Just Decided – Latest Supreme Court Cases – Jan 31st, 2014.

ORHENA ADUGU GBILEVE & ANOR VS MRS. NGUNAN ADDINGI & ANOR
 
LEGALPEDIA  CITATION: LER[2014] SC 193/2012
 
AREAS OF LAW: PRE-ELECTION MATTER, JURISDICTION, DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE
SUMMARY OF FACT
The Plaintiff/1st Respondent won the primaries as the candidate to represent Buruku Constituency of Benue State House of Assembly in the general election. Irrespective of the press release confirming the Plaintiff/1st Respondent’s emergence as the winner, the State Secretariat of the party replaced her name with the 1st Respondent/Appellant’s name as having won the election and a certificate of return was issued to him. Dissatisfied, Plaintiff/1st Respondent filed an originating summons at the Federal High Court, for the determination of five questions and the grant of seven reliefs. The suit was resolved on the basis of the affidavit evidence before the Court and judgment was entered in favour of the Plaintiff/1st Respondent. The Court ordered that the Plaintiff/1st Respondent’s name be returned as the lawful aspirant and that she should be issued with a certificate of return. The Respondents/Appellants’ appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed and the judgment of the trial court affirmed, hence they  further appealed to the Supreme Court.
HELD
Appeal dismissed
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
Whether the lower court was correct to have affirmed the jurisdiction of the trial court to entertain 1st Respondent’s suit (Grounds 6 & 7)
Having regards to the facts and evidence adduced in this case coupled with the applicable law, did the 1st Respondent prove her case to be entitled to judgment as decided by the trial court and affirmed by the lower court? (Grounds 1, 5 & 8)
Whether the lower court acted correctly in agreeing with the trial court when it failed or refused to order pleadings and / or take oral evidence to resolve the obvious material conflicts in the competing affidavits and counter affidavit of the parties before proceeding to judgment against the appellants. (Grounds 2)
RATIOS
 
DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE –WHEN ORAL EVIDENCE CAN BE DISPENSED WITH IN RESOLVING CONFLICTS IN EVIDENCE
“Where the conflicting evidence can be resolved from the documentary evidence the need to call oral evidence becomes unnecessary”. PER UMAI BAYANG AKAAHS
 
DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE-PURPOSE OF
“Documentary evidence is used as a hanger from which to test the veracity of the evidence whether given orally or by deposition”. PER UMAI BAYANG AKAAHS
 
EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE – WHEN AN APPELLATE COURT CANNOT INTEREFERE
“Where a court of trial unquestionably evaluates the evidence and justifiably appraises the facts, what the Court of Appeal ought to do is to find out whether there is evidence on record on which the trial Court could have acted. Once there is sufficient evidence on record from which the trial court arrived at its findings of fact, the appellate court cannot interfere”.   PER UMAI BAYANG AKAAHS
CONCURRENT FINDINGS OF LOWER COURT – ATTITUDE OF THE SUPREME COURT- WHEN TO  DISTURB
“The law is now fully established that the Supreme Court will not normally disturb the concurrent findings of two lower courts except it is shown that it has occasioned a miscarriage of justice or it is perversely arrived at”.  PER CLARA BATA OGUNBIYI
 
ISSUE OF JURISDICTION-WHERE AN ORIGINATING PROCESS DOES NOT CONFER JURISDICTION ON A TRIAL COURT – EFFECT ON PROCEEDINGS
“The issue of the jurisdiction of the trial court to entertain the originating summons ab initio is fundamental to the competence of the appeal before this court. Where the originating process at the trial court is found not to confer jurisdiction on the court, the proceedings are a nullity. The absence of jurisdiction has a ripple effect and taints the appellate courts, which would equally lack jurisdiction to entertain appeals arising from the null proceedings. PER KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE -EKUN
JURISDICTION OF COURT – LACK OF – WHETHER PARTIES CAN CONFER JURISDICTION BY CONSENT OR ACQUIESCENCE
“It is also trite that where the court lacks jurisdiction, parties cannot confer jurisdiction by consent or acquiescence”. PER KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE -EKUN
 
