The definition of jurisdiction of Court generally as the power and authority to hear and determine a dispute between parties before it, is fairly established. But the issue of territorial jurisdiction of a Court which is an aspect of the jurisdiction of Court is not. This is especially so in view of provisions of the Constitution and opinions of writers.
The extent and scope of territorial jurisdiction of the Federal High Court takes additional form in view of the provisions of the Sections 19 and 45 of the Federal High Court Act2 on the venue for trial of cases and the recent decisions of the Nigerian Court of Appeal in two cases – Ibori v. Federal Republic of Nigeria and Abiola v. Federal Republic of Nigeria . This paper is focused on venue or territorial jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in criminal trials5 against the background of decisions in Ibori v. Federal Republic of Nigeria and Abiola v. Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Although, the concept of territorial jurisdiction is the crux of criminal trials, there are cases when territorial jurisdiction may not be relevant in the Federal High Court. This writer will contend that in so far as the recent decisions of the Court of Appeal in Ibori v. Federal Republic of Nigeria expounded the fact that the Federal High Court has no single jurisdiction throughout the Country in criminal matters it was arrived at per incuriam. Secondly, we shall demonstrate that the principle approved in Abiola v. Federal Republic of Nigeria that the Federal High Court has a single territorial jurisdiction in Nigeria is to be construed in the context of the facts and circumstances of the case. It is not a statement of the general principle of law.