The Hierarchy System of Courts in Nigeria

Nuelson Penuel Saturday, August 12, 2023 Basis

The Nigerian judicial system is composed of a hierarchy of courts that deal with different levels of legal matters and disputes. It consists of multiple tiers, each with different jurisdictions and powers. Here is a detailed explanation of the hierarchy system of courts in Nigeria:

1. Supreme Court of Nigeria:

The Supreme Court of Nigeria is the highest court in the country and the final appellate court for all civil and criminal matters. It has the power to interpret the constitution and make decisions on matters of national importance. The Supreme Court is composed of a Chief Justice of Nigeria and a maximum of 21 justices. It has both original and appellate jurisdiction.

2. Court of Appeal:

The Court of Appeal is the second-highest court in Nigeria. It hears appeals from the decisions of the High Courts, Sharia Courts of Appeal, and Customary Courts of Appeal. The Court of Appeal is divided into different divisions located in different regions of Nigeria. It has the power to review decisions of lower courts and can also hear appeals on matters of constitutional significance.

3. Federal High Court:

The Federal High Court deals with matters that fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. It handles cases related to constitutional law, federal legislation, and disputes involving federal agencies and institutions. The Federal High Court also has jurisdiction over cases concerning intellectual property, admiralty law, and revenue disputes. It is headed by a Chief Judge and has divisions in various states across the country.

4. State High Courts:

Each state in Nigeria has its High Court, which has jurisdiction over cases within the state. State High Courts have powers to entertain both criminal and civil cases. They handle a wide range of matters, including land disputes, contracts, family law, and criminal offenses. The Chief Judge of each state oversees the operations of the State High Court.

5. Sharia Courts of Appeal:

For states that have adopted Sharia law, there are Sharia Courts of Appeal that handle cases related to Islamic law. These courts have jurisdiction over issues such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance according to Islamic principles. They operate alongside the State High Courts and have their hierarchy of appellate courts.

6. Customary Courts of Appeal:

Customary Courts of Appeal handle cases that are based on traditional laws and customs. These courts are established at the state level and have jurisdiction over matters related to customary law, inheritance, and family disputes among indigenous communities. Similar to the Sharia Courts of Appeal, the Customary Courts of Appeal have their hierarchy of appellate courts.

7. Magistrate Courts:

Magistrate Courts are the lowest level of courts in Nigeria. They handle minor civil and criminal cases, such as petty theft, minor assaults, and traffic offenses. Magistrate Courts also have jurisdiction over certain family matters and juvenile cases. They are presided over by magistrates appointed by the Chief Judge of the state.


It is important to note that Nigeria operates a federal system, and the judicial hierarchy may slightly differ across states. However, these courts collectively provide a comprehensive framework for the resolution of legal disputes at different levels in Nigeria.

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