Equity as a Fundamental Tool for the Dispensation of Justice in Nigeria

Kabiru Garba Muhammad


A key factor in the administration of justice in England (from where Nigeria legal system is sourced) was the Lord Chancellor, whose function was amongst others, issuing of royal writs used to commence every action at common law. The rule was that a plaintiff had no cause of action unless his claim came within the scope of an existing writ. By issuing new writs and varying existing ones, the Chancellor was able to influence the development of the common law; though, the influence was limited because even if a plaintiff acquired a writ to fit his claim, the writ could be declared invalid by a common law judge. However, this conservative attitude of the common law judges was subsequently alleviated. A plaintiff who could not obtain redress owing to lack of a remedy or failure to administer it could petition the King in Council praying that the King might exercise his wide discretionary power to do justice among his subjects. The Chancellor, as the King’s chief minister, was dealing with these petitions. Gradually, the Chancellor was determining matters that were raised in the petitions independent of the King in Council such that petitions were subsequently addressed directly to him. The issues were tried in his court and decrees were made in his name. This informed the beginning of the equitable jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery. The paper discussed the relevance of equity both in literal and technical senses in the dispensation of justice in Nigeria.


Equity; fundamental tool; dispensation; justice

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