Eurocentric Influence and Misconception of the Islamic and Customary Criminal Justice System in Nigeria

Authors Yusuf Ibrahim Arowosaiye

ISSN: 2521-2613
Affiliations: Lecturer, Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin
Source: Africa Nazarene University Law Journal, 2016, Issue 2, p. 36 – 62


A common feature of the concept of crime in the traditional African society, Nigeria inclusive, is that conducts or acts that are being regarded as unlawful are largely not codified, but deeply ingrained in the people. This excludes communities in Northern Nigeria where Islamic law and jurisprudence was once fully in operation. The idea that all crimes are wrong against the state without reference to the victim of crime is a criminological conception of modern thought. Despite the perceived primitive nature of customary criminal justice system, its cardinal objective remains the maintenance of peaceful socio-economic, cultural cum political orderliness in society. Thus, in the pre-colonial Nigerian traditional society, compromise, restitution and compensation were commonly employed as mechanism of criminal justice administration. Upon the conquest of African territories, attempts were made by the imperial powers to supplant peoples’ cultural practices, religion and by extension the traditional administration of justice. The justification for this Eurocentric supercilious jurisprudential perception of African customary criminal justice system is the pervasive or erroneous view that customary law generally lacks the fundamental rudiment for an effective criminal justice system. This paper investigates the nature and features of the Nigerian customary criminal justice system and interrogates the imperial position and the rhetoric that customary criminal justice is generally unwritten and largely uncertain and sometimes barbaric as against the doctrine of natural justice, equity and good conscience. This study concludes that customary criminal justice, which was unfortunately abolished under the relevant provisions of the Nigerian law, is still relevant and adaptable in every circumstance without losing its peculiar characteristics despite the Eurocentric influence in its abolishment, which was borne out of jurisprudential misconception.