BRIEFS ON THE NASARAWA STATE JUDICIARY
The Nasarawa State Judiciary is the third arm of Nasarawa State Government, the other two being the Executive and the Legislature. It comprises three Units, namely; the High Court of Justice, the Sharia and Customary Courts of Appeal. It also has a regulatory/supervisory body known as the Judicial Service Commission, which deals with the appointment, promotion and disciplinary issues of the Judiciary.
The three units of the Judiciary, i.e. the High Court, Sharia and Customary Courts of Appeal, though a single entity, yet function disjunctively. Each Unit has it’s Head of Court, thus – The Chief Judge as Head of High Court of Justice, presently headed by the Hon. Justice Suleiman Umaru Dikko; the Grand Kadi as the Head of Sharia Court of Appeal, presently headed by Hon. Kadi Abdullahi Mohammad; and the President as Head of Customary Court of Appeal also presently headed by Hon. Justice Jibril Idris. However, there is no mistaking the fact that the Chief Judge is the Head of the Judiciary and also the Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission.
While the Sharia and Customary Courts of Appeal are majorly courts of second instances, i.e to say cases before them are those on appeal, the High Court of Justice is a court of trial and appellate jurisdiction, i.e it handles cases both on first trial and on appeals. The High Court of Justice has unlimited jurisdiction over the subject matters and persons that it has jurisdiction over.
For proper appreciation of the nature, functions and or operations of the Nasarawa State Judiciary, it is most appropriate to look at its constituent units.
A BRIEF PROFILE OF HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE, NASARAWA STATE
The Nasarawa State High Court, before October, 1996, formed part of what was Plateau State High Court. With the creation of Nasarawa State on 1st October, 1996, the State High Court was established. The pioneer Chief Judge of the State was Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima (now a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria).
The State High Court as already stated, has original and appellate jurisdiction in both Civil and criminal matters. Its original jurisdiction is provided for under Section 272(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The State High Court hears and determines appeals from decisions of Magistrates and Area Courts in all criminal matters. It also hears and determines appeals from District Courts in all civil causes. In addition, appeals from Area Courts in all civil causes other than customary or Islamic personal law or causes, lie to the High Court.
A Panel of two or three Judges of the High Court is usually constituted for the purpose of determining appeals from the lower courts aforementioned. The High Court of the State has a single Judicial Division, with five High Courts cited in Lafia, the State capital. For the purpose of convenience to litigants, two High Courts, presided over by resident High Court Judges, are cited at Keffi with the most senior judge as the assigning judge.
Similarly, there is one High Court Judge each at Akwanga and Nasarawa, both of whom are also resident judges. Noteworthy also is that there are presently five High Courts at Mararraban Gurku with the most senior as assigning judge. Administratively, the High Court has six major Directorates; viz. Directorates of Personnel; Magistrates’ and Area Courts’ Affairs; Litigation and Library Services; Research, Planning and Statistics; Probate Matters and Finance. The Probate Directorate was only recently established in November 2013 in order to ease the problems associated with the processing of Letters of Administration, probate and sundry matters in the State. Each of these Directorates, with the exception of Finance, is headed by a Deputy Chief Registrar while the Chief Registrar is the Administrative Head and Chief Accounting Officer of the High Court.
As the name depicts, the Chief Judge is the Administrative Head of all the judges and he centrally assigns cases to all courts in the State. There are currently, twelve (12) Judges, four of whom were only recently sworn-in precisely on thursday the 24th of May, 2012. One of the Judges, Hon. Justice Ridwan M. Maiwada was recently elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2014. Since the inception of the Nasarawa State High Court, only three (3) High Court Judges retired in office, to wit. – The Hon. Justice A.Y. Ubangari OFR (erstwhile Chief Judge of the State); The Hon. Justice Badamasi Maina (also erstwhile. Chief Judge of the State) and Hon. Justice Isa A. Ramalan. Three Judges however, unfortunately passed on to glory while in office – Hon. Justices Mohammed Ogbe, Haruna Loko and Abdullahi Husseini Bahago.
A brief profile of the Judicial Officers of the High Court Judges are as follows:
1. HON. JUSTICE SULEIMAN UMARU DIKKO:
He was born on the 31st December, 1955, and having passed the prescribed examination, was called to the Nigerian Bar in October, 1986. He was appointed a Judge of the High Court, Lafia, Nasarawa State on the 16th April, 1998. Until his appointment, he was in private practice. He presides over High Court No. 1 Lafia.
2. HON. JUSTICE JOHN A. VIKO:
He was born in 1953, a native of Farin Ruwa Development Area in Wamba Local Government. He was called to the Bar in 1983 after he graduated from Law School and passed the prescribed Examinations. He became a Magistrate in Plateau State and later Nasarawa State. He was also a DCR in Nasarawa State before his appointment as a High Court Judge on the 13th February, 2003. He is presently sitting in High Court 2, Lafia.
