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An introduction to legal research in the jurisdiction of Nigeria
Last Updated: Jul 12, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
Nigeria Print Page

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Last updated:

Heather Memess, July 2015


About the author

This guide was created by Heather Memess, Legal Research Support Librarian at the IALS Library.

Click here for Heather's contact details.

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    Related IALS Guides

    • Databases Guide
      An introduction to IALS Library's electronic resources for different jurisdictions
    • Commonwealth Countries Guide
      In this guide provides details of pan-Commonwealth law materials held in the IALS Library which may include Nigeria.

    Useful links

    • GlobaLex
      A large collection of legal research guides covering foreign and international law, published by the Hauser Global Law School Program at the New York University School of Law.


    Nigeria is a Federal Republic in West Africa made up of 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. Nigeria was a British colony from the second half of the nineteenth century with the modern state formed following the merger of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate and the Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1914. Nigeria became an independent member of the Commonwealth in 1960. In the following years Nigeria underwent a number of military coups until the 1999 general election restored civilian rule based on a multiparty democracy.

    Nigeria has an elected President who acts as head of state and head of the national executive. The power of the President is checked by the bicameral National Assembly which includes a Senate and a House of Representatives. Both houses elect members for four years. Nigeria’s legal system is based on a combination of English common law, statutory law, customary law (particularly relating to family law) and Islamic law in the northern states. While the major languages of Nigeria are Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, English is the official language.

    IALS Library holds both primary and secondary legal materials for Nigeria including legislation, law reports, books and journals.

    The country classmark for Nigeria in IALS Library is GH4 (or FOL GH4 for oversized items). Researchers are advised to check the Library Catalogue because older materials are kept in the closed reserve collection rather than on the open shelves.

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    The Constitution is the supreme law in Nigeria. The current version is the 1999 Constitution which restored democratic rule in Nigeria and remains in force today. IALS holds a number of books on the Nigerian Constitution including this one which includes a full text copy of the 1999 Constitution:

    Smith I O, The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria annotated (Ecowatch Publications 2005)

    There are also books on Nigeria’s constitutional history such as:

    Akande J, Introduction to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 (Sweet & Maxwell 1982) [includes a copy of the 1979 constitution]

    Odumosu O I, The Nigerian Constitution (Sweet & Maxwell 1963) [includes a copy of the 1963 constitution]

    The Constitution can be accessed online in World Constitutions Illustrated, from HeinOnline. This service provides consolidated and original texts along with amendments and older versions. Full-text links to commentaries and articles about the Nigerian Constitution and a select bibliography of constitutional works are also given.

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    The library has printed sets of both federal and state legislation for Nigeria. Federal laws, including subsidiary legislation, can be found in the annual bound volumes which are available back to 1914:

    Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  Lagos: Federal Ministry of Information   

    There are also volumes of revised laws including the 2011 revision which has all the legislation in force up until 2011, as amended:

    Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2011. Durban: LexisNexis

    In addition IALS holds earlier revisions for 1990, 1958, 1948 and 1923 along with some revisions for individual states prior to unification in 1914 (check the Library Catalogue for details).

    Each state makes its own laws. The library holds printed legislation for most Nigerian states including Lagos, Niger, Rivers, Bornu and Benue states but these sets are not as current as the federal legislation. IALS also holds legislation from earlier organisations of states and regions eg. Eastern Region and Western Region.

    Examples of state legislation include:

    The laws of Akwa Ibom State: in force on the 31st day of December 2000. Wembley: Millhaus Publishing

    The laws of the Plateau State of Nigeria: in force on the 1st day of January 1994. Abingdon: Burgess (authorised by the Government of Plateau State)

    The laws of the Kogi State of Nigeria: in force on the first day of January 1997. Abingdon: Burgess (authorised by the Government of Kogi State)

    The laws of Lagos State of Nigeria: in force on the 30th day of June 1994. Lagos: Government of Lagos State of Nigeria

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    Law reports

    Law reporting in Nigeria is done on a commercial basis and there is no official series. IALS holds over 70 law report series for Nigeria including both federal and state reports. Check the Library Catalogue for full holdings.

    This is a selection of federal law reports:

    Nigerian weekly law reports  1985 onwards

    Nigerian monthly law reports  1964 - 1985 (incomplete)

    All Nigerian law reports  1961 - 1987

    Nigerian commercial law reports  1964 - 1979

    Judgments of the Supreme Court of Nigeria  1972 - 2000

    Reserved judgements of the Supreme Court of Nigeria  1975 - 1980

    Nigerian criminal reports  1980 - 1983       

    Examples of state law reports include:

    Abuja law reports  1992 -1993

    Delta State law reports  1996

    Rivers State law reports  1970 - 1976, 1980

    Selected judgments of the High Court of Lagos State  1972 - 1990 (incomplete)

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    IALS holds a number of digests of Nigerian law to help with identifying cases on specific legal topics. These include:

    Cases on Nigerian land law index 1880 - 1975 (2 vols)

    Current Supreme Court digest (Feb 1992 - August 1992)

    Digest of appeal cases (Supreme Court and Federal Court of Appeal) 1979 -1980

    Digest of Supreme Court cases 1956 - 1984 (10 vols)

    Index to law reports 1880 - 1990

    Nigeria: index to law reports 1880 - 1999 (IALS has 1880-1990)

    Nigerian criminal cases index 1880 -1975

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    IALS has a good collection of Nigerian law books on various topics, with current material on the open shelves and older material kept in the reserve collection. The following list of recent acquisitions has been selected to illustrate briefly the range of subjects and publishers represented in the collection.

    Adewopo A, Nigerian copyright system: principles and perspectives (Odade 2012)

    Emiri F, Equity and trust in Nigeria (Malthouse Press 2012)

    Nnona G (ed), Law, security and development: commemorative essays of the University of Nigeria law faculty (University of Nigeria 2013)

    Oluduro O, Oil exploitation and human rights violations in Nigeria’s oil producing communities (Intersentia 2014)

    Omo-Eboh O I,The law of insurance contracts in Nigeria (West African Book Publishers 2012)

    Oyewo O, Constitutional law in Nigeria (Kluwer Law International 2013)

    There are also a number of titles which provide useful starting points for researching Nigerian law:

    Mwalimu C, The Nigerian legal system. Vol 1. Public law (Peter Lang 2005)

    Mwalimu C, The Nigerian legal system. Vol 2. Private law (Peter Lang 2009)

    Okonkwo C O (ed), Introduction to Nigerian law (Sweet and Maxwell 1980)

    Tobi N, Sources of Nigerian law (MIJ Professional 1996)

    Search the Library Catalogue for full details of library holdings.

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    IALS holds a selection of Nigerian law journals. These include:

    The Lawyer: Journal of the Law Society  1967 - 1990

    Nigeria Journal of Contemporary Law  1970 - 1996

    The Nigerian Bar Journal  1957 - 1986

    Nigerian Current Law Review 1982 - 1996

    The Nigerian Law Journal  1964 - 1986

    Check the Library Catalogue for full details of holdings.

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    Free internet resources

    Guide to Nigerian legal information by Yemisi Dina, John Akintayo and Funke Ekundayo, published on Globalex in 2013 provides an outline of the legal system and details of primary and secondary sources of law.

    International Centre for Nigerian Law is a membership organisation providing free access to Nigerian legal resources including judgements of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

    Eagle-i Internet Portal for Law has access to legal information from around the world. You can browse by jurisdiction and choose Nigeria to display details of 8 primary and secondary resources.

    WorldLII: Nigeria has links to sites providing Nigerian legal information from government and other official sites.

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