Globalization and the Future of Socio-legal Studies in Africa

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1 Globalization and the Future of Socio-legal Studies in Africa By Olakunle Michael Folami Doctoral Student Transitional Justice Institute, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, UK/Department of Sociology, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Nigeria. or

2 Abstract: The socio-legal understandings have moved from regional to global level. There are numerous transnational legal issues that require global understandings and focus of Law and Society Association, such as LGBT s rights, global inequality, gender rights, child rights, terrorism, human trafficking and money laundering. Most of these issues are present in Africa. Introduction

3 Socio-legal studies focuses on the relationship between law and society; the influence of law on society and conversely, the influence of society on law. Some methods and theories of social sciences are needed in law to meet its global challenges. Currently, as it is, globalization is the major determinant of the future of socio-legal studies. Socio-legal dynamics in the legal approach have had a good understanding in the Western world, but in Africa, most especially, Nigeria still lags behind. In the UK for example, the study of law is taken as a social science and domiciles in the Faculty of social sciences. There is a congenial relation among scholars and researchers in most of the institutions. Apart from this, there is infusion of social sciences within the law programmes. Courses like criminology, law, transitional justice, refugee studies and other social oriented programmes are either combined or hosted by the Department of Law. This method promotes cross fertilisation of ideas and removes academic chauvinism. It is not that professional identity is lost but to some extent there is a basic understanding of the importance of the social sciences in law. Many theories and methods of social sciences are now in considerable use across the law. The new waves of crime and the need to understand them make adoption of socio-legal studies necessary. This is possible through the basic knowledge of social sciences such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, political science and history. In Africa, thereverse is the case. There is a huge gap between legal studies and social sciences approach. Law and social sciences are treated as organic methods of knowledge. The focus of this paper is socio-legal studies in Nigeria. This case study is selected because Nigeria is the largest country in Africa with over 170 million people. It has more than one hundred and seventeen public and private universities. It is the heart of Africa. Nigeria has played some prominent roles in socio-political and economic development of the region. This paper therefore examines the influence of social sciences on legal studies and the future of socio-legal studies in Nigeria. Before going further into the future of socio-legal studies in Nigeria I will discuss briefly the historical background of socio-legal studies. Background of socio-legal studies Socio-legal studies has its origin in the work of the 17 th century social philosophers like Cesare Beccaria, Jeremy Bentham, Cesare Lombroso, Auguste Comte and others. The American Courts started the acceptance of evidences from sociology, psychology and other sciences in adjudicating on issues of law and policy in The socio-legal studies started when social analysis of law and criminology took precedence over documentary approach. The approach sees law as not just important in almost any society in which it presents. It sees law as a complex and multiple-faceted social norm that is self-reflexive, with its own scholars, theories, and philosophies. Socio-legal studies carried forward the objectives of the historical school and reject the scientific school which assumes a formal and logical idea of law. The formal law positions law as a partial through institution that follows documentary evidences without circumstantial considerations. Preoccupation of law with the science gives it a place in the academic but with limited understanding of people and society it serves.

4 Following the 19 th century discovery, socio-legal studies emerged with a number of lead academics in America and Europe. Their interests in socio-legal studies provide major instruments for the understanding of law. They forwarded socio-legal studies with the legal understandings acquired from the natural law school and the positivist school. The sociolegal school argues that the real law is not in the documents, status, legislation or other books which contains formal rules but in the society. It goes further to say that law is not static; it changes with time, place and society. Law and legislation must take cognizance of non-legal and extra-legal considerations. Law and social studies in the United States of America, and Europe majorly assumes one legal system and one society, therefore they explore the relations between them. The outcome typically has been a narrow understanding of law which islimited to the Western international relations model. This often conflict with law, culture and nation-state. The new trend is that there must be such thing as social justice in law since we live in unjust World, where there is gender inequality, sexual inequality and discrimination. A World where there is an increased demand for justice and accountability. Law can only be relevant if there are sociolegal understandings of these beyond strict documentation. The existing laws have been found inadequate to understand and resolve complex global problems such, as terrorism, climate change, genocide, money laundering, human trafficking, drug trafficking, kidnapping and other transnational crimes. The future of socio-legal studies therefore is located in the globalization of knowledge. Socio-legal studies have established itself as a new method of examining the interaction between law and society. The school has shown that law is not a study of just abstracts but plays a creative and dynamic role in a society. The new approach to global socio-legal perspective should engage with multiple laws and societies. It should cut across national boundaries and recognise diverse socio-legal dynamics. It should be based on very different historical and cultural traditions, interacting at multiple local, national, and global levels. This approach will lead to an emergence of global socio-legal perspective which would provide a framework for envisioning new global governance regimes that move beyond statebased solutions to deal with trenchant transnational challenges. The views of the socio-legal studies are parallel with humanistic law. The socio-legal studies are concerned with what law has done, what is it doing and what is going to do. With these basic concerns socio-legal studies remain relevant as a subject which brings legal soul and body together. Nigeria and socio-legal studies In Nigeria, socio-legal studies has not be given its place of recognition. Law and society are poles apart. This may be as a result of Nigerian level of development or problems with academic modules in the universities. Socio-legal researchers and academics in Nigeria seem not to be collaborating in research and teaching. Socio-legal researchers are separated by faculties. Many are hosted by the faculty of law and others are found in the faculty of social sciences. Most of the socio-legal related courses are duplicated across faculties in the Nigerian Universities. Most of the socio-legal modules which offered in the faculty of law are duplicated in the social sciences. For example, at the Obafemi Awolowo University and

