The Customary Court of Appeal, which is a Court of Co-ordinate Jurisdiction with State High Court and Federal High Court is one of the Courts Provided for by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 (As Amended).
Section 280 of the 1999 Constitution provides that any of Nigeria’s thirty-six states can establish a Customary Court of Appeal if it so wishes except for Nigeria’s Federal Capital where the establishment of a Customary Court of Appeal is mandatory.
The establishment is left to the discretion of a State that desires the same due to the complex nature of Nigeria’s Religious Demography, being that the dominant Christian Population has the Customary Courts of Appeal, while the dominant Muslim Population has the Sharia Courts of Appeal.
Exploring the Mischief Rule of the Cannons of Interpretation, the framers of the Constitution never envisaged a scenario where a State of the Federation would have neither have a Customary Court of Appeal nor a Sharia Court of Appeal.
The scrapping of the Customary Court of Appeal by the Edo State House of Assembly with the Imprimatur of the then Governor is therefore unconstitutional and we call for the immediate reinstatement of the Customary Court of Appeal of Edo State due to the special nature of the Court, which has a far-reaching effect in the development of the Cultural Jurisprudence of Edo State and beyond, which has for many years been the envy of many States of the Federation. Edo State currently has a dearth of Customary Jurisprudence, as Appeals from the Customary Courts are no longer desirable, as it has lost its verve and flavour, owing to the scrapping of the Customary Court of Appeal of Edo State, coupled with the lack of a Specialized Appellate Court that has exclusive jurisdiction over such Maters.
Edo State had the first Customary Court of Appeal in Nigeria under the leadership and direction of Justice Andrews Otutu-Obaseki, later JSC (as he then was ), which Court was very vibrant and was even a source of guidance on cultural Jurisprudence in Matters emanating from Edo State and other States, up on to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
The Court came under the superintendent of the Hon. Justice J A. Aliyu, for which the Court was expanded and given a prime of place in the scheme of things in Nigeria. Hon Justice Otabor Olubor Expanded the frontiers of the Court and put in place a good administrative framework that made the Court to thrive.
Hon Justice P.I. Isibor took over the reins of Office, building capacity and standing on the path of truth and justice in the Protracted JUSUN Strikes led by the irrepressible Uyi Ogieriakhi, the Edo State JUSUN Chairman, which Court and Judge became a subject of high powered political machinations, culminating in the scrapping of the Court by a House of Assembly that even shamelessly voted against its Financial Autonomy in the Constitutional Amendment Mellieu in Nigeria. Justice Isibor was also unjustly denied his entitlements, after My Lord’s retirement until recently, the same way Hon. Justice E.F. Ikponmwen the immediate past Chief Judge of Edo State has also been unjustly denied her entitlements for Standing on the path of truth and justice as a Judge and the Chief Juge of Edo.
We call on the Edo State Government to pay My Lord’s entitlements. The State Government has no right to withhold My Lord’s entitlements, in fact by Section 121 (3) of the Constitution, the Edo State Judiciary like other s is financially autonomous and the Government should take its hands off the funds of the Judiciary.
HE Governor Godwin Obaseki, the Governor of Edo State of Nigeria himself stated in November 2019, when the Hon. Justice E.F. Ikpomwen FCJEI paid a farewell visit on him thus:
Budgeting is Governance, the person who controls the budget, controls the governance
You can not be controlling the budget of the Judiciary against the express tenets of the Constitution and you expect the ordinary man to have confidence in the Judiciary, especially where you yourself have cases in the same Courts. This is even common sense. This is a discussion for another day.
It is time for the reinstatement of the Customary Court of Appeal in Edo State as the Court is a model in Nigeria and Edo State has a rich cultural heritage and a profound Customary Jurisprudence that can be found in many Locus Classicus and Binding Staris Decisis like Ogiamen v. Ogiamen, Arigbe Osula v.Arigbe Osula, Agidigbi v Agidigbi, Osahon v.Osahon, Edebiri v. Edebiri, et al.
Edo State is not just the heartbeat of Nigeria, it is also the heartbeat of Customary Jurisprudence in Nigeria, with a rich repertoire of Customary Arbitration and other Best Alternatives to Negotiated Agreements/Alternative Dispute Modules, which is unrivalled anywhere in Nigeria.
We must bring back our Customary Court. It is the way to go!
About the Author.
Douglas Ogbankwa Esq is the Convener of the Vanguard for the Independence of the Judiciary and a Law Pavillion Brand Ambassador.
ALEDEH News is not liable for opinions expressed in this article, they’re strictly the writer’s