Legalpedia Electronic Citation: LER SC.307/2008
AREAS OF LAW:
Action, Appeal, Jurisdiction, Locus Standi, Practice And Procedure
SUMMARY OF FACTS
The Appellant and another Legal Practitioner instituted an action in the High Court of Imo State, against the 1st Respondent and two others claiming some reliefs. The Appellant without filing his statement of claim filed a motion on notice for interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st Respondent from presenting herself for appointment or from being sworn in as a Judge on grounds of fraud perpetrated by the 1st Respondent to obtain by false pretence a promotion to the position of Chief Magistrate in Imo State and the threat of the 1st Respondent to deal “ruthlessly” with the Appellant once appointed. The 1st Respondent filed a counter affidavit to the motion and did not file a statement of defence, while the 2nd and 3rd Respondents filed their statement of Defence and raised a preliminary objection to the hearing of the suit on the ground inter alia that the Plaintiffs lacked the necessary locus standi to institute the action. The trial Judge upheld the objection and struck out the suit. Dissatisfied with the ruling, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal which by a majority decision dismissed the appeal and upheld the ruling of the trial court. Being dissatisfied with the lower court’s ruling, the Appellant has further appealed to this Court.
ISSUE FOR DETERMINATION
Whether the Court of Appeal was right in holding that Appellant had no locus standi to institute this action
Whether the Court of Appeal was right in holding that the action disclosed no cause of action
LOCUS STANDI – WHAT DOES THE ISSUE OF LOCUS STANDI ENTAIL?
“However, beyond analogical inferences or conjectures, the issue of locus standi is the actual legal capacity of instituting or commencing an action in a competent Court of law without inhibition, obstruction or hindrance from any person or body whatsoever, See Inakoju Vs Adeleke (2007) ALL FWLR (Pt.353) 1 at 96; Thomas Vs Olufosoye (1986) 2 SC 325, Momoh Vs Jimo Olotu (1979) ALL NLR 117, at 123, A.G. Anambra Vs Eboh (supra)”. PER S.D.BAGE, J.S.C
INSTITUTION OF AN ACTION – CONDITION PRECEDENT TO THE INSTITUTION OF AN ACTION
“Locus Standi is a condition precedent to instituting an action before a Court of law. It is a legal voice with which the Plaintiff amplifies his legal rights over and above those of ordinary men. The issue of locus standi constitutes a condition precedent to the institution of any action before a court of Law. For an action to be maintainable, the person instituting it must have legal capacity, otherwise the court is robbed of necessary jurisdiction to entertain it. Whenever the issue of locus standi is raised, the Court before whom the action is pending is under a duty to determine it first before going into the merit of the action itself. see also the case of A.G Federation Vs Abubakar (2007) 10 NWLR (Pt.1 041) 1 at 75; Adewunmi Vs Ogebelle (1983) 4 WCLR (Vol.4) 662 at 677 where the Court further extended the frontiers of locus standi to the effect that a general interest common to all members of the public is not a litigable interest to allow standing and that a citizen, without more, has no locus”. PER S.D.BAGE, J.S.C
LOCUS STANDI- NATURE OF LOCUS STANDI
“Judicial parameters of locus standi had been set in the case of Abacha & Anor Vs Ag Federation & Ors. (2013) LPELR-21479 where the Court pronounced on the Nature of locus standi citing the case of Nyame Vs Federal Republic Of Nigeria (2010) 42 NSCQR 54 and held that:
“The term locus standi entails the legal capacity of instituting, initiating or Commencement of an action in a competent Court of Law or tribunal without any inhibition, obstruction or hindrance from anybody or person Whatsoever including the provision of any existing law.
The fundamental aspect of locus standi is that it focuses on the party seeking to get its complaint heard before the Court.
It is settled law that the Plaintiff will have locus standi in a matter only if he has a special right or alternatively if he can show that he has sufficient or special interest in the performance of the duty sought to be enforced or where the interest is adversely affected”
– PER S.D.BAGE, J.S.C
CAUSE OF ACTION – WHAT IS CAUSE OF ACTION?
