27 J.L. Pol'y & Globalization 1 (2014)

handle is hein.journals/jawpglob27 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Journal of Law, Policy and Globalization                                                    wwwiisteorg
ISSN 2224-3240 (Paper) ISSN 2224-3259 (Online)
Vol.27, 2014                                                                                      IISTE

    A Critical Study of the Exercise of Jurisdiction of Customary

                        Courts in the Nigeria Legal System

                                    CHIGOZIE NWAGBARA, LL.M
                                           STATE, NIGERIA
                                     Email: hichibaby@yahoocor,
This paper discusses strictly the concept of jurisdiction, and its incidents. It educates us on the nature, meaning
and importance of the jurisdiction of courts generally, with special reference to the customary courts in Nigeria.
Many States in Nigeria operate the customary court system, and some even have Customary Courts of Appeal
which entertains appeals from the customary courts in their respective States. This paper examined the indices of
a court's competence by using the customary court as a practical example. This no doubt, is very interesting and
helps us understand deeply what the concept of jurisdiction is all about, for a court that has no jurisdiction lacks
competence to hear a Suit or Matter. Territorial and substantive jurisdiction , jurisdiction and judicial powers
were clearly defined and distinguished. The roles of the Customary Courts of Appeal (as a Court of Superior
Record under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria) were clearly spelt out. Customary Courts
of Lagos, Kaduna and Enugu States had their jurisdiction and Matters that can be brought under them practically
illustrated as examples in this paper, and suggestions as regards the judicial powers and jurisdiction of the
customary courts were made in this paper to help improve the customary courts system in Nigeria.
Keywords : Jurisdiction, competence, customary courts, customary Court of Appeal of a State, members,
president of customary court, Lagos, Enugu, Kaduna, Land Use Act, judicial powers, unlimited, Causes, Matters.

Jurisdiction may be defined as the power of a court of law to adjudicate on a Cause or Matter brought before it.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Law', it is the power of a court to hear and decide a case or make a
certain Order. Anyafulude2 says that jurisdiction is the threshold of any action in court, and therefore must be
looked at and decided first. This is because any proceedings of a court in the absence of jurisdiction is futile, and
the whole proceedings rendered a nullity, however well the said proceedings must have been conducted. See
Ayman Enterprises Ltd v. Akuma Industries Ltd (2003) 13 NWLR PT 836 @ p.22; Amoo v. Alabi (2003) 12
NWLR PT 835 @ P.537.
In Salau v. Aderibigbe3 , A sued B in a Customary Court for damages for wrongful seizure and detention of a
Motor vehicle under a hire purchase agreement. The issue before the High Court of Western Nigeria was
whether the trial customary court had jurisdiction to entertain a claim of hire purchase under S. 19 of the
Customary Courts of Law of Western Nigeria. The Court held that-
   1.   As customary courts are inferior courts created by statute, they have only such jurisdiction that is
        conferred upon them by that statute;
   2.   Evidence that customary law was applicable to the claim was unnecessary to give the Court jurisdiction.
        The law establishing a Court provides for its jurisdiction and every court must strictly confine itself to
        the jurisdiction as provided by the law creating it.
In Enugu State, s. 12 of the Customary Courts Law 2004 provides for the jurisdiction of customary courts by
stating that -
        (1) A customary court shall have and exercise jurisdiction over all persons and classes of persons
            within the territorial limits of its jurisdiction;
        (2) A customary court shall have and exercise jurisdiction over Causes or Matters set out in column I
            of the second schedule to this Law to the extent or limits set out in column 2 thereof.
            In Lagos State, the jurisdiction of customary courts is provided in sections 22 and 23 of the
            Customary Courts Law 2011 as follows:
1Oxford University Press (6th Edition), 2006
2 Principles of Practice and Procedure of Customary Courts in Nigeria through the Cases (Mercele Press Nigeria, Enugu),
2012 @ p. 60
3 (1963) WNLR 80

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