By Adewole Kehinde.
The Federal High Court was formerly called the Federal Revenue Court and was established by the Federal Revenue Act of 1973.
However, by virtue of Section 228 (1) and 230 (2) of the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it was renamed the Federal High Court.
The Federal High Court has both criminal and civil jurisdiction over matters instituted before it pursuant to Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The Federal High Court is composed of the Chief Judge and such number of judges as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.
Judges of the FHC are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council and are subject to confirmation by the Senate.
To qualify for the post of Chief Judge or judges of the Federal High Court, such a person must have been qualified to practice law in Nigeria and must have been so qualified for a period of not less than ten years. The retirement age for Judges of the Federal High Court of Nigeria is 65 years.
As of March 2023, the total number of Federal High Court judges in the country stood at 79. Meanwhile, the Federal High Court has over 128,000 cases on its docket across its divisions nationwide.
Although, the court is headquartered in Territory, Federal Capital, it has several judicial divisions around the country such as Federal High Court, Abuja (Headquarters); Federal High Court, Abakaliki, Federal High Court, Abeokuta, Federal High Court, Akure, Federal High Court, Ado- Ekiti, Federal High Court, Awka, Federal High Court, Asaba, Federal High Court, Bauchi, Federal High Court, Yenegoa, Federal High Court, Benin, Federal High Court Abuja, Calabar, Federal High Court, Damaturu, Federal High Court, Dutse, Federal High Court, Enugu, Federal High Court, Gombe, Federal High Court, Ibadan, Federal High Court, Ikeja, Federal High Court, IIorin, Federal High Court, Jos, Federal High Court, Kaduna, Federal High Court, Kano, Federal High Court, Lafia, Federal High Court, Lagos, Federal High Court, Maiduguri, Federal High Court, Markurdi, Federal High Court, Minna, Federal High Court, Oshogbo, Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Federal High Court, Owerri; Federal High Court, Sokoto; and Federal High Court, Umuahia.
On assumption of office, Justice Federal High Court of Nigeria, CJ John T. Tsoho, restated his court’s commitment to innovative methods of improving the justice system in Nigeria.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Justice John Tsoho, explained that the primary responsibility of the court, which is to provide access to justice, is on his mind, adding that he is resolute to enhance the smooth administration of justice.
The Chief Judge revealed that the problem of efficient and qualified manpower is being tackled with the support of the Federal Judicial Service Commission, adding, “We have bolstered the strength of the court with over a hundred officers. They are all qualified in different fields of learning and competence.” Also, the process is under way for the appointment of some judicial officers to the bench in the coming year.
Another transformative effort was to arrest the issue of conflicting judgements and rulings that had dogged the court through interactive discussions among judges of the court while appealing to legal practitioners and litigants to shun the unwholesome practice of ‘forum shopping,’ which had cast the court in a bad light.
On Wednesday, December 16, 2020, Justice Tsoho unveiled the presentation of the Federal High Court’s Law Report for 2013 and 2014.
During the unveiling, the Chief Judge said the report is a compilation of judgements delivered by judges of the Federal High Court, adding that it would help lawyers, researchers, and members of the public in their various endeavours.
The CJ lauded President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Justice of Nigeria for their support and inspiring leadership to the judiciary, adding that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the National Assembly were equally instrumental to the modest success that was recorded by the judiciary.
Justice Tsoho noted that the process of appointing new judges had commenced, assuring that “efforts will be made to ensure that there is equitable representation on the bench of the court.”
While giving an account of the court’s discharge of its mandate in the outgoing legal year, the Chief Judge disclosed that the court determined over 8000 cases in the 2019/2020 legal year that has just ended.
Justice Tsoho said in the year under review, a total of 10,464 cases were filed, comprising 2,851 civil cases, 2,599 criminal cases, 3,049 motions, and 1,965 applications for fundamental rights.
“The total number of cases disposed of during that year was 8,585, with a total of 123,513 pending at the end of the legal year,” he said.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Justice John Terhembe Tsoho, revealed that 135,592 cases are pending at its divisions across the nation.
Justice Tsoho made the remarks during the Federal High Court’s 2021–2022 legal year, stating that the court now has 77 judges throughout its divisions, implying that they will have a tremendous task to deal with by 2023.
“The 2020–2021 legal year officially closed in July 2021, with a total number of 131,821 cases pending at the end of that legal year and carried over to the 2021–2022 legal year (i.e., September 2021–JJune 2022).
“Within that legal year, a total of 17,677 cases were filed, while the total number of cases disposed of was 13,906. When this is added to the total number of cases carried over from the previous year, which is 131,821, we have a total of 135,592 cases pending at the end of the legal year,” the CJ said.
Congratulations to the Federal High Court of Nigeria, the chief judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, and the entire justices and staff of the court as it marks its 50 years of existence today, April 13, 2023.
Adewole Kehinde is the publisher of Swift Reporters, based in Abuja.