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Hierarchy of Courts In Nigeria

Hierarchy of Courts In Nigeria: It is quite clear that Nigeria’s legal system is incapable of supporting a single court system. As a result, the federation’s courts are organized hierarchically. The court hierarchy in Nigeria is critical because it establishes the types of cases that can be presented before any court. Consider that cases involving property or women’s inheritance rights cannot be brought before the supreme court in their original jurisdiction because those types of cases fall under the original jurisdiction of customary courts. As we proceed, I shall thoroughly describe the Nigerian judicial hierarchy.

To begin, it is self-evident that the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s judicial powers are vested in the courts, as provided for in section 6 subsection 1 and 2 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution. These are superior record courts. While some are courts of coordinating jurisdictions on a horizontal scale, they can also be ordered vertically to indicate which courts make more decisions.

As a result, a higher court can hear an appeal from a lower court and can also reverse the lower court’s errors. This article compares and contrasts the several courts of record in Nigeria, with the Supreme Court serving as the court of last resort and highest court in the country.

Nigerian judicial hierarchy

Section 6 of the Federation Republic of Nigeria’s constitution, subsection 5, named the Nigerian courts in a hierarchical sequence. They include the following:

  • Nigeria’s Supreme Court
  • Court of Appeal
  • National industrial Court
  • Federal high Court, Federal Capital Territory High Court, and State High Court.
  • Sharia Court of Appeal in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja and Sharia Court of Appeal in a State
  • Customary Court of Appeal in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja and Customary Court of Appeal in a State

District Courts and Magistrate Courts (Not covered in the preceding section)

That concludes the hierarchy of Nigerian courts. As we proceed, we shall discuss the above-mentioned courts in their hierarchical order. I implore you to continue reading because you will not regret it.

1. Supreme Court of Nigeria

Nigeria has a single Supreme Court, which is located in Abuja, the federal capital territory. According to Section 230, subsection 2 paragraphs (a) and (b) of the constitution, it is headed by a chief justice of Nigeria, who is nominated by the president on the advice of the National judicial council and subject to senate confirmation. ((See the constitution’s section 231 subsection 1)))

The Supreme Court has a total of twenty-one (21) justices, plus such more justices as the national assembly may mandate. It should be remembered that the Supreme Court’s decisions are conclusive; they stand and cannot be appealed, even if they are erroneous. The Supreme Court expressly stated in Jev. Iyortom that pursuant to Order 8 rule 16 and Section 235 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Supreme Court cannot hear an appeal against its own judgment.

The provision imbues any Supreme Court ruling with nality. As a result, Ihedioha’s efforts to persuade the Supreme Court to review its own rulings failed on this issue. The Supreme Court’s sole rational course of action is to reverse itself in another case.

2. Court of Appeal

In Nigeria, there are numerous appellate courts. The critical point is that the court of appeal’s decision is binding on a court of appeal in another state. It is presided over by the president of the court of appeal, who is nominated by the Nigerian president on the suggestion of the national judicial council and subject to Senate confirmation. ((For a general discussion, see Sections 237 and 238 of the Constitution))

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The appellate court has precedence over the federal high court, election tribunals, several state high courts, and the national industrial court. This means that it has the authority to overrule their decisions if they are erroneous. However, the appellate court is subservient to the Supreme Court.

This indicates that the Supreme Court’s judgements are conclusive. The court of appeal has original jurisdiction over presidential, vice presidential, governor, and deputy governor elections, as well as appeals from the national industrial court. At the moment, it consists of forty-nine (49) judges.

3. Nigeria’s National Industrial Court

The president of the national industrial court is appointed by the president on the suggestion of the national judicial council, subject to confirmation by the senate, pursuant to the third Amendment Act to the 1999 Constitution.

It’s worth noting that the national industrial court has appellate as well as original jurisdiction. It once had jurisdiction over issues connected to employment, labor, commerce, wages, salaries, and industrial relations.

Appeals from national industrial courts are heard directly by the court of appeal, and the president of the court of appeal must be a trained legal practitioner with at least ten years of expertise in labor, employment, and industrial relations.

4. Federal high Court, various states high courts and high Court of the federal capital territory

Courts of Co-ordinate Jurisdictions include the federal supreme court, state supreme courts, and the supreme court of the federal capital area. This indicates that neither party’s choice is binding on the other. The federal high court has limited jurisdiction over cases that are specifically federal in nature, as defined in part one of the second schedule to the constitution and section 251 subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution.

The federal high Court is presided over by a chief judge nominated by the president on the suggestion of the NJC and subject to senate confirmation. The various state high courts have extremely broad jurisdiction, probably the broadest jurisdiction in both criminal and civil proceedings. It predates magistrate, customary, and Area courts.

It is headed by a chief judge of a state’s supreme court who is nominated by the governor on the proposal of the state judicial commission and subject to ratification by the state house of assembly.

5. Sharia Court of Appeal 

The Sharia Court of Appeal is another significant court in Nigeria’s judicial hierarchy. It is enshrined in Section 260 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution. However, Section 275 of the same constitution empowered any state in Nigeria to create its own Sharia Court of Appeal on a discretionary basis. The section includes the following:

“There shall be a Sharia Court of Appeal for any State that so requires. (b) such Kadi member of the Sharia Court of Appeal as the State’s House of Assembly may stipulate.”

According to the constitution, the Sharia Court of Appeal is to be headed by the Grandi Kadi, which is to be mandated by the state’s House of Assembly.

It’s worth noting that the Sharia Court of Appeal has supervisory and appellate authority over civil issues involving Islamic personal law. This court may hear appeals just in this instance.

6. The Federal Capital Territory’s Customary Court of Appeal in Abuja and a state’s Customary Court of Appeal

States and the Federal Capital Territory each have an usual court of appeal. It is often presided over by the president of the customary Court of Appeal, and its primary purpose is to act as a supervisory body and to handle appeals involving customary law.

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For instance, in cases involving property ownership or women’s inheritance rights, such as the case of Mojekwu v Mojekwu, the Customary courts have jurisdiction.

To have a better understanding of the jurisdiction and establishment of customary courts, consult Section 265 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This section of the constitution goes into detail on customary courts.

7. District and Magistrate Courts

Apparently, the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not include provisions for Magistrate and District Courts. These courts are the final in the Nigerian judicial system and are constituted by the State House of Assembly. Generally, Magistrate and District Courts serve as summary judgment courts. These tribunals are referred to as magistrate courts in the southern region of Nigeria. Whereas in the North, they are referred to as district courts.

Because Magistrate Courts and District Courts are constituted by the state’s House of Assembly, the court’s jurisdiction is typically defined in the court’s regulations.

To summarize

I have explained the hierarchy of in Nigeria. As stated at the outset of this article, the courts mentioned above have original and appellate authority over specific cases. Thus, an issue that is due to be decided by the Supreme Court pursuant to Section 231 of the Nigerian constitution cannot be transferred to the court of appeal’s original jurisdiction.

As a lawyer or law student in Nigeria, this is the most critical concept to grasp because it forms the bedrock of legal practice in the country.

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