The judiciary in every democratic State is the body saddled with the constitutional function of justice administration. It is therefore important that the judiciary has its powers separated from the legislature and the executive. The idea of judicial independence is protected by various sections of the Nigerian Constitution. The judicial powers under the 1999 Constitution are not separated. Unlike the case of the executive and legislature, the judicial powers are interwoven in terms of the exercise of those powers. Both Federal and State judicial powers operate on the same hierarchical structure to the extent that a case that was handled by State courts can reach Federal courts when appealed against; there are therefore inter-relations between the State and Federal judicial powers. (JUDICIAL POWERS)




Sections 6(1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution vests the judicial powers of the Federation and a State in the courts established for the Federation and States respectively. These courts include:

  • the Supreme Court of Nigeria;
  • the Court of Appeal;
  • the Federal High Court;
  • the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
  • a High Court of a State;
  • the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
  • a Sharia Court of the appeal of a State;
  • the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
  • a Customary Court of Appeal of a State;
  • such other courts as may be authorized by law to exercise jurisdiction on matters with respect to which, the National Assembly may make laws; and
  • such other courts as may be authorized by law to exercise jurisdiction at first instance or on appeal on matters with respect to which a House of Assembly may make laws.[1]

The Constitution grants the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly the powers to establish courts other than those to which section 6 relates, with subordinate jurisdiction to that of a High Court. The National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly also have the power to abolish any court which any of them has brought into being[2]. In Abraham Adesanya V. President Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor[3]. Idigbe JSC (as he then was) described judicial power as “the power of the Court to decide and pronounce a judgment and carry it into effect between persons and parties who bring a case before it for decision”. The judiciary shall, therefore, exercise its judicial powers only to the extent provided for in section 6(6) of the Constitution. (JUDICIAL POWERS)

The judiciary as the third arm of government exercises its powers of adjudication and interpretation of the constitution and laws made by the legislature through the courts. Therefore, the judiciary and courts may be used interchangeably as they imply the same thing. Visible overlaps are found in the judiciary as it is granted legislative powers in the 1999 Constitution. The judiciary may, under powers delegated to it by the legislature, through the Chief Justice of Nigeria make rules with respect to the practice and procedure of a High Court for the enforcement of fundamental rights[4], a function that is legislative in nature. Closely knit with this are the provisions of sections 236, 248, 259, 264, 269, 274, 279 and 284 of the constitution which grants the power to make rules for regulating the practice and procedure on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the High Court of a State, Grand Kadi, and the President of the Customary Court of Appeal of the respective Courts. (JUDICIAL POWERS)


Flowing from the above, it can be said that the 1999 Constitution splits the governance of the power into what is described as the horizontal and vertical separation of powers.

[1] Section 6(5) 1999 CFRN

[2] Sections 6(4) (a) and (b) 1999 CFRN

[3] Supra

[4] Section 46(1) 1999 CFRN

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply