Composition of Customary Courts in Rivers State of Nigeria: A Case for Appointment of Chiefs As Members
Journal of Law and Judicial System Volume 1, Issue 3, 2018, pp, 82-95
14 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2018
Date Written: September 11, 2018
Customary Court as successor of the old Native Court is established to dispense justice in a cheap, speedy and uncomplicated manner consistent with the form of administration of justice developed in the indigenous communities of Nigeria, particularly those of the southern part of the Federation. The core jurisdiction of customary court is the adjudication of cases involving questions of customary law. Unlike the superior court of record where customary law is treated as a question of fact to be proved by evidence adduced by the parties, members of the customary court are presumed to know the applicable customary law relevant to the matter before the court and are empowered to apply it without proof by the party seeking to rely on it unless the court thinks otherwise. The power of the customary court to rely on its own knowledge of the applicable customary law within its area of jurisdiction underscores the need to appoint chiefs who embody the custom, tradition and culture of their people to serve as members of customary courts. However, the extant Customary Courts Law in Rivers State of Nigeria does not contain any provision according special eligibility to chiefs to be appointed to serve on the customary court bench. It is argued that the appointment of chiefs to serve as members of customary courts will enhance the capacity of these courts to apply customary law and thereby guarantee cheap, speedy and uncomplicated administration of justice. The paper adopts analytical research methodology and relies on library-sourced primary and secondary materials.
Keywords: Customary Court, Customary Law, Chiefs, Rivers State, Nigeria
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