Jurisdiction | Administrative Law

Jurisdiction | Administrative Law

Jurisdiction is the power of a court or tribunal to hear and decide a case which statute has given it. Before a court or tribunal can entertain and determine a matter and grant relief to an aggrieved party, the court must first of all have jurisdiction which means the power to hear and determine the matter that have been brought before it. Where a court or a tribunal has no jurisdiction to entertain an action, any proceedings and decisions given thereon are a nullity no matter how well conducted and the decisions reached is void abinitis.

Jurisdiction is fundamental. The case of Orizu V Ofomata 2007, 13 NWLR, Pt ion 1052 Pg 493, the court of appeal said that there is an issue of jurisdiction being the threshold in judicial administration is fundamental that it can be raised at any stages of the proceeding of an action before the court. The court further held that once the issue of jurisdiction is raised, it should be determined first before any action is taken in the proceedings. This is because any step or proceedings taken in the absence of jurisdiction are null and void at initial. Once the issue of jurisdiction is raised, the court is duty bound to determine whether or not he has jurisdiction first before proceeding to entertain the case.

The question of jurisdiction is the cornerstone of all litigation. The case of Ohakim V Agbaso 2010, 19 NWLR, Pt 1226 Pg 170, it should be noted that the jurisdiction of a court is derived from its enabling statute which creates the court that define its jurisdiction. In order words, all courts of records are creatures of the constitution and their jurisdiction is confined limited and circumscribed by the constitution. They must give effect to the constitutional provisions from which they derived their jurisdiction.

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However, it is the law that a court or tribunal always has the jurisdiction to examine a matter in order to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction. Therefore, where it has jurisdiction, the court or tribunal can proceed to hear a matter and determine the right and obligations of the party but where it has no jurisdiction, the court or tribunal must announce the fact that they has no jurisdiction and then strike out or dismiss the matter for lack of jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction of courts and tribunal for an administrative bodies are similar. However, the challenge to jurisdiction are fundamentally different for both where a tribunal or administrative body exceeds its jurisdiction, it is subject to judicial review. But where a court of law exceeds its jurisdiction, it is only subject to appeal to a higher court.


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