San Diego International Law Journal

Document Type



This paper considers possible answers to these difficult questions by focusing on two issues: the evolution of legal norms in response to both endogenous and exogenous changes, and the role that African customary law and indigenous dispute resolution has played in promoting coordination and cooperation among group members, thereby reducing violent conflict. This paper explores legislative actions taken by the Nigerian government that impede the continued evolution of these relatively elastic customary legal norms. Property norms under customary Nigerian law were flexible enough to provide a wide variety of property rights and allow for the peaceful trading and reasonable protection of these rights, all at relatively low cost. In addition, accessible indigenous dispute-resolution mechanisms provided access to leaders with substantial local knowledge of local property rights arrangements. This paper also examines Nigeria's customary land use rules for dealing with strangers, and considers how these provisions have reduced transactional costs and aligned expectations about property norms.