NIGERIAN LAW: Making the Case for a Unified Civil Procedure Rules

This paper bears testimony against those who, having nothing to offer in the development of our legal system, insist on causing confusion. Today, we have to agree and urge the politicians to agree with us, that a standard, unified civil procedure rules, though against the principles of federalism on its face, is in the best interest of our laws and procedure.


The problem with the political and legal systems in Nigeria is that the Constitution is subsequent to most of our laws. For that reason, these “existing laws” were not subjected to constitutional litmus test. Our Judges, who cannot be described as “timorous souls”, are rather cautious, not wanting to upturn the apple cart by declaring any existing law or procedure unconstitutional. Our laws may be compared to an overbuilt and dilapidated house with conflicting architectural styles and a crumbling foundation, a sick patient who is about to expire, and a factory that has been littered with so much garbage that it can no longer operate productively. 

At the end of this paper, you will see that the collective desire of Nigeria’s progressive forces like my humble self and the organisers of this Workshop are surgical reforms that will place us in an enviable stead in the comity of nations. It is painful that those who are entrusted with taking care of this great nation believe that they have higher stakes in her survival, appeal and beauty than the rest of us. Unfortunately, most of them were rapists, assaulting the dignity of our beloved country with their monstrous barbed phalluses, with their guns dangling menacingly. These miscreants, having satisfied their selfish urge and lined their pockets with our common wealth, lace her with magun, daring those of us who genuinely love her to have a taste. 

This paper bears testimony against those who, having nothing to offer in the development of our legal system, insist on causing confusion. Today, we have to agree and urge the politicians to agree with us, that a standard, unified civil procedure rules, though against the principles of federalism on its face, is in the best interest of our laws and procedure. 


Before going into the merits of a unified civil procedure rules, let us briefly discuss the strong link between procedure, evidence and ethics. We have seen the American drive to have unified laws and procedure. Theoretically, when appearing before any court or administrative tribunal, what every counsel should know in equal measure, if possible, are the rules of evidence, the rules of procedure and professional ethics; counsel need not know the facts of the cases equally since they see the same case from different angles. 

Nigeria has one Evidence Act, one of the most archaic documents to, not just grace the shelves of law offices, but actually being used in the courts! The Evidence Act provides for admissibility of relevant facts and the procedure for presenting such facts. Procedure also provides for how and when evidence should be presented. If the Evidence Act says that a fact is admissible, can the rule of procedure shut the door? My answer is No! In fact, every procedure is subject to the law relating to evidence!

However, if the Evidence Act says that a map is admissible, the rule of procedure may provide that you must show that map to the Judge and the other party at least 7 days before you apply for its admission into evidence. In my six years in the United States, I have never heard of anybody disbarred for not knowing the substantive law of the controversy, but lawyers are routinely disbarred for violating established rule of procedure or of evidence. 

Nigeria has only one National Bar, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). The NBA is empowered to set up a Disciplinary Committee to investigate allegations of violating ethics. Every step you take in a matter as counsel, whether in your office or in court, are guided by ethical considerations. The same ethics that guide a lawyer in Sokoto, guide his colleague in Anambra. We therefore have unified professional responsibilities. The relationship between evidence, ethics, and procedure is so intertwined that to separate one from the other is to dismember the intellect and focus of counsel. 


I will discuss the merits of having a model standard civil procedure rules. I need not discuss the demerits because the opposite of merits is demerits. My reason is to avoid using such uncharitable but deserving words or phrase like “economic stupidity of the rankest specie”, “bloody waste of time”, “idiotic resource management”, “senseless policy”, “chaotic land mine” etc. while discussing the demerits. 

Best Brains Available

Having a Uniform federally applicable rule for the high courts will require input from the best brains in the country, not just the best brains in a state. Hoping that this Nnewi proverb will not annoy anybody, it says that the wisest man from one of the neighbouring towns is as wise as an insane man from Nnewi. Actually, this proverb was popular in ancient times when they believed that the whole world was just Nnewi and her neighbours. Even in modern times, they will proudly tell you that they have the highest concentration of legitimate millionaires – those who did not make money from government connections – in Africa. Having the worst network of roads in the entire country has cast reasonable doubt in their legendary wisdom. 

