When law is made, it becomes binding on all authorities and persons, and even those who are not aware of its existence at all or those who are finding it difficult in understanding the language of the law.
For instance, Section 1(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 [as amended] provides as follows:
“This Constitution is Supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The expression “ignorance of the law is not an excuse” is settled. The Courts and other law enforcement agencies/authorities have been acting upon it from the time out of mind.
However, it appears the law only takes into consideration the interests of the educated ones who can read, write and understand English language, since the law has adopted English language as its choice language, even where it is apparently obvious that sizeable number of people especially the indigenous and people at the grassroot level of the society, do not understand the language of the law i.e pure English language.
In Nigeria for example, the 1999 Constitution which is regarded as the grundnorm (superior law), and even legislations made by the National Assembly, the State laws and the local government edicts made by local government council which is referred as the government at the grassroot, are all written in English language.
None of the above mentioned laws have either been translated into Yoruba, Hausa or Igbo, the three main native languages in Nigeria.
One would then be compelled to ask whether the illiterate who does not understand even pidgin English, let alone the pure English which the law has adopted as its language, is bound by all laws made and written in pure English.
Must we wait until laws are violated by the illiterates and they are presented in courts for prosecution, before we start interpreting the laws and punishments thereto, to the illiterates, in their native languages as envisaged by the Constitution?
Obviously, the above and many other related posers beg for timely considerations.
Hence, the need for media intervention and consistent interactions in simplifying and bringing laws to the reach of the illiterate and those at the grassroot level of the society, in their native languages becomes imperative.
Media: The media houses over the years have been regarded as the mouthpiece of the government. They communicate the intentions, plans policies, decisions e.t.c., of the government to the people.
Some have even submitted that the media could safely be categorized as the fourth arm of government due to their pivotal and immeasurable roles in the society.
The media houses in Nigeria such as NTA, Channels Tv, AIT, OGTV; the radio such as Eagle 102.5 FM [including cable radio broadcasting stations e.t.c.] are saddled with the duty of effective communications of government regulations, policies decisions, laws e.t.c to the people in multifaceted languages, purposely to ensure those who do not understand English language are not left out.
The media houses are equally meant to cover up the lacuna largely created by the law in term of choice of language. The law selfishly adopts English language as its official language in a society where a sizeable number of people can’t write, read and understand English language.
The media houses have the duty to fill the spotted gap.
Eagle 102.5 FM as a Pacesetter
The emergence of a radio station known as and called Eagle 102.5 FM, a subsidiary of Awodi Communications, founded and chaired by a legal colossus Kunle Kalejaiye, SAN, has brought succour into the yearnings and aspirations of the people at the grassroots of the society.
The said station which has its base at Ilese Ijebu, Ogun State, Nigeria has purposely designed many programmes which are being conducted and transmitted in Yoruba language being the native language of the south western people of Nigeria.
The illiterate ones can now fully enjoy their status as Nigerians. Government decisions, plans, policies and most importantly laws are now being communicated live to the people in their native language.
Eagle 102.5 FM and “Oro Ofin” (Legal Matters).
As part of the efforts put in place by the management of Eagle 102.5 FM in bringing laws to the doorsteps of the illiterate and the people at the grassroot, a programme known as “Oro Ofin” meaning legal matters, was designed and put on air, to educate people especially those who can not read, write and understand English, on the provisions of the Laws.
Yoruba language being the native language of the south-western people of Nigeria was deliberately chosen to be the language of choice while airing “Oro Ofin” programme.
Many indigenous people are now being more enlightened on the provisions of the law regulating various activities of human endeavours.
Topical issues such as the rights of the consumers under the laws, the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants under the laws, the constitutionality, reality and practicability of the freedom of association under the law e.t.c., have been extensively discussed on the programme for many months in Yoruba language.
A window is also created for questions and answers session purposely to ensure further clarifications on the legal issues discussed on the programme.
The more the people understand the dos and don’ts of the law, the more they abstain from violating it, hereby creating peaceful atmosphere in the society.
Many illiterate and people at the grassroot are now feeling sense of belonging for having a rare advantage of being educated and informed on the provisions of the law in their native language from trained lawyers on “Oro Ofin” programme.
The programme “Oro Ofin” which is slated for 10:00am on Eagle 102.5 FM, every Thursday also has provisions for viewers on facebook, twitter, e.t.c to ensure maximum reach out to people.
Advice to Other Media Houses
Other media houses are advised and enjoined to join hands in keeping people informed about the provisions of the law in their native languages.
The illiterate are part and parcel of the society, and they are equally bound by the same laws that are binding on the educated ones. They must not be left our simply because of their status.
Media must discharge this duty without fear of intimidation from any quarter.
About the Author
Moruff O. Balogun. Esq.
Vice Chairman, NBA, IJEBU ODE BRANCH