THE CONSTITUTIONAL JURISDICTION OF A COURT IN NIGERIA
Jurisdiction is a prerequisite to each action that requires for a judicial decision.
THE CONSTITUTIONAL JURISDICTION OF A COURT IN NIGERIA
The colonial legacy of the British colonial administration in Nigeria is largely reflected in the Nigerian legal system.
Without a doubt, this is the reason why Nigeria's legal system is based on the British legal system. However, there is a fundamental difference between Britain and Nigeria in terms of the political organisation of the state. Nigeria adopted a federal system of government, in contrast to Britain, where governmental powers are constitutionally shared between the central government and federating entities. While Britain adopted a unitary system of government, where powers are legitimately concentrated at the centre.
As a sovereign and independent African nation, Nigeria has a legal system that is "the totality of the laws or legal rules and the legal machinery that obtain within Nigeria."
The Queen in Parliament served as Nigeria's grundnorm during the colonial era. When Nigeria gained independence and the constitution was enacted as the country's foundational and fundamental legislation, this stance drastically changed. Due to historical factors, Nigeria's legal system is a component of the common law system.
As a result, the British Commonwealth has had a big impact on Nigeria's legal system. Therefore, a fundamental component of Nigeria's legal system is the common law of England, the theories of equity, and the legislation of broad application in effect in England as of January 1, 1900.
Furthermore, the Nigerian legal system is entirely composed of English statutes that have been incorporated into our laws through local legislation. Nigerian law also consists of domestic legislation, local case law, and customary law. The Supreme Court of Nigeria is at the pinnacle of the court system, and judicial precedent and court hierarchy are fundamental elements of our legal system. Nigerian courts operate under an adversarial system. The presiding judge in Nigeria is also a judge of the law and the facts.
As a direct result of the above, the major features of the Nigerian legal system are (a) duality because it incorporated principles from English law and the customs of the country's many ethnic nationalities; (b) external influence because of the colonial past and the presence of Islam in the country's northern region; and (c) diversity because there are so many different ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, each of which has its own customary law in addition to common law.
JURISDICTION OF NIGERIAN COURTS
Jurisdiction according to Black’s law dictionary, it is “a court’s power to decide a case or issue a decree”.
Jurisdiction is “a court’s power to decide a case or issue a decree”11.“Rules of Jurisdiction in a sense speak from a position outside the court system and prescribe the authority of the courts within the system. They are, to a large extent,constitutional rules. The provisions of the U.S. Constitution specify the outer limits of the subject-matter jurisdiction of the federal courts and authorize Congress within those limits, to establish by statute the organization and jurisdiction of the federal courts.”
The Federal Republic of Nigeria's Constitution serves as the legal framework for the jurisdiction of Nigerian courts. According to the Federal Republic of Nigeria's 1999 Constitution, all courts within the federation of Nigeria receive their jurisdiction or competence from the constitution. Like courts in other democratic countries, those in Nigeria are governed by statutes based on the constitution. Since their jurisdictions are established by statute, no court in Nigeria may exercise its authority without reference to the relevant enabling statute. Because jurisdiction cannot be presumed, it is impossible to have it in the absence of an enabling state. It is a pointless exercise for a court to start hearing a case when it lacks jurisdiction.
Because it is so essential, jurisdiction is a prerequisite to each action that requires for a judicial decision. The main contention in cases before the court—and one that typically has significant implications—is jurisdiction. In order to save time and before the merits of the case are studied and decided, the issue of jurisdiction should be resolved as soon as possible during a hearing before the court.
In Ports & Cargo Handling Services Company Ltd. v. Migfo Nigeria Ltd., a case recently resolved by the Supreme Court, dealt with the question of the preeminence of jurisdiction. In that instance, the Appellant appealed the Federal High Court's decision in favour of Migfo (the Respondent) to the Court of Appeal, where it was subsequently upheld. The Federal High Court was argued to have no jurisdiction to hear the case ab initio on the Appellant's subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court.
The ingredients which must be present before the courts can assume jurisdiction have been decided by thecourts.“A court is only competent when –
a. It is properly constituted with respect to the members and qualifications of its members;
b. The subject matter of the action is within its jurisdiction;
c. The action is initiated by due process of law; and,d. Any condition precedent for the exercise of its jurisdiction has been fulfilled.
The question as to whether a court has jurisdiction can be raised at any stage of the trial, even for the first time on appeal. If a court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine an issue before, any step taken in relation to the matter is a nullity and void. Lack of jurisdiction emphasizes the want of legal capacity and lack of competence in the court to hear and determine the subject matter before it. Lack of jurisdiction necessarily means that the court does not have the competence to exercise the judicial powers vested in the courts by s.6(6)(b) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a decision or judgment made while lacking jurisdiction is null and void
The Federal courts are -The Supreme Court, The Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court, the High Court of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, The Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the Customary Court of Appeal of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The State Courts are: The High Court of the State, the Sharia Court of Appeal, The Customary Court of Appeal. The Election Tribunals are: the National Assembly Election Tribunals, the Governorship and Legislative Houses Election Tribunals
Supreme Court of Nigeria:
The Supreme Court of Nigeria was established under Section 230(1) of the 1999 Constitution. It is Nigeria's highest court and last appeals court. It may be found in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The Supreme Court is presided over by the Chief Justice of the Federation, who serves as Nigeria's chief justice. The court is composed of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and as many justices, not to exceed twenty-one, as the National Assembly may specify.
