Precolonial Legal System in Africa: An Assessment of Indigenous Laws of Benin before 1897
Idahosa Osagie Ojo and Eghosa O. Ekhator, ‘Precolonial Legal System in Africa: An Assessment of Indigenous Laws of Benin before 1897.’ 5 (2020) Umewaen: Journal of Benin and Edo Studies 38-73
36 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2021
Date Written: 2020
There were salient novelties in the legal system of the Benin Kingdom and other areas in pre-colonial Africa that promoted justice, peace, and order among people and communities. Special provisions such as collective responsibility in legal personality, the law of primogeniture, the fusion of laws and religion in theory and practice, and the recognition of societal status and political position in legal proceedings amongst other legal concepts were incorporated into the body of laws in Benin. Previous intellectual efforts center on the political, economic, and social aspects of history, largely neglecting these legal dynamics and other vital areas of the kingdom’s organization. Hence, this study analyzes indigenous legal concepts in the Benin Kingdom using several varieties of primary and secondary sources. It contends that Benin, like other African societies, developed practical and useful legal concepts that helped in the consolidation of peace and harmony throughout its length and breadth, and that these indigenous Benin legal concepts were in force till 1897.
Keywords: Indigenous Laws, Benin, Collective Responsibility, Individual Responsibility, Religious law, Law of Primogeniture
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