5 Adekunle Ajasin University, Nigeria, socio-legal related courses like criminology, sociology of law and treatment of offenders are duplicated. The duplication of modules has implications for the understanding of the relationship between law and society. It limits the prospects of socio-legal studies in the country. The graduates of social sciences cannot offer a placement in the faculty of law for further studies and also, law graduates limit their further studies to the law faculty. The frosty relationship also reflects in the socio-legal research in the country. Most sociolegal researches lack the cross fertilisation of ideas. There are no common workshops, meetings, conferences and academic discursions among the socio-legal academics, researchers and professionals in Nigeria. The only socio-legal institute in Nigeria named Centre for Socio-Legal Studies was established in The aims and objectives of the centre state clearly the need for both legal academics and practitioners to work together. It also states that socio-legal studies proceeds on the premise that law cannot exist in isolation from other social phenomena. Consequently, it must be understood and applied in context. The centre seeks to mainstream the understanding and application of law with reference to its social, economic, cultural and political environment. According to the centre the challenge of underdevelopment and the myriad of social vices that bedevil the nation s attempts at development are traceable to the failure to create innovative responses or to adapt the perceived laws and procedures in a manner consistent with the needs, culture and experience. In other words, the disconnection between the laws and legal systems on the one hand and the socio-political challenges is largely responsible for the dilemmas that confront the Nigerian society. The above stated objectives are far from reality, the centre itself is dominated by lawyers and law academics. Disconnection between law and society is reflected in the legal processes in Nigeria. Although the socio-legal approach has made some inroads into legislation making in Nigeria but its impacts are more felt in trial proceedings than anywhere else. Legislations have not appeared to follow socio-legal approaches thereby leading to laws being ignored or outrightly contravened. It is important to state here that Nigerian society allows for permissiveness, in many cases, corruption has rendered laws ineffective. The failure is largely due to the unpreparedness and non consideration for socio-legal investigation coupled with lack of willingness to enforce law among criminal justice officers in Nigeria. Failure to consider socio-legal inputs in Evidence Act could be traced to the English law, part of which Nigeria inherited and formed the nation s legal processes. There is also a disconnection between the Nigerian scholars and the socio-legal associations in the West. Many socio-legal academics in Nigeria have no access to virtual library. Funds are not available to attend conferences, seminars and workshops like their counterparts in the West. The funding provided by the Tertiary Institution Trust Fund in Nigeria is not adequate. The distribution of the funds follow % in favour of science based disciplines. There has been no substantive socio-legal conference that will create awareness among the academics, legislatures and legal practitioners in Nigeria. The academics socio-legal researchers are not identified and recognized globally.

6 The importance of socio-legal studies cannot be over emphasised in Nigeria. There is a need for theoretical and empirical understanding of law based on what socio-legal studies can provide. The current trends in the socio-legal studies is that it needs to focus more on the materiality of everyday life and, in particular, the growing inequalities in the World and the role that law and legal institutions plays in the structuring of the society. The socio-legal scholars need to analyse the impact of law on people and take a stand against unfair and unjust distribution of resources whether at the local, national or international level. Socio-legal studies in a global village Globalization of knowledge has impacted socio-legal studies through the advent of technology. Legal issues in one region have become global issues with the help of internet, mobile phone as well as satellite. Socio-legal concerns have become globalized. The social investigations methods must also be globalized and spread across the continent. The future of socio-legal studies lies in the globalization because global issues have challenged the previous state attitude to law by confining itself to law and order enforcement, and striving to enforce stability by regulating the existing norms between the individual and the State. The global socio-legal perspectives have revealed an array of transnational issues including regional conflicts, genocide, mass immigration, environmental degradation and other cross border crimes that have consistently defied resolution via conventional legal processes. Conclusion As I mentioned above, the future of socio-legal studies lies in globalization and in the region of Africa. Socio-legal issues have become global issues. Socio-legal studies will remain relevant as long as there are global legal issues that remained unresolved. Therefore, there is a need for socio-legal researchers and academic to understand legal issues that are local and international in nature. Most of these issues are in Africa, particular in Nigeria. The law and Society Association must follow the globalization frenzy to further socio-legal studies. They need to carry other regional organizations along by creating virtual library for repository of socio-legal knowledge, access to journals and other academic information. African scholars need the support of Law and Society Association to train budding scholars so that they will be able to adapt socio-legal approaches to resolve several legal issues in the continents. Further Readings Ajomo, M.A. and L.E. Okagbue. Human Rights and the Administration of Justice. Lagos, Nigeria: Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Hillyard, P. (2002), Invoking Indignation: Reflections on Future Directions of Socio legal Studies. Journal of Law and Society, 29: doi: / Podgorekki, A. Law and Society. London: Routledge, 1974.

7 Sa ad, A.M, The Courts and Protection of Human Rights: An Assessment of Plateau and Kano States. Research Report submitted to the Social Science Council of Nigeria, Ibadan, Sa ad, A,M, Globalization, Sociological Research, and Public Policy in Nigeria: A Critical Analysis of the Relevance of Socio-Legal Research to the Developmental Needs of Nigeria.Availabe: accessed (29, December, 2013)

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