Ordinarily, the court is duly constituted with at least five justices, unless it is exercising original jurisdiction, there is a dispute over how the constitution should be interpreted or applied, or there is a possibility that one of the fundamental rights provisions of the constitution has been violated. In this regard, the presence of seven Justices of the court constitutes a properly constituted court.
The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear and decide appeals from the Court of Appeal under its Appellate Jurisdiction. In other words, only decisions of the Court of Appeals may be appealed to this Court.
The Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal is the next level down from the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the Nigerian judicial hierarchy. All lower courts must follow the Court of Appeal's ruling. There is a court of appeals composed of the President of the Court of Appeal and other justices of the Court of Appeal not being less than forty nine.
By the Provisions of s.240 – 246, the court of appeal is empowered to hear and determine appeals from the decisions of the Federal High Court, the High Court of the Federation Capital Territory, Abuja, High Court of a state, Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Sharia Court of Appeal of a state, Customary Court of Appeal of a state and from decisions of a court-martial or other tribunals as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly to the exclusion of other courts of the federation.
It is pertinent to note at this junction that the National Industrial Court (NIC) is omitted from the Tier 3 courts whose decisions are generally appealable to the court of appeal. Prior to the decision of the Supreme Court in Skye Bank Plc v. Victor Anaemem Iwu, it was held that an aggrieved party who intends to appeal on issues before a National Industrial Court other than issues bordering on criminal appeals and appeals on questions of fundamental human rights had no constitutional right of appeal.
HIGH COURTS AND OTHER COURTS OF COORDINATE JURISDICTION:
The Federal High Court, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the Sharia Court of Appeal, the Customary Court of Appeal, the High Court of the State, the Sharia Court of Appeal, the Customary Court of Appeal, and the National Industrial Court are all higher courts in Nigeria's court system than the Court of Appeal.
The Federal High Court:
Every state in the Federation as well as the Federal Capital Territory has a Federal High Court. Each consists of a Chief Judge and as many additional judges the State House of Assembly (in the case of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory) or the National Assembly (in all other cases) may specify. The High Court of the various states have original jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters except matters in respect of which any court has been vested with exclusive jurisdiction, making them the court with the widest jurisdiction under the constitution. The court is duly constituted with one judge. Each High court is divided into judicial divisions for administrative convenience.
The Federal High Court is vested with an appellate jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from Decisions of Appeal Tribunals established pursuant to the provisions of the Companies Income Tax Act 2004 and the Personal Income Tax Act; Customs, Immigration and Prison Services Boards, Magistrate Courts in respect of civil or criminal causes transferred to such courts pursuant to the provisions of the Federal High Court Act; any other body established under any Federal statutes on matters over which the Federal High Court may exercise such jurisdiction.
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria:
The National Industrial Court was established by Section 254A of the 1999 Constitution. The President of the National Industrial Court is joined by the number of judges that may be specified by an Act of the National Assembly.
The NINC has the authority to hear and decide appeals from decisions made by the Registrar of Trade Unions, or from matters relating to or connected with those decisions, as well as appeals from decisions or recommendations made by any administrative body or commission of enquiry that are related to or arise out of employment, labour, trade unions, or industrial relations.  It also has the authority to consider requests for the enforcement of judgments rendered by administrative agencies, boards of inquiry, arbitral tribunals, or commissions that are related to, connected to, or originating from matters that fall under its purview.
The Sharia Court of Appeal:
For the Federal Capital Territory and any state that needs one, there is a Sharia Court of Appeal. In civil cases involving issues of Islamic personal law, this court has appellate and supervisory authority, and it is empowered to make decisions in conformity with the constitution. The National Assembly or State Houses of Assembly (where applicable) may specify other Khadis in addition to the Grand Khadi who preside over the court.
The Sharia Court of Appeal is primarily an appellate court with the authority to hear and rule on appeals concerning issues of Islamic personal law that result from rulings of the Upper Area Court and any Area Court grade I or II in any civil proceeding involving an Islamic personal law issue within its territorial jurisdiction.  It should be noted that even when the parties to the lawsuit are Muslims, the Court does not have authority over land matters.
The Customary Court of Appeal:
The Federal Capital Territory and any state that needs one each have their own customary Court of Appeal. In civil cases involving matters of customary law, this court has appellate and supervisory authority. It is composed of a president and whatever many judges the National Assembly or the State Houses of Assembly (as applicable) deems necessary.
High Court of a State:
The High Court of a State was formed by Section 270(1) of the 1999 Constitution. The High Court of a State is required under subsection (2)(a) and (b) to be composed of "a Chief Judge of the State and such number of Judges of the High Court as may be determined by a statute of the House of Assembly of the State."
NB: This article is not a legal advice, and under no circumstance should you take it as such. All information provided are for general purpose only. For information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
WRITTEN BY CHAMAN LAW FIRM TEAM
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