Jurisdiction refers to the power or authority of the court to adjudicate over a matter brought before it.
Any matter decided upon without jurisdiction is a nullity. As the court stated in MACFOY v. UAC you cannot place something on nothing and expect it to stand.
For a court to properly exercise jurisdiction over a matter, certain factors must be present:
1. The subject matter must be something that the court has jurisdiction over.
2. There must be nothing in the matter to prevent the court from exercising it's jurisdiction
3. The matter must have been brought by due process of law, and all the condition precedent must have been fulfilled. (See MADUKOLU v. NKEMDILIM)
TYPES OF JURISDICTION
1. Limited and Unlimited Jurisdiction: When jurisdiction is limited this means the court can only adjudicate on specific matters whereas when jurisdiction is unlimited the court can adjudicate over all matters. In Nigeria today, there is no court that has unlimited jurisdiction.
2. Territorial or Geographical Jurisdiction: The jurisdiction of certain courts are limited to their geographical location. For instance, the Jurisdiction of a State High Court is limited to their respective states. (See OGBUANYIYA v OKUDU)
3. Substantive and Procedural Jurisdiction: For a court to exercise jurisdiction over a matter it must have been brought by due process of law under the rules of court. This is known as procedural jurisdiction. As was decided by the court in MOBIL v. LASEPA, a breach of procedure may not invalidate a matter as the parties may waive it and continue with the matter.
However, lack of substantive jurisdiction will invalidate a matter. Substantive jurisdiction refers to the Jurisdiction of the court to adjudicate over a particular subject matter. (See MACFOY v UAC)
4. Constitutive Jurisdiction: For a court to have jurisdiction over a matter it must be properly constituted by the right number of judges/justice required to be sitted.
5. Divisional Jurisdiction: Some courts are divided into judicial divisions, and thus an action should be instituted in the division where the course of action arose. However, commencing an action in the wrong division will not invalidate the matter as the division into judicial divisions is merely for administrative convenience.
The question of jurisdiction can be raised at any time in the proceedings. It could also be raised for the first time on appeal to the Supreme Court. However, if a question as to jurisdiction is to be raised for the first time on appeal, the leave of court must be sought. (See OGUNSANYA v. DADA).
Also the Court may raise the question of jurisdiction Suo Motu (of its own motion), and where the court discovers that it lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate over a matter the proper course of action is to dismiss the matter. (See EZE v. OKECHUKWU)