Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. Since it is a formerBritish colony, its legal systems are derived from the English commonlaw. However, it is largely influenced by the Islamic and Africantraditions. Consequently, in the northern parts of the country, boththe penal code and the Muslim laws apply to all members of thesociety. This means that a non-Muslim can be tried in an Alkalicourt, despite the fact that he or she does not subscribe to thereligion. Additionally, customary law, which establishes the Nativeordinance courts, has an influence on how Nigeria deals withcriminals. Therefore, the criminal justice is a tripartite system.While the common law courts adopt an adversarial approach, theIslamic courts are inquisitorial. There are two classifications ofcrimes felonies and misdemeanors. The categorization depends on theseriousness or severity of the offense. Offenders above the age of 17are treated as adults, 12 to 16 as juveniles, and those younger than12 years as children. Youth courts are ad hoc and informal courtspresided over by laypersons (Ebbe, 2013). However, in the UnitedStates, the justice system is based on the common law. Additionally,it has more developed juvenile processes, which considers individualsbelow the age of 18 years to be children (Neubauer & Fradella,2015).
The main differences between the United States and the Nigeriancriminal justice system are the laws that are taken intoconsideration during the adjudication process. They have an influenceon policing as well as punishment approaches. In both countries, theinvestigating authorities are the law enforcement departments,although they vary in terms of organization and structures. InNigeria, other powers derived from traditional or Islamic law areinvolved in reviewing crimes. The police are also responsible forarrests and detention of offenders in both systems. However, morechallenges are faced by police in Nigeria compared to the UnitedStates. They include corruption and bias based on the status orbackground of the offender, as well as inadequate funding.Consequently, it is not effective in accomplishing its functions(Ebbe, 2013).
The police in Nigeria have a British structure, where the localgovernments are not allowed to have independent units. This isdifferent from the American formation where states have autonomouspolice departments. Their main responsibilities include criminalinvestigations, arrests, and prosecutions. Detentions without trialand arbitrary seizures are illegal, although they are commonly usedacross the country. There are numerous incidences of arrest without awarrant, which has resulted in massive criticism of the criminaljustice system. Plea bargaining, which is common in the UnitedStates, is not acceptable in Nigerian courts. However, cases can betransferred to a customary court or psychiatrist. Suspected criminalsare arrested and held in police cells. This can happen before orafter preliminary investigations, which are likely to continueconcurrently with the adjudication process. Depending on the severityof the offense, the sentences can be incarcerated, borstal homes,parole, community service, or a fine (Ebbe, 2013).
Another difference between the American and Nigerian justice systemis the fact that state courts in Nigeria are the final adjudicatorson matters related to state laws and relevant appeals. Despitefederal and local courts being distinct in the United States, theirjurisdiction can overlap. There are several striking variations onhow the Nigerian and the United States criminal justice system dealwith criminal cases between arrest and conviction. Although thecommon law traditions influence both systems, the American system haswell-established and developed structures, which eliminatesincidences of injustices (Neubauer & Fradella, 2015). In Nigeria,different standards and traditions are employed. However, the generalframeworks are similar, where the police investigate, arrest, andprosecute, the courts adjudicate and correctional facilities areresponsible for punishment and rehabilitation of offenders (Dada etal., 2015).
Some of the criminal cases that have been handled by the UnitedStates court could have progressed differently if they were in theNigerian justice system. A good example is how the Nigerian systemcould have handled the case of Gilbert V. State (1986) in the`Florida District Courts of Appeal`. In the case, a 75 years old manwas accused of murdering his wife through ‘mercy killing’(Johnson & Cloud, 2012). While the application of the common lawis similar, proceedings that involve Islamic courts could have beenunusual. The American system investigates and convicts based on theConstitution and penal code. The principal inquiry was whether it canbe proved beyond reasonable doubt that the suspect committed thecrime (Neubauer & Fradella, 2015). However, in the Nigeriansystem, a different approach will be used if it is adjudicated in theIslamic court, where hudud principle is applied. For instance, murdercan be considered as a private dispute between the victim’s familyand the offender. Consequently, there will be no proceedings if thereis no claim. In some cases, the family of the victim may forgive themurderer or demand compensation through ‘eye for an eye’ (qisas)or diyyah (financial reward) principles. These aspects are irrelevantin the American criminal justice. Consequently, it could have beenconcluded that there is no case to answer, or the offender should bekilled in the same way he shot the victim. Conversely, a differentverdict could have been reached if the case was tried in the normalcourts in Nigeria (Ebbe, 2013).
Dada, A. et al. (2015). : The NigeriaScenario. International Journal of Social Science and HumanitiesResearch. 3(3), 437-444.
Ebbe, O. (2013). Comparative and International Criminal JusticeSystems: Policing, Judiciary, and Corrections. New York, NY: CRCPress.
Johnson, P. & Cloud, M. (2012). Criminal law: cases,materials, and text. St. Paul, MN : West Group.
Neubauer, D. & Fradella, H. (2015). America`s Courts and the. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.