Nigeria operates a federal political structure under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The Federation consists of 36 (thirty six) States and a Federal Capital Territory. This constitution vests the legislative, executive and judicial powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the National Assembly, the Executive and the courts established there under respectively. The powers of the States are vested in similar organs, except that the legislative organ of the States is known as the House of Assembly.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation. He is the head of the Federal Ministry of Justice and institutes, undertakes, takes over, continues or discontinues criminal proceedings before courts of law in Nigeria in respect of offences created under any Act of the National Assembly. Likewise, the Attorneys General of the States have similar powers in respect of Laws enacted by the Houses of Assembly of the States.
The development of the Nigerian legal system has been greatly influenced by its colonial past as a part of the British Commonwealth . The common law of England , the doctrines of equity as well as statutes of general application in force in England as at 1 st January 1900 form an integral part of our laws in addition to certain English statutes that have been received into our laws by local legislation. Other sources of Nigerian law include local legislation (State and Federal), Nigerian case law as well as customary law. The principles of judicial precedent and hierarchy of courts is also a fundamental part of our legal system with the Supreme Court of Nigeria at the apex of the court system.
Nigeria operates the adversarial system of court proceedings similar to what obtains in other common law countries. However, the jury system is not used in the system of administration of justice, as the presiding judge is both a judge of the law and fact.
The 1999 Constitution makes provisions for the establishment and constitution of the following courts:
The Supreme Court of Nigeria
This is the apex court in the hierarchy of courts in Nigeria and is situated in the Federal Capital Territory , Abuja . The Chief Justice of the Federation heads the Judiciary of Nigeria and presides over the Court. The court has limited but exclusive original jurisdiction in any dispute between the Federation and a State or between States if and in so far as that dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence of a legal right depends. Its appellate jurisdiction is to determine appeals from the Court of Appeal and this is also to the exclusion of any other court. The court consists of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and such number of Justices not exceeding twenty one as may be prescribed by the National Assembly. Ordinarily, the Court is duly constituted if it consists of not less than five Justices of the Court, except where it is exercising its original jurisdiction or a matter involves a question as to the interpretation or application of the constitution or whether any provision relating to the Fundamental Rights provisions of the Constitution has been, is being or is likely to be contravened. In this regard, the Court is duly constituted if it consists of seven Justices of the Court.
The decision of the Supreme Court on any matter is final and is not subject to an appeal to any other body or person. This is however without prejudice to the power of the President or Governor of a State’s exercise of Prerogative of Mercy in appropriate cases. The decisions of the Court are binding on all other courts in Nigeria.
The Court of Appeal
This is next in the hierarchy of courts in Nigeria and its decisions are binding on all other lower courts. It is composed of the President of the Court of Appeal and other Justices of the Court of Appeal not being less than forty-nine. The court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over questions as to whether a person has been validly elected to the Office of President or Vice President of the Federation or whether the term of office of such person has ceased or whether the office has become vacant. It also has appellate jurisdiction to hear appeals from decisions of the High Courts of the States and the Federal Capital Territory, Federal High Court, the Sharia Courts of Appeal of the States or of the Federal Capital Territory, Customary Courts of Appeal of the States or of the Federal Capital Territory as well as from decisions of a court martial or other tribunals as specified by an Act of the National Assembly. The court is duly constituted by not less than three Justices for the purpose of exercising any of its stated jurisdiction. For administrative convenience, the court is divided into Judicial Divisions which sit in various parts of the country namely, Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Kaduna, Ibadan, Benin, Jos, Calabar, Ilorin and Port Harcourt.
The Federal High Court
There is a Federal High Court for the country, comprising of a Chief Judge and such number of Judges as the National Assembly may prescribe. The court has limited but exclusive jurisdiction in civil and criminal causes or matters as set out in the Constitution. It however has no appellate jurisdiction. In exercising its jurisdiction, the Court is duly constituted by one Judge of the Court. Like the Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court is divided into Judicial Divisions for administrative convenience but has a wider geographical spread as these Divisions are currently situated in over seventeen states of the Federation with plans to establish a Division of the Court in all the States of the Federation.
