Nigerian Judicial Branch
The judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Court of Appeals, the High Courts, and other trial courts such as the Magistrates’, Customary, Sharia and other specialised courts. The National Judicial Council serves as an independent executive body, insulating the judiciary from the executive arm of government. The Supreme Court is presided over by the Chief Justice of Nigeria and thirteen associate justices, who are appointed by the President of Nigeria on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council. These justices are subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Supreme Court of Nigeria
The Supreme Court of Nigeria (SCN), is the highest court in Nigeria, and is located in the Central District, Abuja, in what is known as the Three Arms Zone, so called due to the proximity of the offices of the Presidential Complex, the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court.
Overview of the Supreme Court
In 1963, the Federal Republic of Nigeria was proclaimed and Nnamdi Azikiwe became its first President. Appeals from the Federal Supreme Court to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council were abolished at that point, and the Supreme Court became the highest court in Nigeria.
In 1976, the Court of Appeal (originally known as the Federal Court of Appeal) was established as a national court to entertain appeals from the High Courts of each of Nigeria’s 36 states, which are the trial courts of general jurisdiction. The Supreme Court in its current form was shaped by the Supreme Court Act of 1990 and by Chapter VII of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
Under the 1999 constitution, the Supreme Court has both original and appellate jurisdictions, has the sole authority and jurisdiction to entertain appeals from Court of Appeal, having appellate jurisdiction over all lower federal courts and highest state courts. Decisions rendered by the court are binding on all courts in Nigeria except the Supreme Court itself.
Structure and Organization
The Supreme Court is composed of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and such number of justices not more than 21, appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council, (NJC) and subject to confirmation by the Senate. Justices of the Supreme Court must be qualified to practice law in Nigeria, and must have been so qualified for a period not less than fifteen years. Justices of the Supreme Court of Nigeria have a mandatory retirement age of 70 years.
Chief Justice of Nigeria
The Chief Justice of Nigeria or CJN is the head of the judicial arm of the government of Nigeria, and presides over the country’s Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council. The Supreme Court of Nigeria is the highest court in Nigeria and its decisions are final. The Chief Justice of Nigeria is nominated by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria upon recommendation by the National Judicial Council and is subject to confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The CJN holds office at the pleasure of the Nigerian constitution and can only be removed from office by death or on attainment of age 70 whichever occurs first or by impeachment by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which requires a super majority of the members of the Nigerian Senate.
National Judicial Council
The National Judicial Council (NJC), is an executive body established by the Federal Government of Nigeria in accordance with the provisions of Section 153 of the 1999 Constitution as amended to protect the Judiciary of Nigeria from the whims and caprices of the Executive.
The NJC perform several judicial functions such as advising the President of Nigeria and Governors on issues related to the judiciary. They also perform disciplinary functions as well as appointment and nomination of executive members of the Judicial.