3. HON. JUSTICE AISHA M. AHMED
Hon. Justice Ahmed was born 21st December, 1962 and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1986. She was appointed to the Public Service sometime in 1988. She was a onetime Permanent Secretary and Solicitor-General of the Ministry of Justice and served as the Clerk of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly between 1999-2003. She joined the Bench on 13th February, 2003 when she was appointed as a Judge of the Nasarawa State High Court. She sits in High Court 3, Lafia
4. HON. JUSTICE JAMES G. ABUNDAGA
Justice Abundaga was born on 5th June, 1961. He was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1987 and was appointed as a Magistrate in 1990. He rose through the ranks to become the Deputy Chief Registrar (Magistrates’ and Area Courts’ Affairs) and was appointed a High Court Judge of Nasarawa State 13th February, 2003. He presently sits in High Court 4, Lafia.
5. HON. JUSTICE SIMON O. ABOKI
His Lordship was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1984. He Worked with various organizations. He established a Private Legal office as Alpha Chambers and was in private practice until his appointment as the Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Justice, Lafia in 1997-1999 and 2002 – 2008 respectively. He was appointed a High Court Judge in 2008. He sits presently in High Court Karu.
6. HON. JUSTICE ROSE G. SOJI
The Hon. Justice R.G. Soji was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1989. She served as a Counsel with Theresa Obot & Co., in Jos as Counsel in private practice. She joined the Judiciary as a Magistrate and rose to the rank of Deputy Chief Registrar at the Customary Court of Appeal, Lafia. She was appointed as a High Court Judge on the 2nd June, 2008. She sits at the High Court of Justice Mararraban Gurku. She is married with children.
7. HON. JUSTICE HARUNA A. OFFO
Justice Offo was called to the Bar on completion of his Law School and passing the Call To Bar Examination in late 1988. Justice Offo engaged in private practice before taking up appointment as a Magistrate with the Nasarawa State Judiciary. He rose to the rank of Chief Magistrate and was eventually appointed as the Executive Secretary of the Nasarawa State Judicial Service Commission. He was appointed as a Judge of the High Court on the 24th May, 2012.
8. HON. JUSTICE DANIEL D. ADECK
Hon. Justice Daniel Danlami Adeck was born on 8th August, 1967. He attended the Tattara-Yeskwa Primary School, Tattara; Government Secondary School Mangun, Plateau State and then University of Jos, Plateau State, where he bagged an LL.B Certificate all between 1973-1988. He then proceeded to the Nigerian Law State and obtained his B.L and having passed the prescribed examinations, he was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1989. He was a Counsel in private practice with Ogwuche Akogwu & Co., Keffi, before taking up appointment with the Nasarawa State House of Assembly as a Legislative Draftsman. He later joined the Judiciary as a Senior Magistrate, rose through the rank to become a Deputy Chief Registrar and later the Chief Registrar of High Court of Justice, Lafia in 2009. He was appointed a Judge of High Court on 24th May, 2012.
9. HON. JUSTICE DANJUMA A. OYIGBENU
His Lordship, Justice Oyigbenu was called to the Nigerian Bar sometimes in 1990. As a promising attorney, he engaged in both private and public practice of the legal profession. He took up appointment as Magistrate with the Nasarawa State Judiciary and rose to the rank of Chief Magistrate. He was the Zonal Chief Magistrate of the Lafia Zone prior to his appointment as a Judge of the High Court of Justice on the 24th May, 2012.
10. HON. JUSTICE ASMA'U LARAI YUSUF
11. HON. JUSTICE SAMUEL A. AYIWULU
PRINCIPAL OFFICERS OF THE HIGH COURT ARE AS FOLLOWS:
1. Sunday B. Bawa - Chief Registrar
Attended the Mary Knoll College, Igoli Ogoja, Cross Rivers State between 1974-1979 and later the University of Jos, Plateau State between 1983-1987 to read Law. After graduation, he went to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos between 1987-1988 and was called to Bar sometime in 1988. He practiced as a Counsel in Garba, Dashe & Co., a firm of Solicitors in Jos from 1989-1990, then took up appointment with the Ministry of Justice, Jos, Plateau State from 1990-1994 as Senior State Counsel; was Legal Adviser to the Plateau State Board of Internal Revenue, Jos from 1995-1996 and was deployed to Nasarawa State Ministry of Justice was the State was created as Principal State Counsel from 1966-2000. He rose to the rank of Director of Legal Drafting before he later transferred to the High Court of Justice as a Deputy Chief Registrar (litigation and Library Services). He served in the others Directorates of Magistrates’ and Area Courts’ Affairs, Personnel until his recent appointment as the Acting Chief Registrar of the High Court. He is married with four children.
2. Barr. Thomas G. Ebuga - DCR (Personnel).
3. Barr. Abdulmumuni Ramat Mustapha DCR (Magistrates' and Area Courts Affairs).
4. Barr. Ahmed Abdullahi Sani DCR (Litigation and Library Services).
5. Barr. Edward Liman Ali DCR (Research and Planning) -
6. Barr. Ibrahim Suleiman Galadima, DCR (Probate).
7. Tanko Arikya, Ag. DFA
8. Bilatus Akku Makama, Director Administration.
9. Enoch A. Maku, Director Information and Protocol.
THE SHARIA COURT OF APPEAL
Headed by a Grand Kadi, who sits with two other Kadis, the court has in all four Kadis and it deals with Islamic personal matters on appeal. The court is still operating in a temporary rented structure situate at the Low Cost Housing Estate, along Shendam Road, Lafia.
It is pertinent to state that when the State was created, the Sharia Court of Appeal of Nasarawa inherited only one Kadi from the erstwhile Plateau State – Hon. Kadi Lawal Musa Nagogo (now the Oriye Rindere of Wamba). The court could not take off immediately because of the lack of quorum. The pioneer Kadi, (Kadi Nagogo) later became the Grand Kadi on appointment of more Kadis, in the persons of Hon. Kadi Abdullahi Muhammad, Hon. Kadi Zakariya Yusuf Abdullahi (Late d. 25th August, 2009); and Hon. Kadi Muhammad Alhassan (Late d. 5th May, 2015 ).
Unfortunately again, no sooner had the court resumed sitting than it relapsed into a state of inactivity for want of quorum. This is due to the retirement of the then Grand Kadi – Hon. Kadi Lawal Musa Nagogo (who was selected as the Oriye Rindere of Wamba) and the death of Hon. Kadi Zachariah. With the recent appointment of two more Kadis, the court has now resumed sitting.
The Sharia Court of Appeal now has the following Judicial and Principal Officers
1. Hon. Kadi Abdullahi Muhammad - Grand Kadi
2. Hon. Kadi Yusufu Bahago Abubakar II- Kadi
3. Hon. Kadi Y. U. Muhammad - Kadi
4. Hon. Aliyu Ibrahim - Kadi
1. Barr. Isa E. Kana - Chief Registrar
2. Barr. Abdullahi Ozegya - - Deputy Chief Registrar (Personnel)
3. Barr. Lawal Hussaini Deputy Chief Registrar (Litigation and Library Services)
4. Barr. Muhammed A. Tiga, Deputy Chief Registrar (Research & Planning).
5. Isaac Abu Ishaq, Head Finance & Accounts.
THE CUSTOMARY COURT OF APPEAL
As with the Sharia Court, so with the Customary Court of Appeal in the sense that it deals mostly on matters of customary nature and sits as a court of second instance. It is headed by the Hon. President who sits with three other Judges.
When Nasarawa State was created in 1996, there was only one Customary Court of Appeal Judge who was deployed from Plateau State. He was then the Hon. President for Plateau and Benue States in the person of Hon. Justice Yusufu Yakubu (deceased). He became the pioneer President of the Nasarawa State Customary Court of Appeal. He retired as President of the Customary Court of Appeal and died in 2014.
Later, other Judges were appointed to form a quorum to enable the Customary Court of Appeal take off properly. Presently, the Customary Court of Appeal, Lafia has the following judicial and principal officers:
1. Hon. Justice Jibril Idrisu. - President
2. Hon. Justice Joshua D. Alaku - Judge
3. Hon. Justice Emmanuel Osagede - Judge
1. Barr. Josiah Kurape Kpangyiko - Chief Registrar
2. Barr. Godwin E. Akwe - Deputy Chief Registrar (Research & Planning).
3. Barr. Rabo Ayaga, DCR (Litigation).
4. Emmanuel A. Auta - Director of Finance & Accounts.
THE JUDICIAL SERVICE COMMISSION
Members of the Commission:
1. Hon. Justice Suleiman U. Dikko - Hon. Chief Judge/Chairman
2. Hon. Kadi Muhammad Abdullahi - Hon. Grand Kadi/Member
3. Hon. Justice Jibril Idrisu - Hon. President/Member
4. Hon. Attorney General and Comm. For Justice/Member.
5. Hussein Musa, Esq. (Member).
6. Hussaini Yakubu Akuki, Esq. (Member).
7. Sule Oga (Member).
8. Anthony Magson Zarmo (Member).
9. Hannatu Muhammad Kabir (Executive Secretary).