Law and Justice in Post-British Nigeria: Conflicts and Interactions between Native and Foreign Systems of Social Control in Igbo

By Elechi, O. Oko | African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Law and Justice in Post-British Nigeria: Conflicts and Interactions between Native and Foreign Systems of Social Control in Igbo


Elechi, O. Oko, African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS


LAW AND JUSTICE IN POST-BRITISH NIGERIA: CONFLICTS AND INTERACTIONS BETWEEN NATIVE AND FOREIGN SYSTEMS OF SOCIAL CONTROL IN IGBO. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2002. 236 pp.: by Nonso Okereafoezeke:

This book fills a critical void in the literature on the interface between African indigenous justice systems and the colonial installed African state justice system. The author examines the phenomenon of a plural justice system in contemporary Ajalli, an Igbo town of South East Nigeria with a population of about 5000. The main thrust of the book is the examination of the promises and contradictions of the two justice systems with divergent legal traditions and goals operating in Ajalli, namely the Igbo native system of justice and the Nigerian state criminal justice system. The native justice system derives from the Igbo culture, customs, traditions and philosophy of justice according to the author. The Nigerian state criminal justice system has its origin in the common and civil law systems of Britain, Nigeria's former colonial master. There seems to be a duplication of functions and even competition between the official Nigerian government administered criminal justice system, and the Ajalli community operated traditional justice system. The author also makes suggestions for reconciling the two justice systems that differ significantly both in procedure and in substance for a more effective and efficient justice management and delivery.

The author observes two major problems with Nigeria's native justice system. First, its operation within a pluralistic justice structure, hampers its growth and efficacy and secondly, the Igbo native justice system in this unhealthy judicial partnership, is the neglected justice system within this plural arrangement despite its potential to contribute to the social control efforts of the country. The author further notes that this pluralistic justice arrangement in the country has caused four main problems in the society. First, are the social, cultural, political and economic costs and myriad other problems associated with the duplication of the justice systems and the concurrent application and management of the two justice systems with divergent cultural and legal traditions and goals. Secondly, the average Nigerian lacks the opportunity to understand and appreciate the two justice systems, especially where they differ or complement one another. Third, the native justice system and the foreign justice system sometimes appear to be in competition with one another thereby undermining their social control functions in the community. Fourth, many Nigerians are alienated from the foreign justice system because it does not reflect the culture, traditions and religion of the Nigerian people.

Okereafoezeke gives insight into the operation of an African traditional government. In examining the political, social and economic administration of Ajalli town the reader gets a good sense of the Igbo brand of democracy. For example, while the traditional ruler of Ajalli, the Eze (King), wields considerable authority and influence, yet tyranny is forestalled by the active involvement of the people in the social and political administration of the land. Accountability in governance is further enhanced by the prevailing Igbo egalitarian and democratic culture and the consensus decision making process. The reader also gets to understand the role of women in social control in Ajalli, through the activities of the "Umuada" - a grouping of the daughters of the community. Laws regulating everyday activities such as marriage, death and burial ceremonies give insight into community life and the culture that sustains the justice system, and above all the relationship between the people and their political authorities. …

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