Challenges, Limits and Prospects of ‘Judicial Governance’ in Nigeria’s Political Translation (1999-2014)

Yusuf, Hakeem O. (2020). Challenges, Limits and Prospects of ‘Judicial Governance’ in Nigeria’s Political Translation (1999-2014). In: Seidel, Katrin and Elleisie, Hateem eds. Normative Spaces and Legal Dynamics in Africa. Law and Anthropology Series. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 83–106.



The judiciary has become a strategic institution in Nigeria’s post-authoritarian transition. Following the country’s unnegotiated transition from almost three decades of military rule to civil rule, when the military left power without consulting with diverse relevant stakeholders, the political elite has found considerable motivation to judicialize political conflict on a number of issues that ought to be resolved through political processes. These range from important fiscal policy issues like revenue allocation, public accountability to management of local-level governance. In the Nigerian context, these are matters of critical political importance, which had been long suppressed by a legacy of authoritarian military regimes that followed closely on the heels of colonial rule and ordinarily ought to be resolved through political processes. Analysts of political processes have noted that political elites, especially in divided societies, sometimes adopt consociation as a political mechanism for resolving power contestations, with a core feature of consociation being the privileging of depoliticized approaches over majoritarian ones. This approach to governance, particularly with reference to intergovernmental contestations, has led to an unprecedented judicialization of politics or governance in the country, especially in the first decade of the transition; but this continues to varying extents even today. The judiciary has been the focus of both national and international attention as a forum that ostensibly offers opportunity for resolving ongoing disputes and contestations in the country’s troubled political transition. It is thus relevant to consider whether or how the judiciary has been instrumental in furthering the transition to proclaimed democratic rule, in fostering the respect for human rights and the need to uphold the rule of law.

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