My point is, “Tell me the state with the best set of brains and I will counter with a tsunami of their foolishness”. I therefore advocate that a national committee, made up of men and women with reputable cerebral presence, should be put on the job. And they do not have to meet physically. With information technology, they can hold meetings over the internet for one hour once a week. The Secretary will incorporate all views to produce an initial working paper from which the Initial Draft would be circulated to the States for their input. Thereafter, a Final Draft will be circulated to the stated for adoption by their states assembly after doing through editors. 

Cost of Learning/Training

One major problem to be solved by having a uniform set of rules for all the states high courts in Nigeria is that less money and time would be spent learning the rules. Students would learn only four sets of civil procedure rules, that is to say, the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules for State High Courts, the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, the Court of Appeal Rules and the Supreme Court Rules.

On being admitted to the bar, counsel would commence work with what was taught at the Law School without having to learn the particular rules of the particular state where counsel chose to set up practice. More importantly, counsel who sets up practice in Onitsha would not have to learn the civil procedure rules of the neighbouring states, especially those of Delta, Enugu and Imo.

Again, any counsel appointed to the appellate court straight from the bar or any state high court judge elevated to the higher bench would not have to learn 38 different civil procedure rules to effectively discharge his or her judicial duties. 

Cost of Production and Procurement

To produce a good set of rules is a costly venture. To produce 38 sets is even more costly. Having a unified rule would reduce the cost. If each state spends Five Million Naira as sitting allowance for their ad hoc rules committee, 37 jurisdictions would have spent One Hundred and Eighty five million. A national rules committee would spend less than less than a quarter of that cost and still produce a better document. 

Again, in printing and publishing the rules, there is strength in numbers. We all know that when it comes to printing, the more you print, the less the average cost. It will cost less to produce a Uniform High Court Civil Procedure Rules than to produce different sets for each state and the federal capital territory. As for procurement, counsel need only one copy, not a copy for each court he or she appears. 

Cost of Integrating Technology

Most of us do not know how much it costs to produce one software you can pick up over the counter. It costs even more to architect and produce customised, enterprise grade software. If we have uniform rules, it means we can harmonise our resources to commission the creation of Nigerian dedicated software for use by all the courts and law firms. This means that your word processing, document management, clients trust accounts and firm accounting procedures would be in the same software. As you transmit documents from a High court to the Court of Appeals, counsel need not worry that the two systems may not be on speaking terms. When counsel transmits documents from his or her desktop to another counsel or any court, the fear that garbage may spill out at the other end would be needless. Again, this holistic integration would make for proper compliance with solicitors trust accounting; this also shows the relationship between procedure and ethics. 

Uniform Standards

Uniform Rule means uniform standards. I have already discussed the benefits of putting the best brains on this job. I have no doubt in my mind that that will set a uniform, internationally acceptable standard to be used all over the country. Having seen the relationship between ethics, civil procedure and evidence, counsel will conduct cases from one state high court to without worrying that the standards that apply in Warri may not apply in Wusasa. 

Minimal Confusion

If we have just one uniform rules for all the high courts, there would be minimal confusion. This is the logical product of uniformity of standards. Counsel based in Onitsha, who is charged with professional malpractice for violating the Rules of Court at Asaba, will not plead mistake of fact, “My God, I thought I was at Onitsha.” 


Our problem is more egotistic and political than legal. Fortunately, our States’ Judiciary can do something about this political problem; if they do not, their Judges would have to learn every State’s Court Rules on elevation to a higher bench. The NBA can do something about this political problem; if they do not, their members would be denied all the advantages discussed in this paper. Even the politicians are adequately represented here; if they do nothing about this problem, we shall revoke their mandate and elect those who will work with us towards realizing this dream. However, knowing the antecedents of the politicians here with us, I know they will neither sleep nor slumber until these problems are solved. 

Emeka Maduewesi, Esq., LL.M (Intellectual Property and Technology Law) lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has admissions to practice law in Nigeria and California, USA. He also Publishes and .