Home Constitutional Law II Customary Court of Appeal of a State-Jurisdiction of State Court in Respect of Federal Cases-Tenure of Office of Judicial Officers

Customary Court of Appeal of a State-Jurisdiction of State Court in Respect of Federal Cases-Tenure of Office of Judicial Officers

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The Constitution empowers any state that desires it to establish its own Customary Court of Appeal.

 Composition

A Customary Court of Appeal of a State shall be constituted by a President of the Customary Court of Appeal of the State and such number of Judges of the Customary Court of Appeal as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of the State.

The appointment of a person to the office of the President of a Customary Court of Appeal shall be made by the Governor of the State on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to the confirmation of such appointment by the House of Assembly of the State. In the case of a Judge of a Customary Court of Appeal, this shall be made by the Governor of the State acting on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.

Apart from other qualifications that may be prescribed by the National Assembly, a person shall not be qualified to hold office of a Judge of a President or of a Customary Court of Appeal of a State unless:

  1. he is a legal practitioner in Nigeria and he has been so qualified  for a period of not less than 10 years and in the opinion of the  National Judicial Council, he has considerable knowledge and experience in the practice of customary law; or
  2. in the opinion of the National Judicial Council, he has  considerable knowledge or experience in the practice of  Customary Law.

If the office of the President of the Customary Court of Appeal of a State is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, or until the person holding the office has assumed those functions, the Governor of the State shall appoint the most senior Judge of the Customary Court of Appeal of the State to perform those functions. Except on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council, such appointment shall cease to have effect after the expiration of 3 months from the date of such appointment, and the Governor shall not re-appoint a person whose appointment has lapsed.

 Jurisdiction

A Customary Court of Appeal of a State shall exercise appellate and supervisory jurisdiction in civil proceedings involving questions of customary law. In this regard, a Customary Court of Appeal of a State shall exercise such jurisdiction and decide such questions as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of the State for which it is established.

In carrying out its duties, a Customary Court of Appeal of a State shall be duly constituted if it now consists of at least three Judges of that Court (1999 Constitution, Section 283).

Jurisdiction of State Court in Respect of Federal Cases

By the combined effect of sections 6, 236 and 250 of 1979 Constitution, a State court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine federal cases and of appeals arising out of such cases. This idea is of great value as it is not necessary to have federal courts in respect of federal cases alone and state courts in respect of matters relating to the state courts alone. Sections 6, 236 and 250 of the 1979 Constitution are the same as Sections 6, 272 and 286 of the 1999 Constitution.

However, the Constitutions (Suspension and Modification) Decree 1993 otherwise called Decree No. 107 of 1993 has widened the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in respect of matters or issues relating to the Federal government and its agencies.

 Tenure of Office of Judicial Officers

Previously, a judicial officer may retire when he attains the age of 60 years, and cease to hold office when he attains the age of 65 years. This position has however been altered by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979 (Amendment) Decree No. 6 of 1997, and the 1999 Constitution Supreme Court Judge now retires at the age of 65 and ceases to hold office at the age of 70 years. The Judicial officers may retire at the age of 60 and shall cease to hold office when he attains the age of 65 years.

 Removal of Judicial Officers from Office

A judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except as stipulated by section 292 of the 1999 Constitution, formerly by Section 256 of the 1979 Constitution.

  1.  in the case of Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of Court of  Appeal, Chief Judge of Federal High Court, Chief Judge of High  Court of FCT, Grand Kadi, Sharia Court of Appeal (FCT), President Customary Court of Appeal (FCT) by the President  acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the  Senate;
  2.  in the case of Chief Judge of the High Court of a State, Grand  Kadi of a Sharia Court of Appeal of a State or President of a  Customary Court of Appeal of a State, by the Governor acting on  an address supported by two-third majority of the House of  Assembly of the State, praying that he be so removed for his  inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for  misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct;
  3.  in any other case, by the President or, as the case be, the  Governor acting on the recommendation of the National Judicial  Council that the judicial officer be so removed for his inability to  discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether  arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or  contravention of the Code of Conduct.

Any person who has held office as a judicial officer shall not, on ceasing to be a judicial officer for any reason whatsoever thereafter, appear or act as a legal practitioner before any court of law or tribunal in Nigeria.

 Determination of Cases and Matters

Upon conclusion of evidence and final addresses, the court shall deliver its decision in writing not later than ninety days after conclusion of evidence and final addresses are furnish all parties to the cause, or matter with duly authenticated copies of the decision within seven days of the delivery thereon. It is not unusual not to get a copy of the judgement on the day its delivery. This however does not vitiate the judgement.

 Establishment of Other Courts or Tribunals

It is not strange to establish tribunals or other courts for the purpose of taking care of specific problems, exigencies or particular affairs or certain affairs. Thus several tribunals are in existence for the purpose of determining particular issues. Such tribunals include Public Property Investigation of Assets Tribunal, Election Tribunals, Code of Conduct Tribunal, etc.
A notable feature of such tribunals is that the enabling law usually determines their composition and jurisdiction. As stated above, they do not operate as regular courts in respect of infiniteness of existence and duration of tenure of members of such tribunals. In certain cases, the decisions of such tribunals are subject to appeal to a higher court. In other cases, appeal is to the Governor or the President.

 Restrictions on Legal Proceedings

No civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against certain persons during that period of office. Such persons shall not be arrested or imprisoned during that period either in pursuance of the  process of any court or otherwise. No process of any court requiring or compelling the appearance of such persons shall be applied for or issued:

In ascertaining whether any period of limitation has expired for the purposes of any proceedings against a person to whom this privilege applies, no account shall be taken of the period of office. This restriction shall not apply to civil proceedings in his official capacity or to civil or criminal proceedings in which such a person is only a nominal party.

The persons to who these restriction on legal proceedings apply are persons holding the office of:

  1. President
  2. Vice-President
  3. Governor
  4.  Deputy Governor

In this context, “period of office” means ‘the period during which the person holding such office is required to perform the functions of the office’

 Appellate Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

Section 213 (e) of the 1979 Constitution has been expunged. It dealt with the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in relation to appeals from the Court of Appeal as regards to whether any person has been validly elected to any office under the Constitution or to the membership of any Legislative House or whether the term of office of any person has ceased or the seat of a person in a legislative house has become vacant. Section 246 (3) of the Constitution, 1999 has provided that ‘the decisions of the Court of Appeal in respect of appeals from election petitions shall be final’.

Appeals from Decisions of Presidential Election

Tribunals

Appeals from decisions of the Presidential Election Tribunal lie to the Supreme Court which shall hear and determine appeals from decisions on any question as to whether any person has been validly elected to the office of President or Vice-President, under this Constitution or as to whether the term of office of any person as President or Vice-President has ceased”. See Section 253 (2) (e) of the 1999 Constitution.

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