Areas Of Law
APPEAL, COURT, JURISDICTION, LAW OF BANKING, PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
Summary of facts
The Respondent opened and operated two accounts with the Appellant- a commercial bank; one of which was a current account in the name of AL-CLEMENT with two signatories thereto and a fixed deposit account. Both accounts were for the purposes of lodging funds realized from contracts between the Respondent and Imo State Secondary Education Management Board and the Primary Education Board for the production of students’ identity cards. Some cheques were issued and lodged in the two accounts while cheques for withdrawals were signed by the signatories to the account. Later on, a dispute arose between the two signatories over the operation of the account which resulted in the Respondent dropping the other signatory. Efforts by the manager of Appellant to resolve the dispute was unsuccessful. The Respondent issued cheques to some people which were dishonored and marked “incomplete mandate” as the cheques were signed by the Respondent alone. The accounts of the Respondent were later frozen on the orders of Imo State Task Force for the Recovery of Public Property and Funds headed by a High Court Judge on allegations that the Respondent used the contract to defraud the Imo State Government and paid the proceeds into the said accounts with the Appellant. The Appellant was ordered to transfer the funds in the accounts to that of the Imo State Government with Afribank Plc. Upon the reluctance of the Appellant to comply with the orders, the Task Force threatened to imprison a manager of the Appellant who consequently complied with the order of transfer of funds in the account. The Respondent being aggrieved by the refusal of Appellant to honor the cheques on grounds of incomplete mandate and the orders of the Task Force freezing and transferring the funds in the accounts, instituted two suits namely HON/208/97 in the High Court of Imo State, and FHC/PH/262/97 in the Federal High Court . While these suits were pending, the Respondent instituted the suit resulting in the instant appeal. In the course of the trial, the Appellant sought leave to further amend its amended Statement of Defence to plead a standard banking practice but the court struck out the motion. At the conclusion of trial, the court entered judgment for the Respondent. Aggrieved by the decision of the trial court, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal which affirmed the judgment of the trial court hence the instant appeal to the apex court.
Issue For Determination
Whether the jurisdiction of the trial court was not ousted by section 18(1) of the Recovery of Public Funds and Property (Special Provisions) Edict, 1995 of Imo State -Ground 4.
ISSUE OF JURISDICTION- THE ISSUE OF JURISDICTION IS FUNDAMENTAL TO ADJUDICATION.
“It is now settled law that an issue of jurisdiction is a thresh-hold issue which is fundamental to adjudication, it is important to consider and resolve same, (issue C) first before proceeding any further with the consideration of the merits of the substantive appeal. The above position is also advised by the principle of law that a decision of a court without the requisite jurisdiction is null and void, however well, the trial or proceeding leading thereto was conducted.” PER W. S. N. ONNOGHEN, J.S.C
JURISDICTION OF COURT – DETERMINANT OF JURISDICTION OF COURT
“It is true that jurisdiction of the court is determined by the claim of the plaintiff. However, in considering the claim of the plaintiff, the defence must also be considered when the issue is that of the jurisdiction of the court to hear and determine the matter.” PER W. S. N. ONNOGHEN, J.S.C
COMPETENCE OF COURT – CONDITIONS THAT DETERMINES THE COMPETENT JURISDICTION OF A COURT
“A court is only competent or has jurisdiction to hear and determine a matter when:
“1. it is properly constituted with respect to the number and qualifications of its members;
2. The subject-matter is within its jurisdiction.
3. The action is initiated by the due process of law; and
4. The condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction has been satisfied.” – see Madukolu and ors vs Nkemdilim and ors (1962)1 All NLR (pt.4) 587. It is clear that failure to satisfy any of the above preconditions is fatal to the court’s exercise of jurisdiction or adjudication.” PER W. S. N. ONNOGHEN, J.S.C
JURISDICTION-WHETHER JURISDICTION CAN BE OUSTED BY STATUTE, DECREE OR EDICT
“It should however be pointed out that jurisdiction may be ousted by Statute or Decree or Edict – such as section 18(1) of Edict No. 7 of 1985 supra”. PER W. S. N. ONNOGHEN, J.S.C
OUSTER CLAUSE – EFFECT OF THE OUSTER CLAUSE IN SECTION 18(1) OF THE RECOVERY OF PUBLIC FUNDS AND PROPERTY (SPECIAL PROVISIONS) EDICT NO. 7 OF 1985
“The ouster clause clearly spelt out in Section 18 (1) of the Edict forecloses any court delving into the rightness or otherwise of acts done under the said Edict, This is because what has now become trite occurred and that is that the Court was not competent to entertain the suit because there were features in it which had divested the Court of the requisite Jurisdiction. I rely on Madukolu v Nkemdilim (1962) 1 A NLR (pt. 4) 587 at 595”. PER M. U. PETER-ODILI, J.S.C
Statutes Referred To:
Evidence Act, 2011
Imo State Recovery of Public Funds and Property (Special Provisions) Edict No. 7 of 1985