Nigeria is ranked 120th of the 142 countries in terms of adherence to rule of law, according to the latest global Rule of Law Index released by the World Justice Project (WJP).
The 2023 index released on Wednesday in Washington DC, United States, also showed that out of the 34 countries ranked in the sub-Saharan region, Nigeria is rated 23rd.
According to the WJP report, countries were judged on eight indicators, namely constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.
While the report noted that Nigeria’s score increased, however, it slipped by two points from the 2022 index where it was ranked 118th out of the 140 countries ranked globally that year.
“This is the sixth consecutive Index marking global declines in the rule of law. This year alone, the rule of law declined in 59 per cent of countries surveyed. However, Nigeria is among the minority of countries to see its Rule of Law Index score increase this year,” the report stated.
Globally, the top-ranked country in the 2023 WJP Rule of Law Index is Denmark, followed by Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Germany.
The country with the lowest score is Venezuela, trailed by Cambodia, Afghanistan, Haiti, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Nigeria’s performance across indicators
In terms of constraints on government powers, Nigeria was ranked 85th out of 142 countries globally and ranked 14th out of 34 countries in the region. The performance in this indicator was the best performance for Nigeria in any of the indicators.
However, WJP stated that 74 per cent of the countries failed in the area of constraint on government, specifically in terms of the ability of some institutions to check the excess of the executive.
“Over the past seven years, index scores for constraints on government powers have fallen in 74% of countries—including Nigeria. Around the world, legislatures, judiciaries, and civil society—including the media—have all lost ground on checking executive power.
“These and other authoritarian trends continued in 2023, but they are slowing, with fewer countries declining in 2022 and 2023 than in earlier years. Constraints on Government Powers fell in 56 per cent of countries, compared to 58 per cent in 2022 and 70 per cent in 2021. Likewise, a smaller majority of countries saw overall rule of law declines in this year (59 per cent) as compared to the last two (61 per cent and 74 per cent),” WJP stated.
Co-founder and President of WJP, William Neukom, explained that “the world remains gripped by a rule of law recession characterised by executive overreach, curtailing of human rights, and justice systems that are failing to meet people’s needs.”
In terms of absence of corruption, Nigeria ranked 121st out of 142 countries globally, and 23rd out of 34 countries regionally. In the open government category, the country is ranked 104th out of 142 globally and 14th out of 34 in the regional ranking.
Similarly, in order and security, Nigeria is the second worst country in the sub-Saharan region as it is ranked 33rd out of 34 countries. Globally, it is ranked 139 out of 142. In terms of fundamental rights, Nigeria has a global ranking of 116th out of 142 and a regional ranking of 23rd out of 34.
For regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice, Nigeria is ranked 119th, 100th and 86th respectively out of the 142 countries rated.
In the sub-Saharan region, WJP ranked the following countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The region’s top performer is Rwanda (ranked 41st out of 142 globally), followed by Namibia and Mauritius. The three countries with the lowest scores in the region are Mauritania, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (138th globally).
WJP stated that since 2016, the rule of law has fallen in 78 per cent of countries studied. The rule of law factor to decline most between 2016 and 2023 is fundamental rights—down in 77 per cent of countries, including Nigeria.
WJP is an independent, nonpartisan, multidisciplinary organisation working to create knowledge, build awareness, and stimulate action to advance the rule of law worldwide.
To compile the list, WJP says it relies on more than 149,000 household surveys and 3,400 legal practitioner and expert surveys to measure how the rule of law is experienced and perceived worldwide.
WJP defines the rule of law as a durable system of laws, institutions, norms, and community commitment that delivers: accountability, just laws, open government, and accessible justice.
The report is published annually and subjected to a rigorous methodology. The Index is used by governments, multilateral organisations, businesses, academia, media, and civil society organisations around the world to assess and address gaps in the rule of law.