Criminal Law in Nigeria: All You Need To Know

There are certain things you need to know as a Nigerian about the criminal law in Nigeria.  It is important you are aware of these facts to enable you participate fully in the system of things in Nigeria.  You should not wait till you are compelled by situation to search for adequate knowledge on this issue. This is true for anyone, those seeking legal help in Fresno, USA or right here in Nigeria. Ignorance of the Law has put so many people in prison today and they are suffering wrongfully because they are not aware of what they are supposed to be aware of. According to Los Angeles sex crime attorney “Despite there being laws related to violence, sex or even robbery, the lack of awareness of them is one of the leading cause which leads people into trouble”.

criminal law

This same ignorance would make some people plead guilty in court with the hope of the judge setting them free out of sympathy.  Things do not work this way in the Nigerian criminal law. However, the information below will help to open your eyes on the system of things regarding criminal law, and if you have further questions, you can contact a criminal defense attorney for further to get information.

What you should know

There are two types of laws in Nigeria; they are:

  • The civil law
  • The criminal law

This write up is concerned more with the criminal law than with Ladan Law but we will define an analyze them none the less.

Civil law: It is a legal action that can never lead to imprisonment or punishment or fine.  Such legal actions include land ownership dispute, landlord/ tenant matters, termination of employment, defamation of character, breach of contract.

Criminal law: This deals with crime. The action can only be described as a crime if it is recorded as crime in the criminal defense law. If there is no law against it, then it is not a crime. Example of such actions include cultism, examination malpractices, vandalism, robbery, armed robbery, perjury, bigamy, forgery, obtaining money under false pretense (419), bribery, corruption, kidnapping, attempted suicide, manslaughter, murder, stealing, rape, attempted murder, drug offenses and the like.

Anyone arresting you and accusing you of a crime should also tell you the particular crime you have committed or the particular law you have broken.

Laws governing criminal law in Nigeria

Criminal defense is actually governed by 2 different laws. They are:

  • The criminal codes and
  • The penal codes

The southern part of Nigeria makes use of the criminal code, while the northern part of Nigeria makes use of the penal code (get the criminal lawyer consultation to learn details).

Where are these laws derived from? Some of the sources are disused below.

In actual fact, the Nigerian law has 3 different sources; they are:

  • Religious
  • Local and
  • Foreign

The foreign law originates from the following, according to Whitney S. Boan, P.A. defends federal charges:

  • The Nigerian legislation
  • The judicial precedent
  • The constitution
  • International treaties


The religious source refers to the Sharia Law.


Never allow the law enforcement agents to deceive you into believing in a lie so that they do not rope you into an offense you do not commit or make you go to prison for an offense that should not attract prison sentence. You have a right to a lawyer, you have a right to understand your charges.The police is supposed to read you your right at the point of arrest after they have told you of the offense for which you are arrested.



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