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The original jurisdiction of a court is the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, when a higher court has the power to review a lower court's decision. Most of the time, the Supreme Court hears cases that have been decided in a lower court. Thus, the Supreme Court is mainly an appellate court.

However, by virtue of section 232 (1) of the 1999 constitution and the Supreme Court (Additional Original Jurisdiction) Act 2002, the Supreme Court of Nigeria has original jurisdiction in five instances.
The Supreme Court, to the exclusion of any other 'court, has original jurisdiction in any of the following instances;
  1. Dispute between the Federation and a State
  2. Dispute between States 
  3. Dispute between the National Assembly and the President
  4. Dispute between the National Assembly and any State House of Assembly
  5. Dispute between the National Assembly and a State of the Federation

The Act however, does not confer original jurisdiction upon the Supreme Court with respect to any criminal matter.

Any proceedings involving the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court must pertain to the existence of a legal right and must be brought by the Attorney General of the Federation or the State. (section 20 Supreme Court Act).

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