Court Of Appeal – Lagos Division – March, 2016
Areas Of Law:
ACTION, APPEAL, COURT, FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT, JURISDICTION, PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
Summary Of Facts
The Appellants by way of Fundamental Rights Enforcement Proceedings applied to the High Court of Lagos State seeking to enforce their fundamental rights. The 5th Respondent, a titled chief whose appointment has been gazetted, applied to have his name properly reflected with his title of “OBA” added to his name. The trial court upon considering the application directed the Appellants to amend the processes to reflect the title of the 5th Respondent as “Oba Adewale Okoya” who is a titled Chief in the State. Aggrieved by the ruling of the court, the Appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal.
Issues For Determination
➢ Whether the trial court was right to have ordered the Applicants/ Appellants to Amend the name of the 5th respondent to read ‘ Oba Adewale Okoya’ instead of ‘Mr. Adewale Okoya after it had said that Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 1979 do not provide for Prefixing of any party’s title.
➢ Whether the trial court was right in ordering the Applicant / Appellant to amend their processes to read “Oba Adewale Okoya” instead of “Mr. Adewale Okoya” when there is a pending suit NO. BD/36/07 against the 5th Respondent challenging the validity or otherwise of his installation as “Oba of Ibereko” and the resolution of the Lagos State House of Assembly on the 29 October 2007 to the effect that Lagos State Government should reverse the installation of ‘purported Oba Israel Adewale Okoya’ in view of the fact that the Government was misled or deceived into taking the action.
INHERENT JURISDICTION OF THE HIGH COURT – HOW THE INHERENT JURISDICTION OF A HIGH COURT IS EXERCISED
“The trial court is a High court duly constituted and being a court of record, it has inherent powers to make orders for the due determination of matters brought before it. The inherent jurisdiction of the court is an adjunct to assist the delivery of justice only when the laid down procedure is silent but it ought to be evocable only when it promotes the ends of justice. An inherent jurisdiction of court is that power which a court of law exercises for the purpose of delivering substantial justice in any matter with which it is seized under certain peculiar circumstances. The inherent jurisdiction supplements the statutory powers of the court and is dictated by the need for the court to fulfill itself in order to meet the ends of justice. See Universal Oil Ltd V NDIC (2008) 6 NWLR (Pt 1083) 254.It is exercised in the interest of justice where necessary in a particular case. This power is constitutionally provided for under section 6(6) (a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which states as follows:
“6 (6) The judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section- (a)shall extend to, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this constitution, to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law .
(b) Shall extend to all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any person in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person;
It is therefore wrong to contend that the court cannot exercise certain power unless allowed by a substantive law. Certain aspects of judicial powers exercised by the courts have by constant practice come to acquire a character that is binding. Inherent powers that belong to the court includes taking those steps that would allow for due administration of justice. The inherent jurisdiction of the court is exercisable only as part of the process of the administration of justice; it is part of the procedural law, both civil and criminal and not of substantive law. It is invoked only in relation to the process of litigation. See Alhaji Selani Mabera V Peter Obi & Anor (1972) ALL NLR 772. To grant an application to acknowledge the proper title of a party, the court certainly does not require an express permission of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 1979 to do that, that being incidental to the powers of the court to determine matters.” PER Y. B.NIMPAR, J.C.A
RELIEFS BROUGHT UNDER A WRONG LAW – WHETHER A COURT CAN DENY A RELIEF MERELY BECAUSE IT WAS BROUGHT UNDER A WRONG LAW
“It is trite that a court will not deny a relief because it was brought under a wrong law when it is an application the court can grant in order to determine the real issues in controversy between the parties and in the interest of justice, see Olatunji V Owena Bank Plc (2001) FWLR (Pt. 342; Falobi V Falobi (1976) 9-10 SC 1. The failure to refer to a law when exercising inherent jurisdiction is not fatal.” PER Y. B.NIMPAR, J.C.A
EXERCISE OF DISCRETION BY A TRIAL COURT – WHETHER THE EXERCISE OF DISCRETION BY A TRIAL COURT CAN BE QUESTIONED BY AN APPELLATE COURT
“Can the discretion of the court be questioned? Discretion exercised by a trial court cannot be interfered with lightly, see Nzeribe V Dave (1994) 8 NWLR (361) 124 where the apex court held thus:
“an appellate court would not, generally, question the exercise of discretion by the trial judge merely because it would have exercised this discretion in a different way if it had been in the position of the lower court. It ought to be very slow to interfere with the discretion of a trial judge unless it appears that the result of the order made below is to defeat the rights of the parties altogether, or that the trial judge gave no weight or sufficient weight to important considerations, in such cases, an appellate court has the power to review such an order and it is its duty to do so.” Per Ogwegbu, J.S.C.” PER Y. B.NIMPAR, J.C.A
EXERCISE OF DISCRETION BY A TRIAL COURT – CONDITIONS FOR WHICH AN APPELLATE COURT CAN INTERFERE WITH THE EXERCISE OF DISCRETION BY A TRIAL COURT
“An appellate court can only interfere with the exercise of discretion by a trial court under certain circumstances as held in the case of Nwadiogbu V Anambra/ Imo River Basin Authority (2010) LPELR – 2089 (SC) where the apex court held as follows:
“However, an appellate court may interfere with the exercise of judicial discretion if it is shown that there has been a wrong exercise of the judicial discretion such as where the court acts under a mis- conception of law or under mis- apprehension of fact by considering irrelevant matter.”
See also University Of Lagos V Aigoro (1985) 1 NSCC1 at 88.” PER Y. B.NIMPAR, J.C.A
FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS PROCEDURE – PURPOSE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS PROCEDURE
“The Fundamental Rights Procedure is designed to enable Applicants enforce their right without the unwieldy procedure applicable to other claims.” PER Y. B.NIMPAR, J.C.A
FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT ACTION – WHETHER AMENDING THE TITLE OF A PARTY IN A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT ACTION IS TANTAMOUNT TO GRANTING THE SUBSTANTIVE RELIEF
“Amending the title of a party, an harmless order, in a suit on fundamental rights does not transform into granting the party the substantive relief the title bears”. PER J.S.IKYEGH, J.C.A
Statutes Referred To
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.
Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 1979
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