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The 8 Hierarchy of Courts in Nigeria Explained


Different type of courts exists in Nigeria. These courts are stratified i.e. they exist in layers of superiority and this comes with some implication.

You can’t appeal a case dealt with at the supreme court at the appeal court. However, it can be done the other way round. This is because the supreme court is at a high level of ranking.

Below are the 8 hierarchy of courts in Nigeria explained:

Supreme Court of Nigeria

The apex or number one court in Nigeria is the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Its jurisdiction is the highest and most important in the country. This means that no appeal can be heard regarding matters decided by the supreme court before any other Nigerian court.

It is currently located in Abuja and consists of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and 21 judges at all times.

Court of Appeal

After the supreme court is the court of appeal which has the original jurisdiction to determine and hear any question as to whether any person has been validly voted into the office of the President, Vice President, Governor or Deputy Governor.

It also appeal all other courts below it and any other tribunal. It is led by the President of the Court of Appeal, and comprises of 49 judges at all times. Unlike the Supreme Court, this one is located in different states.

The Federal High Court

The Federal High Court is the third in rank and is headed by the Chief Judge and contains the number of Judges allowed may be preassigned by an Act of the National Assembly.

However, it can be properly constituted if it contains at least one Judge of the Court. It has original jurisdiction in civil cases, and matters as set out under Section 251 (1) of the 1999 Constitution. It can be found in more than 15 states in the country.

State High Court

The Section 255 of the 1999 Constitution provides for the provision of a High Court in each of the states in Nigeria and the FCT. Each of these courts are headed by a chief judge.

While the number of judges is determined by the State House of Assembly and the National Assembly in the case of the High Court of the FCT.

It has the largest jurisdiction under the 1999 Constitution in civil and criminal cases and has the appellant jurisdiction over decisions of Customary Courts, Area Courts, Magistrate Courts, etc.

National Industrial Court

This court is headed by the President of the National Industrial Court divided into various judicial separations for administrative convenience which sits in some States in Nigeria.

It has all the powers of the High Court of a State and the appellate jurisdiction.

The Sharia Court of Appeal

The sharia court of appeal appellate jurisdiction in civil cases involving issues of the Islamic personal law.

It is headed by a Grand Kadi and contain a number of Kadis. One is located in Abuja and this kind of court can be found in states that claim them.

The Customary Court of Appeal

There’s a customary court in the FCT and then in states that claim them. These types of courts are headed by the President of the Customary Court of Appeal and contain Judges.

They exercise the supervisory and appellate jurisdiction in civil cases involving issues of the customary law.

The Magistrate Courts and District Courts

These courts are established by the law of the House of Assembly of a State. The magistrate courts functions as a court of summary judgment as grounds are defined in this court without briefs or pleadings filed by the parties.

In the Northern part of the country, they are known as District Courts while in the southern part of the country, they are known as Magistrate courts.

Below is a diagram of the hierarchy of courts in Nigeria




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