Socio-Legal Barriers to the Expansion of Legal Aid in Nigeria: Initiating Legal Reform Through the Customary Court System

PhD Thesis

Onafuwa, O. 2021. Socio-Legal Barriers to the Expansion of Legal Aid in Nigeria: Initiating Legal Reform Through the Customary Court System. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Business and Law
AuthorsOnafuwa, O.
TypePhD Thesis

The core of this study is directed towards an analysis of the laws, rules and guidelines that embody legal aid provision in present day Nigeria. This study will employ a socio-legal approach to investigate the root causes of Nigeria’s limited legal aid scheme. It will also focus on the relationship between law and society and will employ appropriate empirical research methods for an in-depth understanding of significant causal factors that influence legal aid provision in Nigeria. These factors will include an examination of Nigerian legal institutions, legal processes, and legal behaviour,1 particularly how legal institutions and legal processes affect individuals and how they are perceived by ordinary citizens and potential recipients of legal aid. This research considers the potential for other sources of law, and other legal institutions, such as customary legal systems, to be used as an additional, credible way to access, develop and expand legal aid provision in Nigeria.
This study adopts two qualitative techniques: semi-structured telephone interviews and self-administered questionnaires, which were completed and returned via email. The request for respondents was launched on social media. In total, fifteen respondents partook in the study: twelve via self-administered questionnaires and three via telephone interviews. The inquiry was focused on a people’s perspective, the respondents were a variety of ages above 18, and evenly distributed by gender. They were spread across North Central, South West, South East and South South geopolitical zones of Nigeria. Therefore, they are not representative of all the regions in Nigeria; for this reason, the study was not able to capture all ethnic groups and their customary practices. However, within the 15 observations, coverage was obtained from ethnic groups that represent the Yoruba, Igbo, Delta and Kogi regions. Some of the participants were recruited through a snowball sampling strategy by primary participants. Data was analysed, and preliminary codes were established using in vivo coding procedure to categorise findings and generate key themes that could help address the research question and objectives driving the study. Hence, six key themes were uncovered.
The findings of the study reveal the various perspectives on the matter of legal aid and of customary legal practice, including the prospect of expanding the scheme through customary legal systems. The research also highlighted the limited scope of legal aid and the importance of custom and tradition in the daily activities of individuals who are bound by them. It also uncovered the need to develop customary legal systems to further support and protect the rights of individuals that are embedded in their customary practices. This study presents an original contribution to knowledge on access to alternative legal institutions for the protection of legal rights via legal aid. The findings of this thesis also contribute to socio-legal studies, which are not well represented in Nigerian legal research.

PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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Publication dates
Online11 Jun 2021
Publication process dates
SubmittedSep 2020
Deposited14 Jun 2021
Copyright holderThe Author
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