Independent National Electoral Commission V. Ogbadibo Local Government & Ors

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Independent National Electoral Commission V. Ogbadibo Local Government & Ors

(Supreme Court – July, 2015) 
Legalpedia Electronic Citation: LER[2015]SC.309/2014

AREAS OF LAW:

APPEAL, ACTION, COURT, JURISDICTION,LAW OF EVIDENCE, LIMITATION LAW, LOCUS STANDI, PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE, WORDS AND PHRASES

 

SUMMARY OF FACTS

The Respondents commenced an action against the Appellant at the Federal High Court Abuja, the matter was subsequently transferred to Makurdi. The Respondents at the Trial Court sought for declarative reliefs which include amongst all other; a declaration that the Benue State House of Assembly is not properly constituted or composed as required by Sections 91and 112 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria., a declaration that having regard to the provision of section 91 and 112 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the defendant acted improperly and unfairly in refusing or failing to include the suppressed OTUKPA State Constituency in Ogbadibo Local Government Area among the names of the suppressed state constituencies. The Appellant in response to the Originating Summons filed a Notice of Preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the trial Court to entertain the suit which he claimed was statute barred, having not been instituted within three months after the accrual of cause of action. The trial Court after hearing both parties, dismissed the Preliminary Objection, and granted all the reliefs sought by the Respondents. Aggrieved, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal where his appeal was disallowed and the decision of the trial Court affirmed. The Appellant was thereafter prompted to make further appeal to the Supreme Court.

HELD

Appeal Allowed

 

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

  • Whether the Court of Appeal was right in holding that the respondents satisfied the requirements of the law on locus standi and therefore clothed with the necessary locus standi to institute the action
  •  Whether the Appellant is not protected by section 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Act having regard to the circumstances of this case
  •  Whether the Court of Appeal was right in holding that Exhibits A,B and C are admissible in evidence and their usage cannot be faulted. (Ground 3).
  •  Whether the Court of Appeal was right in relying on its judgment in the case of Oju Local Government v. INEC (2007) 14 NWLR (pt 1054) 242 having regard to the circumstances of this case
  •  Whether the Court of Appeal was correct to require the Appellant to proffer legal argument by affidavit evidence in the circumstances of this case.
  •  Whether the Court of Appeal was correct when it held that there were sufficient materials for grant of declaratory reliefs in the circumstances of this case

 

RATIONES

LOCUS STANDI – MEANING OF LOCUS STANDI

“Locus standi is a Latin term or expression. It denotes the plaintiffs capacity to sue in a court of law to enforce a lega1 right. Once the plaintiff has the right or vested interest to protect and enforce legally and this has been disclosed in Writ of Summons’ and Statement of Claim and in an action commenced by originating summons (as in the instant case) in the averments in the affidavit in support of the summons, the plaintiff would be adjoined to have shown sufficient interest which entitles him to sue on the subject matter Chances of success of an action are not relevant consideration: ‘see Taiwo v. Adegboro (2011) 11 NWLR (pt. 1159) 562.” PER S.GALADIMA, J.S.C.

ESTABLISHMENT OF LOCUS STANDI – DUTY OF A PARTY ESTABLISHING LOCUS STANDI

“For a party to establish locus standi, he must show that the matter is justiciable – capable of being disposed of judiciously in a court of law and the existence of dispute between parties. See Ajayi v. Adebiyi (2012) 11 NWLR (pt. 1310) 137.” PER S.GALADIMA, J.S.C

 

LIMITATION LAW – ESSENCE OF THE LIMITATION LAW

“I must state here that the limitation Law does generally either of two things; it either bars the remedy without extinguishing the right or bars the remedy and at the same time extinguishes the right. Whichever effect it has will depend on the particular statute. However there is a general consensus that all limitation laws have the effect of closing the doors of the court against the plaintiff’.” PER S.GALADIMA, J.S.C

 