 
CASE MENTIONED
Adesola Vs Abidoye (1999) 14 NWLR (Pt.637) 28:
Akpagbue VS Ogu (1976) 6 SC. 63
Amadi VS Nwosu (1992) 5 NWLR (Pt.241) 273;
Bunge VS Gov. River State (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt. 995) 573″
Enang VS Adu (1981) 11 – 12 SC 25;
Ezekwesili VS Agbapuonwu (2003) 9 NWLR (PT. 825)337;
Fashanu VS Adekoya (1974) 6 SC. 84;(1974) 1 ALL NLR (Pt.l) 35;
Jadesimi Vs Okotie-Eboh (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.16) 264;
Obiuweubi Vs CBN (2011) 7 NWLR (Pt.1247) 465
Onyejekwe V. The State (1992) 3 NWLR (Pt. 230) 444
Posu V. State (2011) All FWLR (Pt. 565) 234
SLB Consortium Ltd. Vs NNPC (2011) 9 NWLR (Pt.1252) 317
Woluchem VS Gudi (1981) 5 SC. 291;
 
STATUTES REFERRED TO
Electoral Act 2010 (as amended)
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)
AKUNNE BOSA MBANEFO VS. MOFUNANYA ACBU & ANOR
                 LEGALPEDIA  CITATION: LER[2014] SC 179/2007
AREAS OF LAW– LAND LAW-CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY, TRESPASS, APPEAL, LAW OF EVIDENCE-BURDEN OF PROOF
SUMMARY OF FACT:
The Plaintiff/Appellant instituted a claim against the 1st and 2nd Defendants/Respondents that after selling the land in dispute to him, the Defendants/Respondents failed to obtain Governor’s consent under Section 22 of the Land use Act but have resold the land to another person.  The trial Court struck out the name of the 2nd Defendant/Respondent from the suit and entered judgment for the Plaintiff/Appellant. Dissatisfied, the 2nd Defendant/Respondent appealed to Court of Appeal whiles the Plaintiff/Appellant also cross-appealed. The lower Court dismissed the Plaintiff/Appellant’s cross-appeal and dismissed the case of the trial court. Dissatisfied, the Plaintiff/Appellant has appealed to Supreme Court.
HELD:
Appeal dismissed.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION:
Were the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal not grossly in error when they held that in the circumstances of this case it was the duty of the purchaser of land to obtain the consent of the Governor
Were the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal not grossly in error when they held that the appellant was put in possession of the land and therefore had taken title to the land
Were the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal not grossly in error when they held that the 1st respondent only acted as a legal practitioner in the sale of land transaction in this case
RATIOS:
CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY-WHEN GOVERNOR’S CONSENT IS REQUIRED
“It is clear that it is only whenever certificate of Occupancy has been granted or is deemed granted and a holder of such certificate is desirous to transfer, assign, mortgage, lease and sublease of the land that is subject of such certificate that the Governor’s consent is required under the said section”. PER CHUKWUMA- ENE J.S.C.
TRESPASS -MEANING OF- WHEN AN ACTION IN TRESPASS WILL LIE
“It is settled law that trespass is an infraction of the right of exclusive possession to land and as the appellant there has been put in exclusive possession of the aforesaid land, an action in trespass is certainly maintainable by him by virtue of his rights against any trespass who in law cannot claim to be in possession by mere entry which is complained of by the appellant”. PER CHUKWUMA-ENE J.S.C.
BURDEN OF PROOF –ON WHO LIES
“It is trite that he who asserts must prove”. PER AKAAHS, JSC
ISSUES-IMPROPRIETY OF PARTIES RAISING NEW ISSUES ON APPEAL
“The law is trite that a party will not be allowed to introduce an issue in this Court which was not raised and pursued in the Courts below thereby setting up an entirely new case in his appeal before his Court”. PER MOHAMMED, JSC
CASES MENTIONED:
Adegoke Motors Ltd. V. Adesanya (1989) 3 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 109) 250 at 266
Owoniboys Technical Services V. Union Bank of Nigeria (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt. 844)545 at 583
Philips v. Ogundipe (1967) 1 ANLR 258
STATUTES REFERRED TO:

