Nigeria, Federal Republic of


*Please note this is just a draft and all contents are still under revision.*


 

Legal Table
Legal Text

Legal System/History

Legal system based on English common law, Islamic law, and customary law.

Lagos annexed by British in 1861. By 1900 British controlled all of present-day Nigeria. Due to system of indirect rule, traditional authorities retained powers over their communities. British introduced statutory monogamous marriage regime with 1914 Marriage Act. Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960. Military coup in 1966 marked beginning of long period of military rule punctuated by brief periods of civilian government.  In northern Nigeria, elaborate shari’a court system remaining from period of Fulani jihad in early 19th century was reorganized after independence.

School(s) of Fiqh

About half the population is Muslim, about 40 percent Christian, and about 10 percent practice traditional indigenous religions or no religion.

Constitutional Status of Islam(ic Law)

Current Constitution adopted in 1999. Six new states established in 1996, bringing number to 36 states and Federal Territory of Abuja.  Part 2.10 states that "The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion".

Court System

Supreme Court is highest federal court, with appellate jurisdiction over lower federal courts and highest state courts. Each state has own judicial system, including Magistrates’ or District Courts (first instance in civil and criminal matters) and High Court (original and appellate jurisdiction). Northern states have separate shari’a courts to administer Islamic personal law.

Constitution provides for Shari’a Courts of Appeal for any States requiring them. Shari’a Courts of Appeal consist of a Grand Kadi and as many Kadis as State Assembly prescribes, with at least two Kadis hearing appeals.  Constitution also provides that the Federal Government is to establish a Federal Shari'a Court of Appeal and Final Court of Appeal; however, the Government had not yet established such courts.

Relevant Legislation

Shari’a Court of Appeal Act 1967

Matrimonial Causes Act 1970 (Cap 220)

Marriage Act 1990 (Cap 218)

Notable Features

Shari’a courts apply classical Maliki fiqh to matters of personal status and succession.

Child Custody: Matrimonial Causes Act 1970 applicable to custody suits arising out of dissolution of civil, customary and Islamic marriages; in all custody matters, Act directs that interests of child shall be paramount

Notable Cases

 

Law/Case Reporting System

Decisions of higher Shari’a Courts in Shari’a Law Reports (Zaria, Nigeria); Islamic Law Reports (Katsina, Katsina State) published irregularly. Case reporting of higher court decisions in All Nigeria Law Reports and Supreme Court Digest. Law reporting through Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and State Official Gazettes.

International Conventions (with Relevant Reservations)

ICCPR & ICESCR – accession 1993, without reservations

CEDAW – signature 1984, ratification 1985, without reservations

CRC – signature 1990, ratification 1991, without reservations

Legal History:

The legal system is based on English common law, Islamic law, and customary law.

Lagos was annexed by Britain in 1861. The Oil Rivers Protectorate was established by treaties with Yoruba rulers. By 1900 the British controlled all of present-day Nigeria. Due to the system of indirect rule, traditional authorities retained powers over their communities. The British introduced a statutory monogamous marriage regime with 1914 Marriage Act.

Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960. A military coup in 1966 marked beginning of long period of military rule punctuated by brief periods of civilian rule (1979-1983, 1999).

The Muslim Fulani Usman dan Fodio led a jihad (Fulani Jihad or Sokoto Jihad) against the Hausa aristocracy in the Kingdom of Gobir in northern Nigeria in the early 19th century, establishing a new empire with its capital at Sokoto under which an elaborate shari’a court structure developed. The British adapted Emirs’ Judicial Councils from the existing judicial structures in northern Nigeria; these continued to serve as appellate courts in the emirates until the establishment of the Shari’a Court of Appeal in 1959. Judicial reforms initiated in the late 1960s created grades of alkalis’ (qadis’) courts; initially there were four grades and as of reforms in the late 1970s, three grades. The first instance courts established were Area Courts Grades 2 and 1, then the Upper Area Court and the Upper Area Court of Appeal, with the highest state level appellate jurisdiction lying with the Shari’a Court of Appeal in each state.

Schools of Fiqh:  About half the population is Muslim, about 40 percent Christian, and about 10 percent practice traditional indigenous religions or no religion.

Constitutional Status of Islam(ic Law): The current Constitution was adopted in 1999. Six new states were established in 1996, bringing the total number of states to 36, in addition to the Federal Territory of Abuja. Part 2.10 of the Constitution states that "The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion".

Court System: The Supreme Court is the highest federal court, with appellate jurisdiction over the lower federal courts and the highest state courts. Each state has its own judicial system, including Magistrates’ or District Courts (first instance in civil and criminal matters) and a High Court (original and appellate jurisdiction). The Constitution also provides that states may establish lower and appellate customary courts having limited civil jurisdiction. The northern states have separate shari’a courts to administer Islamic personal law.

The Constitution provides for establishment of higher shari’a courts. Article 236(1) establishing Court of Appeal provides that of at least 15 judges, no less than three shall be well-versed in Islamic law and no less than three in customary law; Court of Appeal hears appeals from Federal High Court, State High Courts, Shari’a Courts of Appeal, and Customary Courts of Appeal. Article 259(1) provides for Shari’a Courts of Appeal for any States requiring them. Shari’a Courts of Appeal consist of a Grand Kadi and as many Kadis as State Assembly prescribes, with at least two Kadis hearing appeals.  The 1999 Constitution also provides that the Federal Government is to establish a Federal Shari'a Court of Appeal and Final Court of Appeal; however, the Government had not yet established such courts.

Notable Features:. In terms of child custody, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1970 is applicable to custody suits arising out of the dissolution of civil, customary and Islamic marriages; in all custody matters, the Act directs that the interests of the child shall be paramount.  

Shari’a courts apply classical Maliki fiqh to matters of personal status and succession

Notable Cases:

Law/Case Reporting System: Decisions of higher shari’a courts are published in Shari’a Law Reports (Zaria, Nigeria) and Islamic Law Reports (Katsina, Katsina State); both are published irregularly. Case reporting of higher court decisions are published in All Nigeria Law Reports and Supreme Court Digest. Law reporting is through Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and State Official Gazettes.

International Conventions (with Relevant Reservations): Nigeria acceded to the ICCPR and ICESCR in 1993, without reservations.

Nigeria signed the CEDAW in 1984 and ratified it in 1985, without reservations.

Nigeria signed the CRC in 1990 and ratified it in 1991, without reservations.

Background and Sources: Cooper, "Gender and Religion in Hausaland: Variations in Islamic Practice in Niger and Nigeria," pp. 21-38 in Women in Muslim Societies: Unity within Diversity, Tohidi & Bodman, eds., London, 1998; Doi, Islam in Nigeria, Zaria, 1984; Metz, ed., Nigeria: A Country Study, Washington, D.C., 1992; “Nigeria” in Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives – Anglophone Africa, Center for Reproductive Law and Policy & International Federation of Women Lawyers (Kenya Chapter), New York, 1997; Redden, “Nigeria,” Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia, vol. 6, Buffalo, N.Y., 1990; Rubin & Cotran, “Nigeria,” Annual Survey of African Law, vols. IV & V, 1970 & 1971; Uzodike, "Developments in Nigerian Family Law: 1991-1997," International Survey of Family Law, ed. Bainham, 1997: 325-343; Yusufari, "The Application of Islamic Law in Nigeria" 4 YIMEL 1997-8 201-209; Yusuf, Nigerian Legal System: Pluralism and Conflict of Laws in the Northern States, New Delhi, 1982. Journal of Family Law (University of Louisville), vol. 32, no. 2(1994): 421-429.