The High Court
There is a High Court in each State of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory . Each Court is made up of a Chief Judge and such other number of judges as the State House of Assembly or the National Assembly (in the case of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory ) may prescribe. The High Courts of the various States have general original jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters except matters in respect of which any other court has been vested with exclusive jurisdiction, making them the courts with the widest jurisdiction under the Constitution. The court duly constitutes by one judge. Each High Court is divided into Judicial Divisions for administrative convenience.
The Sharia Court of Appeal
There is a Sharia Court of Appeal for the Federal Capital Territory and any State that requires it. This Court has appellate and supervisory jurisdiction in civil proceedings involving questions of Islamic personal law, which the Court is competent to decide in accordance with the Constitution. The Court comprises of a Grand Khadi and other Khadis as the National Assembly or the State Houses of Assembly (as the case may be) may prescribe.
The Customary Court of Appeal
There is a Customary Court of Appeal for the Federal Capital Territory and any State that requires it. This Court has appellate and supervisory jurisdiction in civil proceedings involving questions of customary law and is comprised of a President and such number of Judges as the National Assembly or the State Houses of Assembly (as the case may be) may prescribe.
In addition to these courts created by the Constitution, there also exist Magistrate Courts, Disctrict Courts, Area Courts and Customary Courts established in various states by state laws. These courts are of limited jurisdiction as specified in their enabling laws and appeals from them lie to the High Court, Sharia Court of Appeal or Customary Court of Appeal as the case may be.


What is meant by the word ‘terrorism’? Just a few years ago terrorism seemed to be restricted to a few isolated places, such as northern island, the Basque country in northern Spain, and some areas in the Middle East. Now especially after September 11 2001, with the destruction of the twin towers in New York- it has mushroomed into a worldwide phenomenon, springing up in paradisiacal Bali, Madrid, Spain; London, England; sri lanka; Thailand, Indonesia, and even Russia. Yet terrorism is not a new development.
Terrorism has been defined as ‘the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.’ Nevertheless, terrorism exhibits certain characteristic. First, terrorism aimed at non-combants. Secondly, terrorism used violence for dramatic purpose; instilling fear in the target audience is often more important than physical result. This deliberate creation of dread is what distinguishes terrorism from simple murder or assault.
In the first century Judea, a violent group called the zealots pushed for Jewish independence from Rome. Some of their most ardent adherents become known as sicarii, or dagger men, a name that comes from the short swords they hid under their garments. Mingling in Jerusalem’s festival crowds, the sicarii slit the throats of their enemies or stabbed them in the back.
In 66 C.E., a group of zealot seized the fortress of Masada near the Dead Sea. They butchered the roman garrison and made the mountaintop fastness their base of operations. For many years they sortied from there and harassed the imperial authorities. In 73 C.E, the roman tenth legion led by Governor Flavius Silva retook Masada, but they did not conquer the zealots. A contemporary historian claims that rather give in to Rome, 960 of them-everyone up there except two women and five children-committed suicide.
Some view the zealot revolt as the start of terrorism as we know it. True or not, since then terrorism has left deep tracks in the history’s path.

From 1095 through two centuries, crusade armies repeatedly crossed between Europe and the Middle East. Opposing them were Muslim forces from Asia and North Africa. The issue was the control of Jerusalem, and each side tried to gain the advantage. In their many battles, those ‘holy warriors’ hacked one another to pieces. They also used their swords and battle axes on mere bystanders.
In the later centuries, terrorist began using explosives and firearms with gruesome, fatal results.
June 28, 1914, is viewed by historians as a turning point in European history. A young man, regarded by some as a hero, shot the Austrian crown prince. Archduke Francis Ferdinand. That event brought mankind into World War 1. Twenty million deaths later, the Great War ended. World War 1 had its sequel in world war 11. With its concentration camps, slaughter of civilians in bombing raids, and acts of retribution on innocent people. After the war, murders continued. Over a million people died on Cambodia’s killing fields in the 1970’s. And the people of Rwanda are still reeling from the massacre or over 800,000 in the 1990 genocide.
From 1914 to our time, mankind has suffered from terrorist activity in many countries. Yet, some people today act as if history had no lessons for modern man. Daily, terrorist attacks kill hundreds, maim thousands, and rob millions of their right to peace of mind and safety. Bombs explode in marketplaces, villages’ burn to the ground, women are raped, children go to war or some times into captivity, people die. In spite of laws and universal condemnation, this sadistic routine does not stop. Is there hope that terrorism will end? Only time will tell.