Access to Justice and the Challenges of Inter-Courts Transfer of Cases in Nigeria: The Way Forward



This article interrogates the extent of access to justice in Nigeria on the premise that access to justice is indispensable to the attainment of a just and sustainable society. Drawing from international comparative sources, it posits that striking out of cases by courts in Nigeria on the basis of lack of jurisdiction makes mincemeat of the constitutional guarantee of right of access to justice. It examines the remedial efforts at curing this ill by the legislature through the grant of powers of inter-courts transfer of cases to superior courts in Nigeria. It investigates the negative impacts of the conflicting decisions of the nation’s superior courts on these powers. It finds that failure to take cognizance of the distinctions between the hierarchies of Decrees and the Nigerian 1979 and 1999 Constitutions during military interregna and during civilian regimes, coupled with failure to appreciate the divergence between the extant constitutional provisions and the provisions of the defunct 1979 Constitution relied upon in the erstwhile cases, are a part of the causes of this problem; and that, the absolute inherent powers conferred on the superior courts by section 6(6)(a) of the extant 1999 Constitution, completes the other part. It establishes that, the powers could only be validly conferred and exercised during military interregna, but not under the present democratic constitutional framework; and that, until section 6 of the 1999 Constitution is altered, courts in Nigeria cannot validly exercise these powers. The work relies on both primary and secondary sources. The primary sources are made up of the Federal High Court Act, the National Industrial Court Act, the 1979 and 1999 Constitutions, and municipal judicial decisions. The secondary sources consist of journal articles, foreign decisions and statutes, newspapers, books and the Internet. The research adopts an analytical approach within a socio-legal context.

Keywords: access to justice, inter-courts transfer, jurisdiction, inherent powers, and sustainable society.

DOI: 10.7176/JLPG/100-05

Publication date:August 31st 2020

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3240 ISSN (Online)2224-3259

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