The Land Use Act, 1979

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MOHAMMED ABACHA VS. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

AREAS OF LAW: CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-IMMUNITY, COURT- JURISDICTION, INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES

 SUMMARY OF FACT:

The Respondent through the Attorney General of the Federation  instituted  an action at the High court  of the Federal  Capital  Territory, Abuja against the Appellant and one other for charges relating to offence of conspiracy, receiving stolen property dishonestly and concealing stolen money, all pursuant to Sections 97(i), 317 and 319 of the Penal Code. At the trial Court, the Appellant and the other filed several applications before their plea could be taken. One of which bordered on the jurisdiction of the trial Court to entertain the action. The application was dismissed and the trial court affirmed that it had jurisdiction to entertain same.  The Appellant also brought a motion of notice praying for the suspension of consideration of the application and delivery of its ruling thereof by the trial Court and to refer to the Court of Appeal three questions of law which were objected to by the Respondent. The application was granted by the trial court referring the questions to the lower court. The court answered the questions referred to it in the negative against the Appellant. Being dissatisfied the Appellant has brought this appeal before this court.

HELD

Appeal dismissed

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

Whether the Court of Appeal was right when it held that the Forfeiture of Assets etc. (Certain Persons) Decree No. 53 of 1999 did not absolve the appellant Mohammed Abacha and all other persons mentioned in the schedule to the said law from further prosecution in the face of the clearer wordings of the said legislation and the previous interpretation given in identical circumstances to the said law by the State? (Grounds 1, 2 and 3).

Whether the court below can be said to be correct when it rejected the appellant’s submission that the totality of the effect of Decree No. 53 of 1999 amounted to Executive or State promise not to prosecute any of the persons listed in the schedule to the said decree (Appellant inclusive) and that Government was thereby stopped from prosecuting in respect of any issue arising from compliance with the law in issue? (Grounds 4 and 5).

 Whether the court below was right when it held that the office of the late Head of State – General Sani Abacha (deceased) the nature of his government, the privileges and immunity enjoyed by him did not have any bearing on the charges filed by the state against the appellant in this matter to the extent that they are made up of facts and allegations that PRIMA FACIE do not constitute any of the offences alleged? (Grounds 6, 7, 8 and 9)

RATIOS

“DEAL WITH”- MEANING OF THE PHRASE “DEAL WITH”

“The phrase – “deal with” means “to take action on, to be about or concern with” PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C.

”FORFEITURE”- MEANING OF THE WORD “FORFEITURE”

”The word “forfeiture” means – “the divestiture of property without compensation. The loss of a right, privilege, or property because of a crime, breach of obligation, or neglect of duty”. It follows that, “title in those assets and properties forfeited is instantaneously transferred to another, such as the government”. PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C.

”INDEMNIFY”- MEANING OF THE WORD ‘INDEMNIFY’

”To indemnify is to reimburse another for a loss suffered because of a third party’s or one’s own act or default. Or to promise to reimburse another for such a loss.” PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C

AGGRIEVED PERSON-WHO IS AN AGGRIEVED PERSON

”To be aggrieved, a person must have legal rights that are adversely affected, having been harmed by an infringement of legal rights. A person aggrieved must be a person who has suffered a legal grievance, a person against whom a decision has been pronounced which has wrongfully deprived him of something or wrongfully refused him something or wrongfully affected his title to something ” PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C

IMMUNITY-WHETHER THE IMMUNITY GRANTED THE PRESIDENT, VICE PRESIDENT, GOVERNOR AND DEPUTY   GOVERNOR BY SECTION 308 OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION IS FOR LIFE

”It is true that the Constitution confers absolute immunity on the President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor in respect of civil or criminal matters during their tenure in office. See; Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution.   Indeed, the provision clearly suspends the right of action or the right to judicial relief of an aggrieved party during the tenure of office of the officials mentioned therein. The immunity does not extend beyond the tenure in office, after which the official shall be liable to face trial. ” PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C

