World Intellectual Property Organization

Brief background information on the legal framework of Nigeria

Prepared by the World Intellectual Property Organization

A. General background information

The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a federal constitutional republic comprising thirty-six states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom on October 1, 1960.

B. Legal background

There are four distinct systems of law in Nigeria:

- English law which is derived from its colonial past with Britain;

- Common law, a development of its post colonial independence;

- Customary law which is derived from indigenous traditional norms and practice;

- Sharia law, used only in the predominantly Muslim north of the country.  The Islamic legal system had already been used long before the colonial administration in Nigeria but it has been recently politicized and spearheaded in several northern states.

Nigerian legislation refers to written or statutory laws enacted by competent legislative houses or authorities in Nigeria. Federal legislation is called “Act” (when made by the National Assembly in a democracy) or “Decree” (when promulgated by a military regime). State legislation is called “Law” (when made by the House of Assembly of a State in a democracy) or “Edict” (when promulgated by a Military Governor). Enactments made by Local Governments during a military regime or in a democracy are called “Bye-laws.”

Since its independence, Nigeria had military rule until May 29, 1999 (except from 1979 to 1983).  The Legislation - main and subsidiary - made from year to year by the military were styled "Decrees". These decrees are part of the laws of the Federation of Nigeria.  Laws made since May 29, 1999 are also styled “Acts”.

The laws of the Federation of Nigeria were revised and consolidated pursuant to The Revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) Decree 1990.  The laws in force as of January 31, 1990 - the several enactments and subsidiary legislation - were subsequently published in 471 Chapter bound in 24 Volumes.


- Wikipedia
- Laws of the Federation of Nigeria webpage
- Introduction to Nigerian Legislation by L. E. Mitee

Explore WIPO