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Constitutional Limitations

There are a number of factors that limit the effective operations of the constitution.

1. Ignorance of the Law

Most members of the society are ignorant of the law. They do not know their rights and obligations. Since ignorance of the law is no excuse, these people suffer untold deprivation inspite of the law.

2. Red Tapism

The greatest threat to the law is red tapism. It is a popular maxim in the legal circles that “justice delayed is justice denied”. This is a classic effect of red tapism.

3. Emergencies

In emergency situations, especially in the developing countries, where there is both political and economic instability, any discussion about the law is mere wishful thinking. It does not make much sense to the people because of the high level of poverty.

4. Manipulation of the Judiciary

This problem is usually acute in developing countries. In Nigeria during the first republic, the extent of pressure mounted on the judiciary by the government can be seen in the expression by Justice Oyemade “I will not allow myself to be intimidated into sending innocent person to jail. Even if this means losing my job, I am still sure of living a decent life. The only thing we have now in the country is the judiciary. We have seen politicians changing from one policy to another and one party to another. But the only protection the ordinary people have against these inconsistencies is a fearless and upright judiciary”. The fate of the law in a situation like this can only be surmised or speculated.

5. The Gagging of the Press

The press has been described as the Fourth Estate of the Realm. It is the last hope of the common man. It champions the cause of the ordinary citizens. It highlights the actions of government and educates the citizens on the possible implications of government actions and policies. Where the press is not free, it cannot perform these functions. In this case, it becomes its master’s voice. In most developing countries the press is not very free. In Nigeria, the press is often accused of lacking in objectivity. Under such a situation, the press cannot be expected to perform the critical function of being a watchdog for the ordinary citizens.

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