The Nigerian Legal System: A Brief Overview

Civil actions, court prosecutions and contracts form the basis on which the Nigerian legal system is built. The lawyers are the main interpreters of the law to other Nigerians, who do not have sufficient knowledge regarding the law to enable personal interpretation. Same legal knowledge qualifies the lawyer to stand in for one as advocates in court.



However, Nigerians should not depend only on lawyers to interpret and explain how the Nigerian legal system works; they too should seek personal information and enlightenment to get themselves updated on the system of things. How is the Nigerian legal system structured? This write up will seek to provide answer to that important question. With the information below, the reader will understand how the legal system in Nigeria works in layman’s terms. Consequently, the common man on the Nigerian street can understand his/her obligations, duties and civil rights even without any legal training.
Sources of the Nigerian law.

Nigerian laws are derived from a number of sources and they are highlighted below:
• The Nigerian constitution
• The law s of regulatory agencies, like SON, NAFDAC, etc
• Customary and Islamic law
• Laws made by State and Federal Legislature, like the State House of Assemblies, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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The Nigerian courts

The courts have judicial powers vested on them to enforce the law of the federation through the judges. The States have their own courts that enforce state laws, while the federal government has its own courts that enforce federal laws. These laws are provided for by the constitution. The courts of record in Nigeria are those courts that are established by the Nigerian constitution for Federal Capital Territory, State and Federation. The recognized courts in Nigeria are highlighted below:

• The Supreme Court
• The Court Of Appeal
• The Federal High Court
• The High Court Of States
• The High Court Of Federal Capital Territory
• The Sharia Court
• The Customary Court Of Appeal
• The Sharia And Customary Courts Of Appeal
• The Magistrate Court
The courts are independent and they have the purpose of interpreting the law, protecting people’s rights, resolving disputes and enforcing laws. They act as the bridle for government to prevent the latter from engaging in power abuse. They help prevent liberty infringement and thereby check government excesses.

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What attorneys do

Lawyers or attorneys are individuals that have been trained in the Nigerian laws and they act as representatives for their clients during lawsuits. The attorney is bound to act within the ambit of the law to provide all possible services to his/her client, no matter the severity of the case brought against him or the type of case he is filing against someone else.


The client should see the attorney as a confidant and the attorney is bound by professional ethics to keep everything the client reveals to him/her as secret. Everyone ever charged with any crime has right to an attorney, according to the Nigerian law. The effort of the Nigerian courts to proffer solution to various legal issues in the country is however effecting certain evolutions and changes in the Nigerian legal system.

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