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Peacebuilding and the Interface of State Law and Indigenous Market Laws in Southern Nigeria

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 December 2019

Anthony C Diala*
University of the Western Cape


How the interface of state law and indigenous market laws contributes to peacebuilding in Nigeria is an unexplored question that demands attention. First, law, human security and peace are interrelated through the cultural ideas and norms that inform human behaviour. Second, the co-existence of normative orders in Africa favours a top-down approach that inadequately acknowledges indigenous law, neglects its economic, cultural and religious influences, and thereby affects human security. Based on key informant interviews, focus group discussions and observation of markets in southern Nigeria, this article finds that although indigenous market laws are much altered, their foundational values inform market union constitutions, bye-laws and dispute resolution mechanisms. Union officials draft these laws with the assistance of Western-trained legal practitioners and apply them in close co-operation with state organs, who recognize market tribunals as quasi-judicial bodies. The article urges policy attention on the manner people adapt indigenous market laws to socio-economic changes.

Research Article
Copyright © SOAS, University of London 2019

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Senior lecturer, University of the Western Cape, South Africa. I wrote this article as a guest researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden, from April to June 2018. I acknowledge the financial assistance of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, where I was a URC postdoctoral fellow at that time.


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10 Again, there is no agreement on the number of local governments because the federal government refuses to recognize some local governments created by states. States receive money from the federal government based on their sizes, and decisions on population and number of local governments are influenced by the political party controlling the federal and state governments.

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102 For example, the OMMTA Constitution states its membership fee to be ₦1,000.

103 Interviews with Obute Aloysius, chairman of the Ogbete Market Peace and Disciplinary Committee, 2 February 2017, and Olori Olabisi Falodun-Onagoruwa, the iya oja (market general) of Union Homes Shopping Complex (Success Market Union) Idumota, Lagos, 27 February 2017.

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114 Focus group discussion in Onitsha on 21 February 2017. Views on the peace committee were expressed by its chair, Uche Eze, chief whip, Uzoma Nwadike, and a trader, Chinekebuka K. Obichie.

115 Sec 4 of the OMMTA bye-laws titled “Under peace committee”.

116 Interviews with Olabisi Falodun-Onagoruwa and Adeoye Rahman, secretary of the Agarawu Traders’ Association (Hardware Zone) of Idumota Market, Lagos, 27 February 2017.

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