The Rationality of Judicial Precedent in Nigeria’s Jurisprudence
Ephraim A. Ikegbu, S. A. Duru, Dafe, Emmanuel U.

The doctrine of judicial precedent or stare decisis is hinged on the fact that the principle of law on which a court bases its facts, or issues before it must be followed by courts lower in hierarchy and may be followed by a court of coordinate jurisdiction or a court which is higher in hierarchy in future similar cases. Thus, when a court is bound by a previous decision, the precedent is said to be binding. On the other hand, when a court has discretion whether or not to follow a previous decision, the precedent is said to be persuasive. Nigeria as an independent nation is an entity made up of conglomeration of different ethnic groups and cultures. The influence of the received English laws in our legal system cannot be gainsaid. Thus, this paper is poised to argue philosophically, that the application of the doctrine of judicial precedent or stare decisis in our legal system is not only an imposition, it is also reductionistic, absolutist, suspect and lacking in substance as no two cases are exactly the same in the question of facts and law and in all the material circumstances of the case. Again, its application on the Nigerian legal system could occasion injustice as a result of its conservatism and failure to admit novelty in deciding cases; it also fosters rigidity; dampening the spirit of experimentation; leading to a repetition of past mistakes and the cumbersome nature of finding binding precedent. It is our submission that the doctrine of judicial precedent or stare decisis in spite of its perceived benefits as making for certainty and uniformity, saving time and prevention of legal chaos in the hierarchical operation of the court system among others ought to be jettisoned as this doctrine is alien to our legal system; also the incidence of travesty of justice cannot be completely overruled. Nigerian legal system will be basically floating on the surface of foreign jurisdiction with a strict application of judicial precedent.

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