The 8 Hierarchy of Courts in Nigeria

The judiciary in Nigeria plays a pivotal role in upholding the rule of law and ensuring justice is served across various legal matters. The country’s court system is structured hierarchically, with different courts having specific jurisdictions and functions.

This article provides an in-depth exploration of Nigeria’s eight-tiered court hierarchy, outlining the roles and responsibilities of each level.

1. The Supreme Court

At the apex of Nigeria’s court hierarchy is the Supreme Court, which serves as the final appellate court for all civil and criminal cases. Its decisions are binding on all other courts in the country. The Supreme Court primarily hears appeals from the Court of Appeal and, in some cases, directly from the High Court. It also has jurisdiction over constitutional matters and disputes between states or between the federal and state governments.

2. The Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal is the next level in the hierarchy and acts as an appellate court for appeals from the High Court, Sharia Court of Appeal, and Customary Court of Appeal. It has divisions located in various states across Nigeria and is divided into panels that hear and determine appeals. The decisions of the Court of Appeal are final in most cases unless overturned by the Supreme Court.

3. The Federal High Court

The Federal High Court has exclusive jurisdiction over certain types of cases, including those involving federal laws, government agencies, and disputes between states or between the federal government and individuals. It also handles cases related to intellectual property, maritime law, and bankruptcy. The Federal High Court is divided into judicial divisions across the country.

4. State High Courts

Each state in Nigeria has its own High Court, which handles both criminal and civil cases within the state’s jurisdiction. State High Courts have broad jurisdiction, including matters not exclusively reserved for the Federal High Court. These courts are presided over by judges appointed by the state governor upon the recommendation of the National Judicial Council.

5. Sharia Courts of Appeal

In states where Sharia law applies, there are Sharia Courts of Appeal. These courts have jurisdiction over matters relating to Islamic law and hear appeals from Sharia Courts of First Instance. Sharia Courts of Appeal are established under state law and operate independently within their respective states.

6. Customary Courts of Appeal

Similarly, in states where customary law applies, there are Customary Courts of Appeal. These courts handle appeals from Customary Courts of First Instance on matters governed by customary law. Customary Courts of Appeal are also established under state law and play a vital role in resolving disputes in accordance with local customs and traditions.

7. Magistrates Courts

Magistrates Courts are the lower courts in the hierarchy and handle less serious criminal cases and civil matters within their territorial jurisdiction. They are presided over by magistrates who are legally qualified and can administer justice in accordance with statutory provisions.

8. District Courts

At the lowest level of the court system are District Courts, which are established by local government authorities. These courts handle minor criminal offenses, civil disputes, and other matters within their limited jurisdiction. District Courts play a critical role in providing accessible and efficient justice at the grassroots level.


Understanding Nigeria’s court hierarchy is essential for navigating the legal system and ensuring access to justice. Each level of the court system has its own specific jurisdiction and role in adjudicating disputes and upholding the rule of law. From the Supreme Court at the apex to the grassroots-level District Courts, Nigeria’s court system reflects the country’s commitment to justice, fairness, and the protection of legal rights for all its citizens.

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