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Nigerian Culture and Customary Law

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Nigerian Culture and Customary Law

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  • April 2013
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Custom and customary law
Custom is an established pattern of behavior that can be objectively verified within a particular social setting. Academics and jurists have described customary law in various ways. Okany: in “The Role of Customary Courts in Nigeria” described customary law of a community as a ‘body of customs and traditions which regulate the various kinds of relationship between members of the community. Obaseki, J.S.C. (as he then was) in the case of Oyewumi v. Ogunsesan defined customary law as follows: “The organic or living law of the indigenous people of Nigeria regulating their lives and transactions, it is organic in that it is not static. It is regulatory in that it controls the lives and transaction of the community subject to it. It is said that custom is a mirror of the culture of the people. I would say that customary law goes further and imports justice to the lives of those entire subject to it”. Custom has an important place as a source of law. It is the most important non-formal source of law. Custom exists as law in every country. These customs from the basis of what is applicable and what is not and also stipulates the punishment for doing what is wrong. In Nigeria, traditional customary law is rooted in cultural mores and religious beliefs. Customary law in Nigeria is divided in to two, Muslim (Islamic law) and non-Muslim Law. The Muslim customary law is practiced in the Northern part of the country while the non-Muslim customary law is practiced in the southern part of the country. Validity of Customary Law

The proviso to section 14 of the Evidence Act Cap. 112 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria of 1990 has the following: Provided that in case of any custom relied upon in any judicial proceeding, It shall not be enforced as law if it is contrary to public policy and is not in accordance with natural justice, equity and good conscience. However by the provision of Section 1 of the Evidence (Amendment) Decree No 61...

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