“I wish to state the law that cause of action is the factual basis or scenario that formed the basis of invoking the jurisdiction of court in a suit”. PER S.D.BAGE, J.S.C
CAUSE OF ACTION – DEFINITION OF CAUSE OF ACTION
“A cause of action is defined in Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary as the entire set of circumstances giving rise to an unforceable claim. In determining the cause of action or right to sue, the court will rely on the Statement of claim filed by the Claimants to determine their standing. See Sokoto Native Authority (1968) l ALL NLR 377 where the definition in Read Vs Brown (1888) 22 QBD. 128 (C. A.). The court must therefore confine itself only to the averments in the statement of claim in the assessment of whether or not the plaintiff has a locus to sue. See Shell B. P. Petroleum Development Co., Of Nigeria Ltd. & Anors. Vs Onasanya (176) 6 S. C. 89, at 94. PER S.D.BAGE, J.S.C
CAUSE OF ACTION – IMPORTANCE OF CAUSE OF ACTION
“Cause of action necessarily touches on issue of jurisdiction. It is therefore fundamental to adjudicatory competence for a Court to first examine the basis of dispute, that is what led to instituting the suit, which is otherwise called ‘Cause of Action”. Any defect in the competence of a court to entertain a matter is fatal, for the proceedings are a nullity, however well conducted. Consequently a determination by any court or tribunal without jurisdiction confers no right or obligation. See Nwosu VS I.S.E.S.A (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt.135) 688”. PER S.D.BAGE, J.S.C
JURISDICTION OF COURT – DETERMINATION OF WHETHER OR NOT A COURT IS COMPETENT TO EXERCISE JURISDICTION OVER A MATTER
“The settled position of law is that for the court to be competent to exercise jurisdiction over a matter, it is a necessary condition that the proper parties be identified. See Ehindimhen Vs Musa (2000) 8 NWLR (Pt.669) 540 at 569. In determining whether or not a court has jurisdiction, without delving into the merit or otherwise of the case, all that the court needs do is to look at the Writ of Summons and statement of Claim of the Claimant to establish the basis of the suit on which the Court may anchor its jurisdiction. See Adeyemi Vs Opeyori (1960) 9-20 SC 31. PER S.D.BAGE, J.S.C
JURISDICTION – ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS OF JURISDICTION
“Furthermore, this suit lacks all essential ingredients for the purpose of conferring jurisdictional competence in the court to hear and determine the suit as laid down in Madukolu Vs Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCLR, 341. This position of the law has long been settled in this case as to the principles which must be satisfied before the court can competently entertain a suit:
“a. The court is properly constituted as regards members and qualification of the members of the bench, such that no member is disqualified for one reason or the other;
b. The subject matter of the case is within its jurisdiction, and there is no feature in the case which prevents the court from exercising jurisdiction; and
c. The case comes before the court by due process of law and upon fulfilment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction. ”PER S.D.BAGE, J.S.C
CAUSE OF ACTION – ELEMENT OF CAUSE OF ACTION
“It is now settled law that a cause of action is entire factual situation, the existence of which entitles one person to obtain from court, a remedy against another person. See the case of A.G. Kwara State V. Olawole (1993) 1 NWLR (Pt. 272) 645 at 663.
Again, in the case of Renco Construction Co. Ltd. Vs. Veepee Industries Ltd. (2005) Al I FWLR (Pt. 264) 816 at 822 this court held thus:
“Cause of action is the entire set of circumstances giving rise to an enforceable claim, it effect the factor combination of facts which give rise to a right to sue and it consist of two elements:
(a) The wrongful act of the Defendant which gives the plaintiff cause of complaint, and
(b) The consequent damage”
– PER W.S.N ONNOGHEN, J.S.C
LACK OF LOCUS STANDI – EFFECT OF LACK OF LOCUS STANDI ON THE JURISDICTION OF A COURT
“As afore stated, locus standi of a plaintiff to institute an action is a condition precedent to the Court’s jurisdiction. It is inextricably linked to the exercise of jurisdiction by a Court. In other words, where the party initiating an action lacks locus standi, the Court is robbed of jurisdiction to hear that matter”. PER J.I.OKORO,J.S.C
STATUTE REFERRED TO:
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)
Rules of Professional Conduct in the Legal Profession, 1967 as amended in 1979