Country Profile: Nigeria

This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under Nigeria's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has legal status. 

Country Background

Nigeria is a country located in Western Africa, bordering the Gulf of Guinea and Lake Chad. Nigeria is bounded by Benin, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. The capital of Nigeria is Abuja. The official language of Nigeria is English; in addition, there are over 500 indigenous languages spoken in Nigeria, including Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), and Fulani. The country's population in 2017 was approximately 190.8 million. Nigeria is a predominantly Muslim country, with about 50% of the population Muslim, 40% Christian, and 10% indigenous beliefs. Nigeria is a member state of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Constitution & Legal Structure

Nigeria is referred to as a federal presidential republic, in which sovereignty belongs to the people and the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The current Constitution of Nigeria was adopted in 1999. The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legal system of Nigeria is a mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic law (in 12 northern states), and traditional law.

Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

Islamic law has constitutional status in Nigeria. However, the degree of influence sharīʿa has in the Nigerian legal system varies by state. 

Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law

Islamic law has official jurisdiction of operation in Nigeria. In the twelve northernmost Nigerian states (Zamfara, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto, and Yobe), Islamic law applies in both civil and criminal matters. However, in the rest of Nigeria, a combination of English common law and traditional law is applied in the civil and criminal courts. 

Dominant School of Islamic Law

Nigeria has no official school of Islamic law. The majority of the Muslim population in the country is Sunnī (adhering to the Mālikī school), and there is a significant Shīʿī minority as well. 

Sources of Law for Legal Research

Official Publications

Unofficial Databases


For an extended list of legal resources for this country, see the Library of Congress’s Research Guide, and for a narrative review, see the GlobaLex Foreign Law Research Guide (most updated version, where available). The Constitution is available in the LOC Guide in its original language and at Constitute in English. For full versions of past constitutions, amendments, and related legislation, see HeinOnline World Constitutions Illustrated or Oxford Constitutions of the World [subscription required for each].