PUBLIC OFFICE PROTECTION ACT – ESSENCE OF THE PUBLIC OFFICER PROTECTION ACT

‘The essence or effect of the public officer protection Act herein, is to extinguish the cause of action if it is commenced after the stipulated period, which is three months, subject to the exception provided for in section 2 of the Act: ‘Thus where there has been a continuance of injury or damage, a fresh cause of action arises from time to time, as often as damage or injury is caused’ See Aremo v Adekanye (supra), Battishee v Reed (1856)18C8.69C at 714.” PER S.GALADIMA, J.S.C

 

DEFENCE OF LIMITATION OF TIME – ONCE A DEFENCE OF LIMITATION OF TIME IS STATED AND GROUNDED IN THE AVERMENTS IN SUPPORT OF THE SUMMONS, AND IT IS ESTABLISHED, THIS BARS THE PLAINTIFF’S REMEDY AND EXTINGUISHES THE RIGHT OF HIS ACTION

“ In law once a defence of limitation of time is stated and grounded in the averments in support of the summons, (as in this case at hand) and it is established, this bars the plaintiffs, remedy and extinguishes the right of his action; then the Court will wash off its hands and decline to entertain the action. This in effect means that there, is absolutely no basis for prying into the conduct of the Appellant howsoever which gave rise to the action, even as being suggested here by the learned counsel for the Respondents. See Amadi v. NNPC (2000) 6SC (pt.l) 66; Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007) 4 NWLR (PT.1025) 423.” PER S.GALADIMA, J.S.C

 

LIMITATION LAW – EFFECT OF A LIMITATION LAW

“It is settled law that a limitation law, such as the provisions of section 2 (a) of the Public Officers Protection Act, takes away the legal right of a litigant to enforce an action leaving him with an empty shell of a cause of action where the action is not instituted within the time frame enacted in the statute of limitation.” PER W.S.N. ONNOGHEN,J.S.C.

 

 

STATUTE BARRED ACTION – A STATUTED BARRED ACTION CANNOT BE MAINTAINED AS IT ROBS THE COURT OF ITS JURISDICTION TO ENTERTAIN SAME

“Where the action is instituted outside the time so allotted by the statute, we say that the action so instituted is statute -barred and cannot be maintained since it robs the court of the jurisdiction to entertain and determine same.” PER W.S.N. ONNOGHEN, J.S.C.

 

 

JURISDICTION – IMPORTANCE OF JURISDICTION

“Jurisdiction is the bedrock of any judicial proceeding and its absence or defect renders any proceeding a nullity notwithstanding that it was well conducted. See Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) All NLR 587; Aaron Nfionadi v. Clement Ezenwosu (1988) 6 SCNJ 88 at 95-96. PER N.S.NGWUTA, J.S.C.

 

FRESH ISSUE ON APPEAL – A FRESH ISSUE ON APPEAL MUST BE RAISED WITH THE LEAVE OF COURT

“The issue of a continuance of injury is a fresh issue which the respondents as plaintiffs cannot raise without leave of Court first sought and granted.” PER N.S. NGWUTA, J.S.C.

 

 

RAISING AN ISSUE SUO MOTU – WHERE PARTIES ARE NOT GIVEN OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS THE COURT ON ISSUES RAISED SUO MOTU, SUCH ISSUE CANNOT FORM THE BASIS OF ANY DECISION

“When a Court raises an issue suo motu as was done in this case, the issue so raised cannot form the basis of any decision if Counsel to the parties are not given the opportunity to address the Court on it. See Ugo v. Obiekwe (1989) 2 SC (Pt. 11) 41; Shasi & Anor v. Smith & 2 ors (2009) 12 SC (Pt. Ill) 1.” PER N.S.NGWUTA, J.S.C.

 

CONCURRENT FINDING OF FACT OF LOWER COURTS – ATTITUDE OF APPELLATE COURTS TO CONCURRENT FINDING OF FACT OF LOWER COURTS

“While this Court does not, in principle and practice, make a habit of disturbing a concurrent finding of fact of the two Courts below, it will not hesitate to interfere where it has reason to do so in the interest of justice.” PER N.S.NGWUTA, J.S.C.