IMMUNITY-THE PURPOSE OF IMMUNITY AS GUARANTEED BY SECTION 308 OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION

”The purpose of the immunity is to allow the incumbent President or Head of State, or Vice President, Governor or Deputy Governor, a completely free hand and mind to perform his or her duties and responsibilities while in office; to protect the incumbent from harassment. The immunity, however, does not extend or cover the period immediately after leaving office neither does it extend to include his family members during and after the period of his incumbency.” PER ONNOGHEN, J.S.C

JURISDICTION- WHAT JURISDICTION ENTAILS

”Jurisdiction in contrast to judicial power is the authority or legal weapon which a Court must possess to decide matters that are litigated before it or take cognizance of matters presented in a formal way for its decision. ” PER ONNOGHEN, J.S.C

JURISDICTION- THE NATURE OF JURISDICTION

”Jurisdiction may be limited as to the kind and nature of actions which a particular court may entertain or as to the area over which its judicial powers extend, or both.  PER KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C

RULE OF INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE-DUTY OF COURT TO INTERPRET THE PROVISIONS OF STATUTE CLEARLY BY GIVING THE PLAIN WORDINGS THEIR ORDINARY INTERPRETATION

”In the interpretation of Statutes, the cardinal rule is that where the provisions of a Statute is clear and unambiguous, the duty of the court is to simply interpret the clear provision by giving the plain wordings their ordinary interpretation without more. It is not the function of a court of law to bend backwards to sympathise with a party in a case in the interpretation of a statute merely for the reason, that the language of the law seems harsh or is likely to cause, hardship. PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C.

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ALHAJI LASISI SALISU & ANOR VS ALHAJI ABBAS MOBOLAJI & 2 ORS

SUBJECT MATTER

 APPEAL, JURISDICTION, COURT

RAISING FRESH OR NEW ISSUES ON APPEAL-WHETHER PERMITTED BY COURTS-WHEN A COURT CAN ALLOW SAME

FRESH ISSUE ON APPEAL-WHEN A COURT CAN ALLOW SAME-DUTY OF AN APPELLANT THERETO

REPLY BRIEF-WHEN NECESSARY TO FILE AND SERVE SAME

AMENDMENT-WHETHER THERE ARE LIMITS ON THE NUMBER OF TIMES THE COURT CAN ALLOW AMENDMENT OF COURT PROCESSES

AMENDMENT-CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE A COURT CAN EXERCISE ITS DISCRETION IN RESPECT OF AN APPLICATION FOR AMENDMENT

FRESH ISSUE ON APPEAL-CONDITIONS WHERE AN APPELLATE COURT CAN ENTERTAIN SAME

JURISDICTION-IMPORTANT OF

“In other words, as long as an amendment being sought is not fraudulent, vexatious, or meant to overreach or merely annoy or embarrass the other party, the court will always be inclined, in the best interest of justice and fairness to exercise its discretion in favour of the application to amend process already filed”.   PER OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA, JSC

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GOLDMARK NIGERIA LIMITED V. IBAFON COMPANY LIMITED

SUBJECT MATTER

CHIEFTANCY MATTERS

JURISDICTION – HOW DETERMINED

LANDLAW – COMPULSORY ACQUISITION OF PROPERTY

The effect of the words of an amending law or enactment is “in futuro” and therefore it could not by necessary implication have the effect of putting a stop to proceedings which had already been validly commenced.”  Per ADEKEYE JSC

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PDP V. ROCHAS OKOROCHA & 10 ORS.

SUBJECT MATTER

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE –

 1. APPEALS- FINAL COURT OF APPEAL IN ELECTION PETITION.

2. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW- PURPORT OF THE PROVISIONS OF S. 285 (7) OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.

