Jurisdictional conflicts and individual liberty – the encroaching burden of technicality in Nigeria

Pontian N. Okoli (Lead / Corresponding author), Chinedum I. Umeche

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


There is a long history of struggles to enforce fundamental rights in Nigeria. The Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules reflect flexibility and promote access to the courts. For example, applicants can apply to enforce their rights in either a State High Court or Federal High Court which are both superior courts of first instance. This position is supported by at least two landmark Supreme Court decisions: Bronik Motors Ltd. v. Wema Bank Ltd and Jack v. University of Agriculture, Makurdi. Some appellate decisions indicate that the option to enforce fundamental rights in either the State High Courts or the Federal High Court must be interpreted with reference to the subject matter dichotomy between both courts. The lack of clarity is illustrated by a recent and important case, NDLEA v. Omidina, where the Court of Appeal asserted this dichotomy at the expense of an applicant’s liberty. This article examines relevant cases and contends that the jurisdictional technicalities inherent in such dichotomy are neither justified nor viable. This article thus concludes that the subject matter jurisdiction dichotomy, as applied by the Court of Appeal, undermines the enforcement of fundamental rights and fails to promote clarity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-487
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Issue number4
Early online date21 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • access to courts
  • access to justice
  • fair hearing
  • human rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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