Features Of Nigerian Legal System


In this article, i will explicitly explain the Nigerian legal system and its various characteristics. Thus, if you have been searching for the features of Nigerian legal system, then you are in the right place. I enjoin you to read this article painstakingly, as i typify the distinct features of Nigerian legal system.

Also Read: Full list of law courses offered in Nigerian universities.

According to wiktionary, the word “Legal” is from the Latin word “lēgālis“, which means relating to the law or to lawyers. A thing is said to be legal when it is allowed or prescribed by the law. Accordingly, the word “System” means a method or way of organizing or planning. Following the above definitions, a legal system is defined as the process, method or procedure of interpreting and enforcing law.


Features of Nigerian legal system

Nigerian legal system thus refer to the process for interpreting and enforcing the laws in Nigeria. The system is a juxtaposition of many laws. Some of which are; common law, status of general application, equity, customary law, constitution etc. Nigerian legal system has been confirmed to have contributed greatly in maintaining order and reducing chaos in the country. Coupled with that, it ensures that the interest of every Nigerian is protected. Below are the characteristics of Nigerian legal system.


Must read: Reasons why lawyers are called liars.

Features of Nigerian legal system

Below are the features of Nigerian legal system:

  • It is adversarial in nature.
  • Hierarchy of courts.
  • Lots of external influence.
  • Judicial president.
  • Cultural diversity.
  • Influence of military rule.

That is a list of the divergent characteristics of Nigerian legal system. More light will be thrown on each of the above feature as we continue.

Adversarial in nature:

One of the major features of Nigerian legal system is its adversarial nature. According to Wikipedia, and adversarial system is is a legal system used in the common law countries where two advocates represent their parties’ case or position before an impartial person or group of people, usually a jury or judge, who attempt to determine the truth and pass judgment accordingly.


This system is opposed to the Inquisitorial system where parties are not represented by anybody. The adversarial system helps a party who do not understand court proceedings, to be represented by a lawyer. It is indeed, one of the distinct features of the Nigerian legal system.

Hierarchy of courts:

Nigerian legal system is also characterised by the hierarchy of courts. Courts are divided in order of hierarchy. Higher courts in Nigeria have the power to overrule decisions of lower courts.

Characteristics of Nigerian legal system and method

In descending order, there is the Supreme Court (at the apex). The Supreme Court is the highest court in Nigeria. It is located in Abuja, Nigeria. After the Supreme Court, there is the court of appeal, High court (federal high court and state high court), magistrate court, customary court etc.

Lots of external influence:

Another feature of Nigerian legal system is that it is greatly influenced by external laws. This is apparently true, as it is truism that Nigeria was colonised by Britain. The received English law has impacted greatly on our Islamic and customary laws.

The Received English law has three different parts. Viz: equity, customary law and status of general application (Popularly called SOGA). In many instances the court has held the when a local law is in conflict with any external law, the local law should suffice.

Judicial precedence:

Precedence simply means, “A part to follow“. In Nigeria, Judicial precedence is the process whereby judgement given in former cases are being followed in present or upcoming related cases. Judicial precedence works with the hierarchy of Nigerian Courts.

There are basically two types of judicial precedence. (1) Binding precedence and (2) persuasive precedence. In the formal, lower courts are under compulsion to follow the decision of higher court. In the later, lower courts are not under compulsion to follow the decision to be higher courts. The main advantage of judicial precedence in Nigeria is that, it enhances the development of the law by ensuring certainty in some legal processes.

Cultural diversity:

The cultural diversity of Nigeria is also a significant feature on the Nigerian legal system. For instance, there is the penal code that guides the North, and the criminal code for the south. In administering justice in Nigeria, the court will always use one of the above laws when it is supposed.

More so, the court may sometimes consider the culture and norms of a particular society when administering justice. This is why customary laws still play in Nigerian legal system today.

Influence of military rule:

Nigerian legal system is also largely influenced by many military rule (That is, laws made by the military). This is so because of the several ousting of the constitutional order by the military. When the military come into power, they make decrees and edits which obstruct and sometimes influence the constitutional order in the country.

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Those are some of the major features of Nigerian legal system. There are are many other characteristics of the Nigerian legal system not mentioned in this article. I promise to update this article with more characteristics subsequently. Meanwhile, if you have any question or contribution on the features of Nigerian legal system, do let me know using the comment section.


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