The customary Court of Appeal, Federal Capital Territory Abuja is a Superior Court of Record established in 1991 pursuant to Decree No. 30 of 1991. (See Section 265, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended). The Court’s headquarters is located at No. 36, P.O.W Mafemi Crescent, Utako District, Abuja with for (4) Zonal Courts at Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje and Abaji.
The Court has been empowered to in addition to such other jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly, exercise such appellate and supervisory jurisdiction in civil proceeding where the subject matter of the claim is on, or relates to Customary Law; and exclusive original jurisdiction in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja to hear and determine disputes on or relating to Chieftaincy Matters. (section 267, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital territory Abuja (Jurisdiction On Chieftaincy Matters as amended) Act, 2011 (Government Notice no. 139).
Furthermore, in the Supreme Court judgment delivered on 9th June, 2017; Customary Court Of Appeal Edo State v. Chief (Engr.) E. A. Aguele – SC. 123/2006, Per Mary Ukaego Peter Odili JSC held on the jurisdiction of Customary Courts Of Appeal thus:-
The Customary Court of Appeal, Abuja is headed by Honourable Justice Moses A. Bello (JP) OFR, as the President. The Court has its full complement of Five (5) judges to allow for the composition of panels that can sit simultaneously on appeals against the judgment and other decisions of the Customary Courts. The Court holds quarterly sessions in addition to the regular sitting at its Headquarter. This is to take away the enormous cost burden on litigants and their counsels.
The need to streamline the administration of native law and custom and the courts structure, led to the initiation and eventual passage of the Federal Capital Territory customary Court Act 2007 that created Customary Court, as Courts of first instance with full powers to hear and determine causes and matters on Customary laws and such other matters as are conferred upon it. See Section 1 and 14 of the Federal Capital Territory Customary Court Act 2007. The structure of the Customary Court of the Federal Capital Territory is directly under the Customary Court of Appeal, Abuja in all ramifications. Tree grades of Customary Court (A, B and C) have been established for the Federal Capital Territory with these jurisdictions:-
There are Forty Three (43) Customary Courts spread across the six (6) Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory. The Customary Courts are manned by a panel of three (3) judges. This is its quorum. Each Court is composed of a Chairman and two Members who are all legal practitioners with at least five (5) years and two (2) years post call experiences respectively, as at the dates of their appointments. This is to guard against arbitrariness and to guarantee thoroughness in proceedings and decisions of the Court.The Customary Court and the Customary Court of Appeal established for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja are Courts without bias for ethnic origin and Nationalities. They have been established to enforce and ensure the observance of all indigenous native laws and customs of Nigerians irrespective of their places of origin, birth, nationality or religion, i.e. enforcement and observance of all native laws and customs (Customary laws) indigenous to Nigeria as a whole without prejudice.
The basis of the jurisprudence at the Customary Courts and the appellate Customary Court of Appeal is the principle of substantial justice with less emphasis on technicalities. Therefore, the Evidence Act Cap E14 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 though not strictly applicable to the proceeding of the Court, the sections that are needed to establish appropriate and applicable customary laws to particular cases or transaction have been made mandatory, viz: Sections 14, 15, 59, 76, 77, 78, 92, 93, 135, 136, 155, 177 and 227. See. Section 65, FCT Customary Court Act 2007.
Furthermore, the indigenous Customary laws applicable in the Customary Court of Appeal, Abuja and the Customary Courts Abuja, though ascertainable, have not been codified because it is still evolving in its dynamic state. Every efforts have been made to design Rules of practice and procedures to allow for its determination, observance and application in matters, as easily as possible. The products are the Customary court of Appeal Rules (as amended in) 2012 and the Customary Courts (Civil Procedures) Rules 2007. The cost instituting suits at the Customary Courts and initiating appeals at the Customary Court of Appeal are deliberately kept low to make for easy access to the Courts.