Customary Law: Meaning, Nature And Characteristics Of Customary Law

Meaning And Nature Of Customary Law

Customary law is the derived from custom. It was judicially defined as the law relating to the customs and traditions of a people, it affects the cultures and ethos of the people. Bairman F.J. had earlier defined customary law as a mirror of accepted usages, while it was also described as “not being the common law and not being a law enacted by any competent legislature in Nigeria but is enforceable and binding within Nigeria as between the parties to its sway”.

Customary law is therefore the law derived from the ways of life and usages of the people, community or locality which has through application over the years obtained the forece of law and become accepted by the people as binding on them and as regulating their conduct or relationship intense.

Characteristics Of Customary Law

1. A particular customary law must be in existence at the relevant time and must be recognized and adhered to by the community.

2. Customary law is not a frozen and rigid system, but one which from time to time develops and modifies itself in order to accord with changes in social conditions.

3. Customary law is largely unwritten and its main sources are the recollection of elders, and others whose traditional roles enable them to have special knowledge of the customs and traditions of the people.

4. Customary law is not universal. What is custom in Igbo land is not always the custom in Yoruba or Hausa Land. Even within the community where a particular custom applies there are local variations.

5. A particular customary rule should not only be customary but must be law. Habitual observance is not enough. Observance must be a matter of obligation and not a matter of choice. Sanctions are imposed on those who fail to observe a particular custom.