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NIGERIA LAW ENFORCEMENT FACT FILE
Nigeria is an internationally recognized sovereign nation made up of 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Each of those 36 states is empowered by Nigeria’s Constitution to establish and maintain a legal system that would assure justice within the assigned territory so as to enable every citizen and other persons resident in it carry on their legitimate everyday pursuits.
Together, the Constitution, the individual legal system of Nigeria's 36 States,- coupled with laws made by the Federal Legislature for the entire nation or for the Federal Capital Territory as well as Nigeria's treaty obligations, make up the Nigerian legal complex.
FEATURES OF THE NIGERIAN LEGAL COMPLEX
A. Multiple Influences
is a nation of some 150 million peoples most of whom
draw their ancestry from about 250 indigenous ethnic
Each of these ethnic group have cultural norms that have evolved or inured and presently constitute the corpus of customary norms in Nigeria provided they had have satisfied certain standards.
peoples that presently constitute modern Nigeria, at
some point in their history, had their domain
collectively declared a colony by the government of
Britain: a state of affairs that ended in 1960 with
the emergence of the sovereign State of Nigeria.
interaction with Britain led to the initial adoption
of several of the Laws of the British government for
the emergent nation in 1960 pending the promulgation
of locally made replacements for them.
Indeed, one aspect of Nigeria’s sovereignty, the capacity to exercise supreme appellate judicial authority independent of the review of another Judicial authority answerable to a different Sovereign nation, was compromised as the nation’s courts were put under the appellate authority of the British Privy Council.
1963, Nigeria’s legal order became fully independent
and anchored within the Nigerian sovereignty. The
framework for the exercise of its executive powers
changed from the British Parliamentary model to a
Presidential model, similar in several respects to
the American system.
Under the new system, the powers of the Nigerian State were spread within the interstices of a central government and 3 regional governments. The framework for the exercise of its legislative powers was also shared among the federal legislature and regional legislative centers while the supremacy of its judicial powers was fully assumed and vested in a Supreme Court established for the nation.
Since then, the Nigeria legal order has evolved as to incorporate a bouquet of normative statements made by various military and civilian regimes that have led the country. From its commercial laws to its criminal codes, influences spanning the customs of its indigenous peoples, legal practices of other nations - ranging from the British, United States, European countries including the Scandinavian bloc, Asia, Oceania and even other African countries - could be discerned.
For instance, the Criminal Code and the Matrimonial Causes Act are modeled after those of Queensland, Australia while the Penal Code (applicable in the North) is fashioned after the Sudanese Penal Code. Many of its statutes for the regulation of its banking and financial sector draw heavily from rules distilled from far flung places like the United States, Canada, South Africa, etc.
Thus, it is difficult to ascertain the degree to which any of these foreign and indigenous influences, including the British common law system, may have exclusively impacted on the legal order of Nigeria, today. The picture that emerges is that of a truly distinctive Nigeria legal complex different, in many material respects, from that of any other country. Its more obvious features include:
(1) The existence of
Constitutional norms and standards most of which
were enacted through supreme decrees of past
Military governments with the tacit support of
many Nigerians desirous of a return to democratic
regime. Specifically, the prevailing
constitutional document enacted in 1999
establishes a federal government with three major
levels—the federal, state and local governments.
It also establishes a framework at the three
levels that accommodates the spread of the powers
of government among three arms: the Executive,
Legislative, Judicial. Certain critical
bodies that are deemed as independent - since they
are not answerable, exclusively to any one of the
executive, judicial or legislative arms of
government - also exist;
(2) Thirty six (36)
separate, independent, interacting and
geographically bound legal systems co-existing
within a constitutional framework that also
accommodates a set of federal laws applicable to
all the States across board;
(3) Treaty obligations of Nigeria at the regional and global level as well as international customs or obligation erga omnes which apply mandatorily on Nigeria as a every member of the comity of nations;
B. Order of Judicial Hierarchy
supreme judicial powers of Nigeria are vested in
Nigeria’s judicature comprising of tribunals
established under the nation’s Constitution and
other laws made pursuant to the Constitution.
At the top of the hierarchy of Nigeria’s judicature is the Supreme Court. Second to it is the Appeal Court. Their original jurisdictions are provided for in the 1999 Constitution. Except where otherwise clearly provided, any appeal originating from any Court or tribunal in Nigeria flows through the Court of Appeal, and from there, it may move to the Supreme Court, which decision is final.