3. JUDGMENT- REASONS FOR DECISIONS OF COURTS MUST BE PROVIDED ON TIME.

4. JURISDICTION -ESSENCE OF

5. JURISDICTION- WHEN IT CAN BE RAISED

6. PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE- WHEN COURTS CAN RAISE ISSUES SUO MOTU.

7. JUDGMENT- CONTENTS OF

8. PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE- EFFECT OF CARRYING OUT AN ACT OUT OF TIME

 

“An action or anything done after expiration of the time prescribed is a nullity. Where the limitation of time is imposed in a constitution or statute unless they make provision for extension of time, the court cannot extend time.” Olufunlola Oyelola Adekeye  JSC.

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CHIEF GREAT OVEDJE OGBORU & Anor V. DR EMMANUEL EWETAN UDUAGHAN & 2 Ors

SUBJECT-MATTER

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE

APPEAL

ELECTION PETITION

JUDGMENT

JURISDICTION

I find support in several decisions of this court that an appellant can file two [multiple] notices of appeal, more so, when our court Rules do not prohibit that.

Per I.T. Muhammad J.S.C.

On the issues for determination, it is the law and practice that where the complaint is not that the issues do not flow from the grounds of appeal or that the issues proliferate, an appellate court accepts them to be valid and will tolerate its ill-drafting in order to ensure that justice is done to the parties.”

Per I.T. Muhammad J.S.C.

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OCHEJA EMMANUEL DANGANA V. HON. ATAI AIDOKO ALI USMAN

SUBJECT MATTER

ELECTION PETITION

PRELIMINARY OBJECTION – NATURE OF

JURISDICTION – COMPETENCY OF COURT

A preliminary objection to the hearing of an election petition appeal may be raised on the ground that this court has no jurisdiction to hear the appeal or that time within which to hear a matter had since run outPER RHODES-VIVOUR JSC

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MALLAM ABUBAKAR ABUBAKAR & 2Ors V. SAIDU USMAN NASAMU & 5 Ors

SUBJECT-MATTER

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE

APPEAL

ELECTION PETITION

JURISDICTION


So in relation to appeals on election matter, it is clear and I hereby hold that there are two courts constitutionally clothed with final jurisdiction to hear and determine same. These are:-

(1)  The Court of Appeal in relation to National and State Houses of Assembly election petitions, and,

(2)  The Supreme Court of Nigeria in respect of decisions of the Court of Appeal on the question as to whether any person has been validly elected to the Office of Governor or Deputy Governor under the constitution.”

Per Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen J.S.C.

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CHIEF FELIX AMADI & ANOR. V INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION& 2 ORS.

SUBJECT-MATTER

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE- ELECTION PETITION-SECTION 285(7) OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION (as amended)

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE- ELECTION PETITION-JURISDICTION-RIGHT TO FAIR-HEARING

It is very important to note that the provisions of Section 285(7) supra does not deny an appellant the right to fair-hearing, just like every statute of limitation. It merely gives all parties and the court a time frame within which parties are to exercise their right to fair hearing in a relevant appeal. If for whatever reason the appeal is not heard within the allotted time frame it cannot be said that an appellant affected thereby has been denied his right to fair hearing.

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MRS. MARGAREY OKADIGBO V. PRINCE JOHN OKECHUKWU EMEKA AND 2 ORS

SUBJECT MATTER

ELECTION PETITION – JURISDICTION

ELECTION PETITION – JURISDICTION – PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – LOCUS STANDI

THE NEED FOR A PARTY TO BE CONSISTENT IN ITS PLEADINGS

STATUS OF THE DECISIONS OF THE COURT OF APPEAL IN RESPECT OF APPEALS ARISING FROM THE NATIONAL AND STATE HOUSES OF ASSEMBLY ELECTION PETITIONS

STATUS OF A TRIBUNAL IN RESPECT OF PRE ELECTION MATTERS

it is settled law that a party ought to be consistent in the case he pursues and not as it were, spring surprises on the opposite party from one stage to another. This is so as an appeal is regarded as a continuation of the original action rather than as an inception of a new suit. And so in appeals parties are normally confined to their case as pleaded in the court of first instance” (in this case the trial tribunal). Per C.M. Chukwuma-Eneh, J.S.C.

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