law as opposed to the influence of arbitrary power and excludes the existence of arbitrariness, prerogative, or even of the rule of wide discretionary authority on the part of government … a man may be punished for a breach of law but he can be punished for nothing else.
Dicey further stated that the rule of law has the following elements:
- Absence of arbitrary power, that is, no man is punished except for a breach of law. This principle requires a rejection of the rule by man and the notion that laws should be prospective, accessible, and clear.
- The principle of supremacy and independence of the law. This principle distinguishes the rule of law and requires acceptance of the principle of the separation of powers, which is the idea that the law applies to all, including the sovereign, and that there must be provisions for an independent institution, such as a judiciary, to apply the law to specific cases.
- Equality before the law, that is, equal subjection of all citizens (rich or poor, high or low, official or non-official) to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary law courts. This principle requires that the law should be of general application and capable of being obeyed.
- The primacy of the rights of an individual, that is, the constitution is the result of the rights of the individual as defined and enforced by courts of law, rather than the constitution being the source of the individual rights.
Nigerian legal author, Ese Malemi also posits that the rule of law is the observance, application, and supremacy of civil or regular laws as opposed to arbitrary laws and arbitrariness, martial law, emergency law, or military rule. It is the law that is reasonably justiciable in a democratic society. Hence, all persons in Nigeria are under Nigerian law or within the Nigerian rule of law. Lending his well-considered voice to the supremacy of the rule of law, Lord Denning, MR In Courier v. Union of Post Office Workers stated that “To every subject in this land no matter how powerful, I would use Thomas Fuller’s words over 300 years ago; “be you never so high, the law is above you.”
From the foregoing, the rule of law entails the absolute supremacy of the law over and above every other person in the society, the equality of every person before the law regardless of social standing, and respect for the individual rights of the citizens.
It is worthy of note, that of all the human rights provided for in our constitution, there is one right that does not accept any derogation from it. That is the right to Human Dignity. As officers, whenever you treat anyone less than human, you are breaching the person’s fundamental rights and no excuse however convincing will be accepted for that.
5.0 GLOBAL BEST PRACTICES – RULE OF LAW AND THE VIO OR DRT
There is no definition, theorization, or analysis of global best practices that do not factor in rule of law.
The United Nations sees rule of law as a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions, and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.
It requires measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of the law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, and procedural and legal transparency.
With the understanding of rule of law above, as well as it’s significance to global best practices, it is now important to add that in order to meet the demands of global best practices, the VIO or DRT must hinge its operations on the enabling laws or regulations governing it.
Upholding best practices would also entail officers of the VIO or DRT, respecting and upholding the rights of road users.
In a similar breathe, the adoption of best practices would also require a switch from the confrontational disposition that the VIO or DRT has become used to. Thus, instead of lying in wait for road users to be in default, officials of the VIO or DRT can take it upon themselves to enlighten road users on their obligations/duties and the need to abide by them.
On the whole, the rule of law is intricately connected to global best practices. In the same vein, it follows that the DRT/VIO cannot purport to have attained global best practices in their operations if they do not subject themselves to the rule of law.
 B. A. Garner, The Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th Edition, West Group Publishing Co., St. Paul Minn, 1999, p. 1332
 . A. V. Dicey. Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, 10th Edition, 1885, p. 199.
 E. Malemi, Administrative Law, Cases and Materials, Grace Publishers Inc., Lagos, 2004, p. 47.
 (1977) 1 QB, pp. 761 – 762
This work is published under the free legal awareness project of Sabi Law Foundation (www.SabiLaw.org) funded by the law firm of Bezaleel Chambers International (www.BezaleelChambers.com). The writer was not paid or charged any publishing fee. You too can support the legal awareness projects and programs of Sabi Law Foundation by donating to us. Donate here and get our unique appreciation certificate or memento.
This publication is not a piece of legal advice. The opinion expressed in this publication is that of the author(s) and not necessarily the opinion of our organisation, staff and partners.
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