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The Nigerian Constitution provides the peremptory principles and legal rules which guide issues of procedure in the courts of Nigeria, especially, the superior courts of records. Those Constitutional provision define the ambit of jurisdiction, competency, locus standi and justiciability of a matter.
Portions of the Constitution which provide such key provisions for court proceedings include among others:
1. Section 1(2) and (3) of the Constitution which by inference asserts the Supremacy of Constitutionally prescribed rules of court over other rules of courts connected with Nigeria;
2. Section 6 of the Constitution which outlines the judicial powers of the Federation and how same may be competently exercised or invoked. It also provides a list of superior courts of records of the federation (federal and federating units);
3. Chapter II of the Constitution which outlines the fundamental objectives and directives principles of State Policy, components of which are deemed to be non-justiciable and the proper interplay of functions/duties imposed on government, citizens and mass media towards securing proper justice administration dynamics in Nigeria;
4. Chapter III of the Constitution which recognizes and defines citizenship – with its implications for matters over which a person may competently access the courts of Nigeria to seek relief or redress;
6. Chapter IV of the Constitution which outlines the fundamental rights of Nigeria and the duty of courts in ensuring their integrity and security. Specifically, Section 36 of the Constitution therein lays the peremptory framework for fair hearing, a cardinal pillar of justice administration (criminal/civil) in judicial, quasi-judicial and administrative proceedings;
7. Chapter V of the Constitution profiles the limited powers and functions of the legislature, the arm of government tasked with the making of laws which engagement by citizens and stakeholders of Nigeria alike define the bulk of the work of the judiciary. In addition, the legislature has the power to make legislations which affect such judicial matters like limitation of action, jurisdiction/competence of courts and locus of parties – while directly prescribing rules of court or empowering heads of courts to prescribe same.
7. Chapter VI of the Constitution deals with the executive arm of government under which falls the Police and the office of the Attorney-General and Ministries of Justice, authorities and platforms which play vital role in securing access to court rights of Nigerians as well as enforcing the orders and judgments of courts. In addition, the Chapter also establishes certain key bodies which operations are critical for the articulation and enforcement of rules of courts generally (National Judicial Council, NJC; Federal/State Civil Service Commission, and for a specific tribunal, the Code of Conduct Tribunal to give legal teeth to the functions Code of Conduct Bureau.
8. Chapter VII of the Constitution is devoted fully to the judicature (the framework for the exercise of Nigeria’s judicial powers). Specific and general rules affecting the competence/jurisdiction of each court recognised under the Constitution, the powers of court officers and conditions for access to court (of first instance or appellate level) are provided thereunder.
9. The Schedules to the Constitution also contain lodestars of rules that affect access rights and questions of jurisdiction in Nigerian courts:
i. Schedule I defines the boundaries of each state, a very important matter in a multi-pluralistic legal complex.
ii. Schedule II furnishes the legislative lists prescribing zones of legislative competence for the two main tiers of government in Nigeria: federal and state.
iii. Schedule III prescribes in fuller details the powers of bodies connected with the Judiciary (National Judicial Council and Federal/State Judicial Service Commissions) which functions, like the power to appoint or discipline a judge, have far-reaching implications for rules governing ongoing cases. Indeed, a promotion or elevation of a judge often do lead to the truncation of ongoing matters which may need to be started afresh or de novo.
iv. Schedule IV to the Constitution outlines the governmental powers of the Constitution and realms where such authorities only have locus to enforce a matter judicially.
v. Schedule V outlines the Code of Conduct for public officers and establishes the Code of Conduct Tribunal as a judicial platform for the enforcement of matters arising from alleged infraction of the Code.
vi. Schedule VI outlines the proper composition and thus competence of the Election Petition Tribunals recognised under the Constitution.
vii. Schedule VII outlines the mandatory oaths: of allegiance, of office (for elected and appointed members of the federal/state executive arm, elected members of the federal/state legislature and) and for judicial officers.
Together, these constitutional provisions provide the fountain out of which the more familiar rules of each court emerge. They also furnish their legality and legitimacy.