Supremacy Of the Constitution . The constitution impacts greatly on the legal system. All that have been said so far are subject to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The constitution by virtue of S. 1(1) This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Section 1(3) If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.
This is a limitation imposed on the system. The effect of Section 1 of the Constitution is that the Nigeria legal system is fine-tuned to reflect the implications of supremacy clause. However, because the majority of post independent Nigeria Governments are military this supremacy clause has in many occasions been whittled down eroded and assaulted by the military who instead make degrees supreme over the provisions of the Constitution.
Indeed, under the military dictatorship, jurisdiction of courts to review Decrees is ousted contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. This aspect of the system must be taken note of because many of the Nigerian laws and procedures have come into force by means of Decrees and Edicts and some of these have even been incorporated into the constitution.
Division of Nigerian Law
Classification and categorization is governed by the end objective desired and in our context the purpose is to acquaint the reader with the assortment of Nigeria law. However, what is presented hereunder is not exhaustive. Nigerian law can be essentially classified thus:
- Civil and Criminal
- Private and public
- International and municipal
- Procedural and substantive
- Common law and equity
- Customary and non-customary
- Case law and statute
Civil and Criminal Law – Supremacy Of the Constitution
This deals with private rights and remedies. Private persons generally institute civil law, although it can be instituted by or against the state. This categorization distinguishes an action from criminal process. The object of the former is to seek relief not by way of punishment, which is the object of the latter but by monetary payment (damages) is awarded as deterrent.
However, an act simpliciter cannot always be said to be criminal or civil in nature merely because of the quality, extent or form, for an act can at one and the same time be a crime and a civil wrong. An act is criminal only if the law says so. Thus, a person can seek monetary damages, injunction or specific performance under civil procedure and also seek punitive redress through the state by criminal procedure for one and the same act.
However, the procedure in each instance differs and it is this procedural difference that settles the issue as to whether an action is civil or criminal.
Civil wrong can be found in:
- Breach of contract: in breach of contract the aggrieved party may sue for damages. The suit arises because a party has breached an agreement he had with another. Accordingly, the relief claimed may be specific performance of the contract, injunction or monetary compensation (damages). A contract is an agreement which is enforceable at a law court.
- Tort: in this instance, no prior agreement exists between the parties but the law regards the act as being against the right, or interest of the party wronged who may sue to protect or assert the right or protect the interest. For instance, a person who enters the land of another without the other’s consent is liable in an action for trespass not because he had previously agreed with the land owner, not to enter his land; but because the law disables him from so acting unless he does so at his own peril.
Trust: a breach of trust arises, where a trustee deals with a property in a manner inconsistent with the trust. A trust is created when a person called the trustee holds property in trust to be administered on behalf of a third party, which may include himself (called the cetiu que trust or beneficiary).
The person creating the trust is called the settler. For example, if a devises his land to B for B to use the land for the benefit of C, B, cannot in good faith appropriate any benefit arising from the land to himself. This will sound in breach of trust.