Types of courts in Nigeria and their functions explained

Types of courts in Nigeria and their functions explained

The Nigerian Judiciary is one of the three arms of the country's government. It adjudicates in disputes arising between individuals, governments and corporate entities in their inter-relationships with one another within or outside the country under the law. There are different types of courts in Nigeria, all part of the country's Judiciary. The courts exist in a hierarchical order, with those above being superior to the ones below. What are the names of courts in Nigeria, and what functions do they serve?

jurisdiction of courts in Nigeria
A gavel and symbol of justice. Photo: pixabay.com, @succ
Source: UGC

Like in other counties, the Nigerian judicial system is made up of a network of appellate and original jurisdiction courts and tribunals, all with varying jurisdictions. How many courts are there in Nigeria, and what are their jurisdictions?

Types of courts in Nigeria

Here is a look at the different courts in Nigeria and their functions.

Supreme Court

how many courts of appeal do we have in Nigeria
Books and a judge's gavel. Photo: pixabay.com, @succo
Source: UGC

This is the highest judicial body in the hierarchy of courts in Nigeria. The Supreme Court of Nigeria is provided for under Section 230 of the country's 1999 constitution. The court's jurisdiction is the highest in the country, and its decisions cannot be appealed.

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The supreme judicial body was established in 1963 when Nigeria became a republic. The Supreme Court is the only body that can hear appeals from the Court of Appeal. Additionally, the court has jurisdiction over all federal and state courts in Nigeria.

The Supreme Court is located in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. It is comprised of the country's Chief Justice and an additional 21 justice of the Supreme Court who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the senate.

Every serving member of this judicial body is given a mandatory retirement once they are 70 years of age. Here is a look at the Supreme Court's functions.

  • It settles any dispute arising between state vs federal government or state vs state.
  • It plays an advisory role to the executive arm of government.
  • It is the court of last resort in Nigeria. This means that the judicial body serves as the final court of appeal.
  • It is the body that interprets the constitution and laws of the land.
  • It functions primarily as an appellate court.
  • It's the guardian of the country's constitution.

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Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is the second-highest-ranking judicial body in Nigeria. 63 Courts of Appeal in Nigeria are spread across the six geopolitical zones (South, South East, South West, Northcentral, Northeast, and North West).

The court's primary jurisdiction is to hear and determine all disputes related to the vacancy of office, election, and terms office of the President, deputy president, governors, and deputy governors. However, it also serves other functions.

The Court of Appeal is provided for under Section 233 of the country's constitution. It is comprised of the President of the Court of Appeal and any number of justices not less than 49 and among which three must be conversant in Islamic law and three in customary law.

The judicial body does not determine original issues. Instead, it examines how matters have been handled by other trial courts to ensure that proper procedures were followed. The Court of Appeal is located in the Three Arms Zone in Abuja.

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Here is a look at this judicial body's other functions.

  • It is the intermediate appellate judicial body in the country's justice system.
  • It hears and determines appeals from the district courts.
  • It has the power to determine the results of presidential and gubernatorial elections as well as the office holders' terms in office.

Federal High Court

federal high courts in Nigeria
A printout of a copyright claim, usually handled by the Federal High Court. Photo: unsplash.com, @MarkusWinkler
Source: UGC

The Federal High Court is the third-ranking court in Nigeria. It is presided over by a Chief Judge and a number of judges as may be determined by the National Assembly. Federal High Courts can be found in more than 15 states in the country.

Created under Section 249 of the constitution, this body has original jurisdiction over civil cases related to the revenue of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Such cases include admiralty, copyright, banking, excise duties, customs, and taxation.

Here is a look at some other matters that these judicial bodies in Nigeria handle.

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  • Arms, ammunition and explosives
  • Aviation and safety of aircraft
  • Bankruptcy and insolvency
  • Drugs and poisons
  • Mines and minerals (including Oil fields, Oil mining, geological surveys and natural gas)
  • Weights and measures

State High Court

The State High Court is more like the Federal High Court but at a state level. It is provided for under Section 255 of the country's constitution. The provision allows for a State High Court in each of the 36 states in the country.

The State High Court is presided over by a Chief Judge and a number of judges determined by the National Assembly or State House of Assembly. The body has the widest jurisdiction of courts in Nigeria on matters of civil and criminal law.

Additionally, the State High Court has appellate jurisdiction over the decisions of Magistrate Courts, Area Courts, and Customary Courts.

Here are the main functions of this judicial body.

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  • It has the authority to hear and determine criminal and civil matters.
  • It is an appellate body for all subordinate courts.

