Sources of Nigerian law simply implies where Nigerian law came from.

8/18/20223 min read


Sources of Nigerian law simply means where Nigerian law came from. The major question is that where did we get the present laws that we now call our own? However, Nigeria is a pluralized state due to its heterogeneous multicultural, ethnic and religious diversity. Many factors have played a significant role in shaping the present day Nigerian Legal System. Islamic law (in the north), local customs and traditions, English law, local legislations, court decisions and foreign laws are key players whenever discussion is to be made on the nature of the Nigerian legal system. Below are the sources of Nigerian law:


The contribution of English law to the Nigerian constitution has created a lasting impact to the Nigerian Legal System. This consists of the common law, doctrines of equity and statutes of general application which were applicable in Britain on or before 1st January 1900.

In the same vein, this was made applicable to Nigeria as a result of Her colonization. The Interpretation Act receives English law in S.32(1) provides that the rules of common law, the doctrines of equity and statutes of general application which are within the competence of the federal legislature in existence before 1900 shall be in force in Nigeria.Thus, the laws applicable in Britain were also applicable in Nigeria.


These are laws made by the law makers of Nigeria.This is the most important of the sources of Nigerian law. The basic reason why legislation is considered the most important source of law in Nigeria is because Nigerian legislation gives life to other sources of law.

The Nigerian legislation is classified into statute or subsidiary legislation. Statutes are laws that originate from any chamber of the National Assembly. Subsidiary legislation on the other hand legislation that comes from a body other than the legislature is referred to as subsidiary legislation. Also known as delegated legislation.


Judicial precedent originates from the principle of stare decisis which means ‘let the decision stand’. Precedents are also called Judge made laws. It implies that similar cases must be dealt with similarly.

In order to achieve consistency and predictability in the administration of justice, this is being done. Therefore, judicial precedent, also known as stare decisis or case law, can be described as a court's decisions that are based on the relevant facts of a case.

Not all aspects of a decision are significant in deciding the legal principle adopted. When deciding the case in court, the ratio decidendi is important. However, the other parts of the judgment called the Obiter Dictum are not entirely useless. Even though an obiter dictum isn't truly a judgment in the moment, it may be used as a ratio decidendi in the future.


Customary law are the laws of the native or indigenous peoples of Nigeria prior to the advent of the colonialists. Also according to the Evidence Act, custom is “a rule which in a particular district, has from long usage, obtained the force of law. Prior to British colonisation, parts of Nigeria that are non-Muslims acted on customary law in their day to day activities.

For the courts to accept any customary law, it must contain certain characteristics, first of which is that the custom must be in existence at the time the issue in question is brought before the court. Secondly, a custom must be a custom that is well recognised.

NB: This article is not a legal advice, and under no circumstance should you take it as such. All information provided are for general purpose only. For information, please contact chamanlawfirm@gmail.com


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