Journal of African Law

Research Article

Dead Bodies in Nigerian Jurisprudence

Remigius N Nwabuezea1*

a1 LLB (Nig); LLM (Lagos); LLM (Manitoba); SJD (Toronto). Lecturer in property and intellectual property law, School of Law, University of Southampton.


Recent events and a few judicial decisions in Nigeria show the need for a serious analytical engagement with the law relating to dead bodies. Topical issues from these cases focus on jurisdiction, the right to control the disposition of remains, and remedies available for the infringement of a burial right. While the meaning and content of sepulchral rights remain the same in Nigeria as in many industrialized nations, its prioritization is markedly different. In contrast to the highly individualized nature of burial rights in many Western legal systems, the control of sepulchral right in Nigeria is familial in character. In some circumstances, however, recourse may be had to statutory provisions that import English priority rules. While a range of remedies is available for an interference with a burial right, injunctions and declarations are the most sought after by Nigerian litigants. An expedited hearing is preferable to an interlocutory order of injunction.


* Many thanks to Dr U Iwobi, senior lecturer, School of Law, University of Wales, for his valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article and also to the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. The usual disclaimers apply.