Nigerian Courts could generally be classified as:
1. Tribunals for the
Federation: These include all Courts which
original or appellate jurisdictions extend to
persons or matters throughout the entire
Some federation courts are not chiefly concerned with appeals. Rather, they are given, within their establishment statutes, original and review jurisdiction over matters vested in the Federal Government. These include:
The Federal High,
which except where stated otherwise through a
federal legislation, is usually the court of first
instance for all objects vested in the Federal
Government and the Federal Capital Territory,
Abuja under the Constitution;
National Industrial Courts:
Under the Third Amendment
to the 1999 Constitution, the National Industrial
Court is designated a specialized court of record
with powers and jurisdiction encompassing full civil
and criminal jurisdiction
over labour, employment and industrial disputes in
Nigeria. Apart from the traditional jurisdiction
over trade disputes and trade union disputes. The
Court also has jurisdiction to hear and determine
cases of child abuse, child
labour and human trafficking. Equally,
cases relating to payment or non-payment of
entitlements of judicial officers and political
office holders in Nigeria can only be commenced at
the National Industrial Court.
iv. Investment and Securities
Tribunal, (IST): was
established under Section 224 of the Investments
and Securities Act (ISA), 1999 and inaugurated on
the 19th of December 2002 as a dedicated,
specialized and fast-track civil court for the
resolution of disputes arising from investments
and securities transactions in an accessible,
flexible, transparent, efficient and
cost-effective manner. Additionally, Section 93 of
Pensions Reform Act, 2004, empowers the IST to
adjudicate on pensions disputes in Nigeria. It is
a major component of the reform of the Legal
framework for the capital market and pensions
administration in Nigeria;
v. Legally recognized Disciplinary Tribunals for various leading professions which jurisdiction are not restricted to any State but to members of the given profession throughout the Federation.
2. State Tribunals: These are Courts established by each State for the adjudication of matters constitutionally within the powers of every State government. State Courts include:
i. State High Courts;
ii. Magistrate Courts;
Court of Appeal
iv. Specialized tribunals set up by States for various purposes like rent, traffic, land disputes etc.
Election Petitions Tribunals: are specialized
tribunals set up to adjudicate over disputes
elections into political offices in the executive
and legislative arms of government
Federal, State and Local Government levels.
Usually, these courts are generally ad-hoc
in nature as
they are established to adjudicate over disputes
arising from any election in the
fill elective positions into the executive and
legislative arms of government at the
State and Local government level. Members are
usually serving judges pooled from
various levels of the
Judiciary, except the Supreme Court, depending on
the level of the
election being adjudicated
Under the Nigerian legal complex, Superior Courts of records refer to all the courts presided over by judges trained in law where there is duty to record and publish for public access proceedings leading down to a judicial pronouncement.
Inferior courts, on the other hand, may or may not have legal practitioners as presiding officers and are often not obliged to record all proceedings in any matter.
Superior Courts of records include the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court, State High Courts, National Industrial Court, Customary Courts of Appeal and Sharia Courts of Appeal. Inferior courts, tribunals and special courts include Magistrates’ and District Courts, Juvenile Courts, Customary and Area Courts, Courts Martial and Public Complaints Commission.
C. Fusion of the Legal Profession
Legal practitioners in Nigeria are trained as barristers and solicitors within a unified training scheme at the university level and thereafter at the Nigerian Law School. They are then admitted to the Nigerian bar as solicitors and advocates of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, thereby combining the duties of both callings and making the legal profession in Nigeria to be under the overall control of the Bar Council.
D. The Practice of the Accusatorial System
The Nigerian legal process, especially at the level of recognized courts of records, is accusatorial in nature. It is a feature that diminishes as one goes towards the more informal tribunals, especially customary courts. However, in recent years, the practice of a multi-door system that allows for the formal integration of alternative dispute resolution processes and litigious ones is fast gaining acceptability.
E. Military Influence
The impact of the
incessant interventions of the military in
Nigeria’s political development is not without its
peculiar marks on the country’s legal complex.
One of those areas
has been the developmental history of
constitutionalism in Nigeria where military
regimes not only enact Constitutions through their
military fiat but also try to influence how
constitutional standards are interpreted by the
courts. The struggle emanates from the fact that
Military governments strive for legitimacy by
assuming the full compendium of the executive and
legislative powers of State—but very limited
judicial powers and functions.
The result is that Nigeria’s constitutional history is replete with instances of so-called ‘suspensions’, or ‘modification’ of constitutional statements through Military Decrees. The corollary is that Nigeria’s legal jurisprudence is stained with contradictory statements from the Supreme Court regarding the supremacy of the nation’s Constitution vis a vis a military Decree, at various points. Currently, the Supremacy of the Constitution has been re-established since the return to democratic government in Nigeria.
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