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JURISDICTION OF NIGERIAN COURTS

Dictum

It is trite law that jurisdiction is the life wire of any case. The jurisdiction of a Court is the authority which the Court has to decide matters that are litigated before it. See RAHMAN BROTHERS LTD v. NPA (2019) LPELR-46415 (SC), NWANZE v. NRC (2022) LPELR 59631 (SC), BANK OF INDUSTRY LTD. v. OBEYA (2021) LPELR 56881 (SC). The jurisdiction of the Court in Nigeria is inherent and is bestowed upon it by Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as altered) (hereinafter referred to as 1999 CFRN). Under Section 6(6) of the 1999 CFRN, the judicial powers of the Court extends to all matters between government or authority and to any persons in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person.

— H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. UBA v Triedent Consulting Ltd. (SC.CV/405/2013, July 07, 2023)

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JURISDICTION IS A THRESHOLD MATTER

Jurisdiction is a threshold matter. Once raised all proceedings abate until it is resolved. Proceedings conducted without jurisdiction amount to a nullity. There is nothing as useless as conducting a trial flawlessly only to find out that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter. That explains why the issue of jurisdiction can be taken at any stage of the proceedings, at trial, on appeal and even in the Supreme Court for the first time.

– Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Olabomi v. Oyewinle (2013) – SC.345/2012

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NULLITY FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION

Without doubt, where a case is heard and judgment is delivered by a court without jurisdiction, the proceedings will be a nullity. – Iguh, JSC. Oshatoba v. Olujitan (2000)

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ISSUE ON JURISDICTION MUST BE RESOLVED BEFORE ANY OTHER THING

Once the question of jurisdiction is raised, it must be resolved before any further step is taken in the proceedings as the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the suit is fundamental to the competence of the Court, and has been described as the lifeblood of adjudication. See Statoil (Nig) Ltd v Inducon (Nig) Ltd (2021) 7 NWLR Part 1774 Page 1 at 47-48 Para H-F per M.D. Muhammad JSC; Central Bank of Nigeria v Rahamaniyya G.R. Ltd (2020) 8 NWLR Part 1726 Page 314 at 337 Para A-B per Okoro JSC.

— O. Adefope-Okojie, JCA. Kanu v FRN (2022) – CA/ABJ/CR/625/2022

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COURT HAS JURISDICTION TO DETERMINE IF IT HAS JURISDICTION

Before a court finally determines a case pending, it is seised with jurisdiction to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction, but once the court has declined jurisdiction it is functus officio – such a decision can only be referred to an appellate court.

— O.O. Adekeye, JCA. Omotunde v. Omotunde (2000) – CA/I/M.57/2000

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COURT EXERCISES JURISDICTION ONLY OVER THOSE WHO ARE WITHIN ITS TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION

Courts exercise jurisdiction over persons who are within its territorial jurisdiction: Nwabueze vs. Obi-Okoye (1988) 10-11 SCNJ 60 at 73; Onyema vs. Oputa (1987) 18 NSCC (Pt. 2) 900; Ndaeyo vs. Ogunnaya (1977) 1 SC 11. Since the respondent was fully aware that before the issuance of the writ the appellant’s abode or residence for the past one year was no longer at No.189, Off R.B. Dikko Road, Asokoro, Abuja within jurisdiction, substituted service of the processes should not have been ordered by the learned trial Judge.

— J.T. Tur, JCA. Abdulkardir Abacha v Kurastic [2014] – CA/A/406/2010

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WHEN CAN IT BE SAID THAT A COURT HAS JURISDICTION TO HEAR A CASE

It is now settled law that jurisdiction is the life blood of adjudication in that any decision by a Court that lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine a matter is a nullity no matter how well conducted see Madukolu vs Nkemdilim 1962 NSCC 374 at 379-380. When can it be said that a Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine a case? As stated earlier, the Supreme Court in the above cited case decided that for a Court to have the requisite jurisdiction to hear a matter: (a) the Court must be properly constituted as regard numbers and qualifications of members of the bench, and no member is disqualified for one reason or another; (b) the subject matter of the case is within the jurisdiction of the Court and there is no feature in the case that prevents the Court from exercising its jurisdiction; and (c) the case comes before the Court initiated by due process of the law, and upon fulfilment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction.

— Onnoghen, CJN. Nwachukwu v Nwachukwu (2018) – SC.601/2013

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