 

LOCUS STANDI – DEFINITION LOCUS STANDI

“Locus standi has been defined severally as the legal capacity to institute proceedings in a court of law; a place of standing or standing to sue. See: Adesanya Vs President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1981) 5 SC (Reprints) 69: Thomas Vs Olufosoye (1986) 1 NWLR (1986) 669: A.G. Kaduna State Vs Hassan (1985)2 NWLR (Pt.8) 483: Odeneye Vs Efunuga (1990) NWLR (Pt,.164) 618. Explaining the importance of locus standi in Adesanya’s case (supra), M. Bello, JSC (as he then was), (of blessed memory) stated thus at page 95 (supra):

“It is a common ground in all the jurisdictions of the common law countries that the claimant must have some justiciable interest which may be affected by the action or that he will suffer injury or damage as a result of the action. … In the final analysis, whether a claimant has sufficient justiciable interest or sufferance of injury or damage depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.”

 

LOCUS STANDI –LEGAL CONCEPT OF LOCUS STANDI

“ In A.G. Kaduna State Vs Hassan (supra) at 524 G Oputa, JSC stated:

“The legal concept of standing or locus standi is predicated on the assumption that no court is obliged to provide a remedy for a claim in which the applicant has a remote, hypothetical or no interest.”

The legal consequence of lack of locus standi is that the court would lack the jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiff’s claims and the suit would be liable to be struck out. See: Madukolu Vs Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR 341.” PER K.M.O.KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C

 

LIMITATION LAW – EFFECT OF A LIMITATION LAW

“The effect of a limitation law such as the Public Officers’ Protection Act (supra), as has been stated in numerous decisions of this court is that it deprives the court of jurisdiction to entertain a matter instituted outside the limitation period and it also forecloses a litigant’s right to enforce a cause of action, which he might otherwise have had, once the stipulated time for bringing the action has elapsed. The right becomes extinguished by effluxion of time. See: Egbe Vs Adefarasin (1987) l NWLR (Pt.47)1: Ibrahim Vs J.S.C (1998) 14 NWLR (Pt.584)1: Ajayi Vs Adebiyi (2012) 11 NWLR (Pt.1310) 137: Alhaii Ado Ibrahim Vs Alhaji Maigida U. Lawal & Ors. (2015) LPELR – SC.99/2009 delivered on 5/6/2015.” PER K.M.O.KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C

 

CONTINUANCE OF THE DAMAGE OR INJURY – MEANING OF CONTINUANCE OF THE DAMAGE OR INJURY

“The continuance of the damage or injury constitutes an exception to the general rule. It was held in: Obiefuna Vs Okoye (1961) All NLR 357 @ 360 that:

“Continuance of injury or damage means continuance of the legal injury and not merely continuance of the injurious effects of a legal injury.”  See also: Olaosebikan Vs Williams (1996) 5 NWLR (Pt.449) 437 @ 456 — 457 D — H.” PER K.M.O.KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C

 

SECTION 2(A) OF THE PUBLIC OFFICERS PROTECTION ACT – PRINCIPLE OF SECTION 2(A) OF THE PUBLIC OFFICERS PROTECTION ACT

“The general principle of Section 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Act is that where a statute provides for the institution of an action within a prescribed period, the action shall not be brought after the time prescribed by such statute. Any action that is instituted after the period stipulated by the statute is totally barred as the right of the plaintiff or the injured person to commence the action would have been extinguished by such law. What this means in effect is that the Limitation Act or Law removes the right of action of a plaintiff, his right of enforcement and right of judicial relief leaving him with a bare and empty cause of action which he cannot enforce by judicial process. It is statute barred. See Egbe V. Adefarasin (1987) 1 NWLR (pt. 47) I, Military Administrator Ekiti State V. Aladeyelu (2007) 14 NWLR (pt. 1055) 619, Hassan V. Aliyu (2010) 17 NWLR (pt. 1223) 547, P. N. Udoh Trading Co. Ltd. V. Sunday Abere & Anor. (2001) 11 NWLR (pt. 723) 114, Alhaji Ado Ibrahim V. Alhaji Maigida U. Lawal & Ors (2015) LPELR – SC. 99/2009 delivered on 5th June, 2015.” PER J.I.OKORO, J.S.C

 

STATUTE REFERRED TO:

Public Officer Protection Act Cap. P.41 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004

 

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