The Lagos State Judiciary
The Lagos State Judiciary is the oldest Judiciary in Nigeria. Its existence dates back to the period of the Cession of Lagos to the British Government when it was established and known as the Colony Province Judiciary.
The first Court to be established was the Magistrates' Court. When the High Court was established later, it was called the Supreme Court and its jurisdiction was limited to Lagos.At self-government, the Federal Territory of Lagos inherited the two systems of Courts - the Magistrates' Courts and the Supreme Court.
At the creation of the Federal Supreme Court, the Lagos Supreme Court became High Court of the Federal Territory Lagos Justice Conrad Idowu Taylor became Chief Justice of the Court on the 22nd day of July 1964. The High Court building in Lagos (at Race Course) was the headquarters of the Court and is the oldest and most recognisable Judicial Building in Nigeria.
When Lagos State was created as one of the twelve states carved out of the former Western, Eastern and Northern Regions of Nigeria, by virtue of provisions of the States (Creation and Transitional Provisions) Decree No. 4 of 1967, which came into effect on 27th May 1967, the High Court and the Magistrate Court of the Federal Territory were merged with the High Court and Magistrate Court of the former Western Region then at Ikeja. This became the Lagos State Judiciary and Justice Conrad Idowu Taylor became the first Chief Justice of Lagos State. Today, the title of that office is Chief Judge of Lagos State.
Justice Taylor ceased to be CJ on the 7th day of November 1973. He was succeeded as CJ by Justice J.A. Adefarasin who served from 1st day of November 1974 to 24th day of April 1985. Justice Candide A. Johnson followed Justice Adefarasin and he held office from 25th day of April 1985 to 1st day of July 1989. Justice Ligali Ayorinde was next and he served from July 1989 to 10th day of April 1995.
The first female Chief Judge in Nigeria (and West Africa), Justice Rosaline Omotosho (Mrs) succeeded Justice Ayorinde and was CJ from 12th day of April 1995 to the 27th day of February 1996.
After Justice Omotosho, Justice Olusola Thomas became CJ and served from 15th day of March 1996 to the 26th day of November 1996. Thereafter, Justice S.O. Ilori became CJ and served from 27th day of December 1996 to the 5th day of January 1999. Justice Sikiru Adagun followed Justice Ilori and served briefly from 3rd day of May 1999 to the 22nd day of May 1999. Justice Adagun was succeeded by Honourable Justice Christopher Olatunde Segun, who was in turn succeded by Afolabi Adeyinka and then by Augustine Adetula Ade-Alabi.
The Chief Judge (CJ) is the professional Head and the Chief Executive of the judiciary. As 15th February 2001, there were thirty-four (34) Judges under the leadership of the CJ. That number has since increased with the appointment of new judges.
The Lagos State Judiciary has a hierarchy of Courts from High Courts to Magistrates' Courts to Customary Courts each with its own Rules of Court. For the High Court, the current rules are the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules 2004.
The Chief Registrar of the High Court of Lagos State is the head of Administration. The Chief Registrar (CR) is also the Accounting Officer. The other principal officers are the Deputy Chief Registrars (Admin.) in the Ikeja and Lagos Divisions and a Deputy Chief Registrar (Legal) in Ikeja Division who takes charge of legal matters.
Up to the year 2001, the High Court of Lagos State sat as one undifferentiated division. In April 2001, the CJ (Justice Christopher Olatunde Segun) issued Practice Directions No PD/ II /C.1/LS No 1 of 2001 and thereby created the following specialised Divisions with effect from the 1st day of May 2001
1. The Criminal Division
2. The Land Division
3. The Probate and Family Division
4. The Commercial Division
5. The General Civil Division
Apart from the foregoing subject-matter divisions, the High Court of Lagos State is organised into four (4) territorial or Judicial Divisions as follows
3. Epe Judicial Division
4. Ikorodu Judicial Division
Ikeja Judicial Division covers the whole of the former Colony province. Lagos Judicial Division has responsibility for Lagos Island, Lagos mainland, Apapa, Victoria Island and Ikoyi while Epe Judicial Division covers the whole of Epe area. Ikorodu Judicial Division has only just been created and it covers the whole of Ikorodu area.
Lagos State Judiciary also has Magisterial Districts and there are seven (7) of them, each headed by a Chief Magistrate Grade I (Administration). The Magisterial Districts are:-
1. Ikeja Magisterial District
2. Lagos Island Magisterial District
3. Yaba Magisterial District
4. Apapa Magisterial District
5. Ikorodu Magisterial District
6. Badagry Magisterial District
7. Epe Magisterial District
Yaba Magisterial District is the largest with sub-districts located at Botanical Gardens, Ebute-Metta, Mushin and Surulere.
Customary Courts are Courts located at the lowest (or grassroots) level and they are spread all over Lagos State. There are two grades of such Courts known as Grade "A" and Grade "B". Customary Courts are manned by a panel of one President and not less than three other judges referred to as Members.
Lagos State Judicial Service Commission
The Judicial Service Commission is responsible for among other things, the appointment, promotion and disciplinary control of Judicial and non-Judicial Staff of the Lagos State Judiciary. The Chairman of the Commission is the Honourable Chief Judge. Other members are the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice and four other members duly appointed by the Governor of the State. The Secretary is one of the four members and is usually an Administrative Officer seconded from the Lagos State Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja.
As mentioned above, Justice (Mrs) Rosaline Omotosho was the first female Chief Judge in Nigeria and West Africa but the first female appointed to the High Court of Lagos State was Justice (Mrs) D.E.A. Oguntoye.
Lagos State however also had the service of Mrs Modupe Oladunni Omo-Eboh who was the first female High Court Judge in Nigeria. Justice (Mrs) Omo-Eboh died on the 25th day of February 2000.