National Industrial Court (NIC)

names of courts in Nigeria
An advocate of the court. Photo: pexels.com, @ekaterinabolovstova
Source: UGC

This one is provided for under Section 254A of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is ranked fifth in the list of courts in Nigeria. The National Industrial Court has exclusive jurisdiction over all industrial disputes listed below.

  • Factory Law
  • Trade Disputes Law
  • Trade Union Law
  • Labour practices
  • Workers' Compensation Law

Additionally, the judicial body also hears and determines appeals from industrial arbitration panels and other bodies that handle employment matters. The body was established in 1976 with the primary aim of settling disputes between trade unions and trade unions, trade unions and workers, workers and workers, and workers and employers.

The NIC has all powers of a State High Court as well as appellate jurisdiction. It is headquartered at 11, New Bussa Close, Area 3, Garki, with several branches in different states across the country.

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The Sharia Court of Appeal

This judicial body is provided for under Section 277 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It reviews cases involving the application of Sharia law, particularly in the northern areas of the country.

The Sharia Court of Appeal is among the constituent judicial bodies of the unified court system of North-East Nigeria. This is the region in which Sharia law is widely practised.

The judicial body is presided over by a Grand Kadi and other Kadis. Here is a look at its primary functions.

  • Reviewing cases relating to Sharia and Islamic personal law.
  • It interprets Islamic customary laws.
  • It handles Islamic litigation cases, especially those involving the poor.

Customary Court of Appeal

The Customary Court of Appeal is presided by the President of the Customary Court of Appeal and is constituted of any number of judges as may be determined by the National Assembly. The body is provided for under Section 265 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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This judicial body exercises appellate and supervisory jurisdiction over civil cases pertaining to customary law. It hears and determines appeals with questions arising from subordinate customary judicial bodies' interpretation or application of customary laws.

The Magistrate or District Courts

The magistrate court in Nigeria is the only one in the list not provided for under the 1999 Constitution. It is established by the House of Assembly and functions primarily as a judicial body of summary judgment. This means that all decisions in this particular judicial body are summarily determined.

Magistrate and District courts both refer to the same body only that the former term is widely used in Southern Nigeria while the latter is used in the northern parts of the country. This body is engaged in matters relating to civil law, with each region having slightly different rules.

Special courts in Nigeria

special courts in nigeria
A magistrate's gavel. Photo: pexels.com, @SoraShimazaki
Source: UGC

Besides the eight main courts listed above, there are special judicial bodies in the country known as tribunals. Generally, a tribunal is a special judicial body created to settle disputes arising from a specific area of the law. Here is a look at the current tribunals in Nigeria.

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Code of Conduct Tribunal

This tribunal was established under Chapter C15 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act. It consists of the Tribunal's Chairperson, vice chair, and other members as may be appointed by the President upon recommendation by the National Judicial Council.

The tribunal has powers to try those holding public offices in case they breach the provisions outlined by the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. Additionally, the body can impose any of the punishments outlined below.

  • Vacating a public officer from office or legislative house.
  • Disqualifying a member from holding any public office for a period not exceeding ten years.
  • Seizing any property acquired as a result of corruption or abuse of power and forfeiting the same to the state.

Appeals from the Code of Conduct Tribunal can be heard and determined by the country's Court of Appeal. Additionally, the decision of this tribunal does not shield the accused from having criminal charges preferred against them.

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Election Tribunal

The election tribunal is a national electoral judicial body and is usually constituted by members of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. It is divided into several sub-tribunals.

  • National Assembly Election Tribunal: This one hears and determines petitions involving the election of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • Presidential Election Tribunal: This one was created to determine election petitions arising from any presidential election. According to the country's constitution, the tribunal can only consist of Court of Appeal justices.
  • Governor and Legislative Electoral Tribunal: This one hears and determines petitions involving the election of governors and state legislators.

How many Courts of Appeal do we have in Nigeria?

There are 72 Courts of Appeals in Nigeria, spread across the 36 states in all six geopolitical zones.

The different types of courts in Nigeria serve various functions and are bestowed with different original, appellate and supervisory jurisdictions. Like in most other countries, these judicial bodies make up the Judiciary, the body responsible for settling disputes in accordance with the country's laws.

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READ ALSO: What are the 10 economic problems that Nigeria is facing?

Legit.ng recently explored the main economic problems plaguing Nigeria. Like other middle-income countries with emerging markets, the country has witnessed gradual expansion in communication, technology, finance, manufacturing, and service sectors.

However, problems such as poor health facilities, high levels of crime, unemployment, and corruption continue to be pressing issues in the country's economy.

Source: Legit Nigeria

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