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Court Affirms Illegality Of Transferring Cases From Area To Magistrate Courts In Kogi


The Kogi State High Court (Appeal Session) presided over by Hon. Justice A.S. Hussaini, Hon. Justice A.U. Muhammed, and Hon. Justice Aminu Ali Eri, has affirmed the decision of a Kogi Magistrate Court sitting in Egume, Kogi State which earlier this year, held that there is no law authorizing Area/Upper Area Courts to transfer cases to Magistrate Courts in Kogi State. Recall that it was reported in March, 2023 that a Magistrate Court sitting in Egume presided over by Fatima Ademu, Esq. had struck out a criminal case in Case No. ECMC/FIR/13/2022, between Commissioner of Police and Sampson Achem & 9 others. The case was said to have been transferred to the said Magistrate Court by Upper Area Court II, Anyigba on the alleged instructions of the Director of Magistracy.

Upon the arraignment of the Defendants before the said Magistrate Court sequel to the transfer, the Defendants’ Counsel, S. O. Akobe, Esq. raised a preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the case that was transferred from an Upper Area Court without any provision of law in support of such exercise. The Prosecution represented by S.O. David, Esq had urged the Court to overule the objection and assume jurisdiction over the matter in exercise of its inherent powers. The presiding Magistrate had in a ruling delivered on the 20th of March, 2023, upheld the objection of the Defendants’ Counsel and struck out the case for want of jurisdiction. The Magistrate held:

“Looking at the case before me, it is obvious that what is been questioned by the defense counsel is the process by which the case was initiated before this honorable court. The question therefore is, can this case be said to have been initiated before this honorable court by due process of law? As earlier stated, there is  no  provision in either the Area court Law of Kogi State or the magistrate court Law of Kogi State that provides for transfer of matters from Area court to this honorable court. In the absence of such provision, I hold the view that this matter which came to this honorable court by way of transfer from an Area court was not initiated by due process of law. Accordingly, I hold that this honorable court does not have jurisdiction to entertain this matter by way of transfer from Area court under the Magistrate Court Law of Kogi State, 2020. The cases of FASIKIN FOODS NIG LTD & MARTINS BABATUNDE SHOSHANYA cited supra are very clear on issue of transfer of cases form one court to another. The purports of this authority is that transfer of cases by one court to another must be in accordance with statutory indulgence and no more…

Concluding her ruling, the Magistrate held, “I therefore, finally resolve the issue raised above in favour of the Defendants to the effect that this honorable court cannot entertain cases by way of transfer from Area court  or Upper Area Court to  this honorable court under the Magistrate Court Law of Kogi State, 2020. I so hold.Accordingly case number ECMC/FIR/13/2022 is hereby struck out for lack of jurisdiction”.

Dissatisfied with the holding of the said Magistrate, the Prosecution appealed to the Kogi State High Court sitting in its appellate session in Anyigba. The appeal which is marked AYHC/O1/2023, came up for hearing on the 20th day of November, 2023 wherein both Counsel adopted their respective briefs of argument. Delivering the judgment of the Court on Tuesday, 12th December, 2023, Hon. Justice Aminu Ali Eri who read the lead judgment, held that Area Court Law of Kogi State, 1991 only allows transfer of cases from one Area/Upper Area Court to another and same cannot be extended to include Magistrate Courts in the absence of any statutory enablement to that effect.

The Court further held that the exercise of inherent powers of a court cannot be done outside statutory dictates, and that jurisdiction of a court cannot be assumed merely on the basis of the exercise of a court’s inherent powers especially where the law has not provided for same.

The Court reiterated the fact that the Chief Judge of Kogi State can order transfer of criminal cases from one Court to another in exercise of his powers as provided in the Kogi State Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2017, but further held that there was nothing placed before the Court in the instant case to show that the transfer of the case from Upper Area Court II to Magistrate Court, Egume was on the instruction or directive of the Chief Judge of Kogi State. On the whole, the Court upheld the decision of the Magistrate Court Egume, and dismissed the appeal. Concurring with the lead judgment, Hon. Justice A.S. Hassaini and Honourable Justice A. U. Muhammed, upheld the decision of the lower Court and also dismissed the appeal.

Counsel to the Respondents S. O. Akobe, Esq. thanked the Court for the erudition demonstrated in the judgment. The Appellant’s Counsel, S. O. David, Esq. also appreciated the Court and further stated that the decision will go a long way to promote justice system in Kogi State especially on the issue of transfer of cases in lower courts.

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