Sources of Nigerian Law / Constitution

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is an African country known for its history and culture, natural landmarks and wildlife reserves. It is a country with a current population of about 180 million people, and with different laws policies and constitutions to ensure that order is maintained. Sources of Nigerian law/constitution are of various adaptations and we would attempt having a glance at those sources.

Firstly, what do we understand by ‘A Constitution’? A constitution can simply be said to be a set of established precedents or fundamental principles, according to which a country, state, community, or any other organizational body is governed.

The Nigerian Constitution has several sources from which it was originally created.

Some of those sources include:

  1. Adopted Law from another country.
  2. Cultures of several ethnic groups.
  3. Law made by the legislative arm of the government.
  4. Equity.


Adopted Law from Another Country

Before Nigeria gained independence in 1960, we adopted some laws from our colonial masters. This law consists of the ancient customs and usages of England’s. In 1884, this law was first implemented in Badagry, Lagos State.

This English law is sometimes referred to as “The Common Law” and it is featured in Edicts, Bills and Colonial Ordinances. Common Law is also referred to as “judge made Law” because it was developed from the decisions of the common courts which consisted of Common Plea, Kings Bench and Exchequer. Common Law was followed in subsequent cases with similar facts which are obviously borrowed from colonial influence.

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Law in Nigeria

Laws Made by Cultures of Ethnic Groups

Over the years there has been founded information that there are around 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. The culture and beliefs of these ethnic groups are among the sources of the country’s law.

A culture can be defined as a general behavioural structure, or the way of life of a certain group of people – the general behaviours, symbols, values, and beliefs, that they agree with, generally without really thinking about them, because the values were passed on to them from previous generations and the same values are also passed along from one generation to the next by communication and imitation.

Example of ethnic culture taken as law in a tribe in Nigeria called Igbo is the inheritance of the property or acquisitions of a man by his brother(s), if he dies without him giving birth to any child. The brother takes over the man’s land (and in some cases all his property) as he is no more. Some parts of the Igbo land believe the brother should also take the man’s wife and children as his own.


Laws Made by the Legislative Arm of the government

The legislative arm is one of three divisions of government that works in conjunction with the executive and judicial branches. It is the arm of the government responsible for the creation of laws in the country. In the Nigerian national assembly, consisting of the members of House of Representative and the Senates, the legislative arm of the Federal Government is endorsed to make and uphold laws and constitutions. Members of the state’s House of Assembly make up the state’s Legislative arm. The Laws made by the legislative arm of any government are passed as acts and are commonly referred to as statutes.

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According to, it can be referred to as the application of the dictates of conscience or the principles of natural justice to the settlement of controversies. These kinds of laws are made to proffer solutions to grievances or controversies the common law cannot handle. It is a source of Law developed as a result of the persistent need to remedy the defects discovered in the common Law. This source of Nigerian Law provides the remedies of specific performance or injunction which are not obtainable in the Common Law Courts.

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