(2021) Legalpedia (CA) 10615
In the Court of Appeal
HOLDEN AT GOMBE
Thursday, June 17, 2021
Suite Number: CA/G/402/2017
JUMMAI HANNATU SANKEY
TUNDE O. AWOTOYE
JONATHAN UBA || BORE AUTA
AREA(S) OF LAW
JUDGMENT AND ORDER
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
SUMMARY OF FACTS
The Appellants commenced this action against the Respondent before the Upper Area Court (UAC) Boh, sometime in 2007. Therein, they sued the Respondent in a representative capacity in respect of two farmlands, one at Lanteme and the other at Shirang. Therein, they claimed both farmlands to be their commonly inherited properties. The Respondent denied the claim and asserted personal ownership of the two farmlands in question. The Upper Area Court Boh, without taking evidence, proceeded to deliver Judgment over the claim, wherein it declared the two farmlands as inherited clan’s land. Aggrieved with the decision of the UAC Boh, the Respondent appealed to the High Court of Justice Gombe, which Court, after hearing the parties, entered Judgment setting aside the decision the Upper Area Court Boh, and ordered a retrial before the Upper Area Court, Kaltungo. The Respondent (as Defendant) before that Court, raised an objection to the jurisdiction of the Upper Area Court, Kaltungo to try the matter on the ground of res judicata whereof the said Court sustained the objection and struck out the matter. The Appellants aggrieved by the decision, appealed against the Ruling of the Upper Area Court Kaltungo, to the High Court of Justice Gombe, which Court in its Judgment, set aside the decision of the trial Court and ordered yet another retrial of the matter before the Upper Area Court (UAC) Billiri. At the conclusion of the trial, the court entered judgment in favour of the Appellants. Dissatisfied with this decision, the Respondent successfully appealed to the High Court of Justice Gombe State, which Court set aside the Judgment of the Upper Area Court Billiri on the ground of res judicata. Unhappy with decision of the trial court, the Appellants have approached this Court vide an appeal.
||INTERESTED IN GETTING SUMMARIES LIKE THIS FOR FREE?||
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
Whether res judicata was properly applied in the circumstances of the case. Whether the lower Court evaluated the evidence on record to sustain the setting aside of the trial Court’s Judgment.
FINDINGS OF FACT OF A TRIAL COURT – INSTANCES WHERE AN APPELLATE COURT WOULD INTERFERE WITH THE FINDINGS OF FACT OF A TRIAL COURT
“In the consideration of an Appeal from the decision of an appellate Court such as the lower Court, the duty of this Court is to review the findings of the said Court and decide whether it came to a right decision. Thus, my obligation here is not to re-evaluate the evidence of the parties adduced at the trial Court and to make my own findings thereon. Rather, it is to decide whether the lower Court was right in its decision. Traditionally and as a matter of law, an appellate Court should not interfere with the findings of facts of a trial Court except where the findings do not correspond with the evidence before it. In such a circumstance, such findings are described as being perverse, as any decision based on perverse findings will not stand – Unity Bank Plc V Abba (2013) LPELR–22890(CA);Dasuki (Rtd) V FRN ELC (2018) 3047(SC) 1; Egbufor V State (2013) LPELR-20688(CA); Unity Bank Plc V Abba (2013) LPELR-22890(CA); Nteogwuile V Otuo (2001) 16 NWLR (Pt. 738) 58;Adamu V State (2017) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1565) 459; Iroagbara V Ufomadu (2009) 5-6 SC (Pt. 1) 83; Ojo V Gov. Oyo State (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 956) 1; Abegunde V Ondo State House of Assembly (2015) 4-5 SC (Pt. 1) 1”.
RES JUDICATA – MEANING OF RES JUDICATA
“Res judicata, as a defence to a claim, is derived from the Latin term “Res judicata”. It means a matter adjudged; a thing judicially acted upon or decided; a thing or matter settled by Judgment – Black’s Law Dictionary, Tenth Edition. The rule is that a final Judgment rendered by a Court of competent jurisdiction on the merits is conclusive as to the rights of the parties and their privies and, as to them, constitutes an absolute bar to a subsequent action involving the same claim, demand or cause of action”.
ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM – MEANING AND FEATURES OF ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM
“Estoppel per rem judicatam is a rule of evidence whereby a party (or his privy) is precluded from disputing in any subsequent proceedings, matters which had been adjudicated upon previously by a competent Court between him (or his privy) and his opponent – Section 59 of the Evidence Act, 2011. A party raising a plea of estoppel per rem judicatam is in fact urging the Court before which it is raised not to consider the issues in the case anew, the issues having been previously adjudicated upon by a competent Court – Okposin V Assam (2005) LPELR-2521(SC) 26, A-C, per Oguntade, JSC. Thus, the essential features of this doctrine are: An earlier decision on the subject matter and issue(s) from a Court of competent jurisdiction; A final Judgment on the merits; and The involvement of the same parties or parties in privy with the original parties. The issue of estoppel per rem judicatam/res judicata is based on the principle of the necessity to have an end to litigation in respect of the same res and between the same parties or their privies. See Ntuks V NPA (2007) LPELR-2076(SC) 25, C-F, per Tobi, JSC; Adeyemi-Bero V Lagos State Dev. Property Corp. (2012) LPELR-20615(SC) 77, C-D; Olukoga V Fatunde (1996) LPELR-2623(SC) 20, F.
DOCTRINE OF RES JUDICATA – CONCEPT OF THE DOCTRINE OF RES JUDICATA
“Where a Court of competent jurisdiction has finally settled a matter in dispute between parties, neither the parties nor their privies may re-litigate that issue as under the guise of bringing a fresh action since the matter is said to be res judicata. The Supreme Court in Ajiboye V Ishola (2006) 13 NWLR (Pt. 998) 628 was clear on the law that where an issue of fact has been judicially determined in a final manner between the parties or their privies, such issue cannot be re-litigated in a subsequent suit.
COURT – WHETHER A COURT OF COORDINATE JURISDICTION HAS POWER TO SIT AS AN APPELLATE COURT IN ANOTHER CASE AND ADJUDICATE ON A DECISION MADE BY A COURT OF THE SAME HIERARCHY
“In addition, the law is settled that the learned Judges of the High Court of a State have equal powers and are of coordinate jurisdiction – Section 270 of the Constitution. A Court of coordinate jurisdiction has no constitutional power to sit as an appellate Court in another case and review and/or adjudicate on a decision or order made by another Court of the same hierarchy. In Gani V AG Lagos State No. 1 (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt. 112) 707, 774, the apex Court held: “The presumption has always been that the decisions of a superior Court are within jurisdiction and are correct until the contrary is proved. It seems to me that even if the decision of the superior Court is a nullity, the only proper way of challenging such decision must be by an application before the very Court which tried the case or by an application to the appropriate appellate Court. Even if the Judgment Longe J. were a nullity, the proper way to set it aside is by an Appeal not by a review before a Court of coordinate jurisdiction… It seems to me that in view of the provision of the Constitution which carefully shares jurisdiction to the various Courts…, only the Court vested with the the particular jurisdiction can interfere with the decision of another Court.”
ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM – OPERATION OF ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM
“The Supreme Court in Ajiboye V Ajibola (1995) LPELR-724(SC) 34, B-F, Belgore JSC held as follows: “Estoppel per rem judicatam operates when there has been a final decision by a Court of competent jurisdiction, whose decision has not been challenged legally either by way of appeal or, if appealed against, final decision has been made by competent Court or Courts, and that the decision is between their privies, and the issue or subject matter is the same. It is based on res inter allios acta alteri nocere non potest. This principle is as old as the Common Law in this country and it operates for or against not only the parties in the Court in the previous case but also their privies. Privies include all those who are related to the parties in blood, interest and title of the subject-matter.” Thus, once a dispute or matter has been finally and judicially pronounced upon or determined by a Court of competent jurisdiction, neither the parties thereto nor their privies can subsequently be allowed to re-litigate the matter because a judicial determination, properly handed down, is conclusive until reversed by an appellate Court. The veracity of that decision is not open to challenge nor can it be contradicted. This doctrine is grounded in public policy which stipulates that there must be an end to litigation – Ayilara V Fed. Ministry of Works & Housing (2013) LPELR-20772(CA) 33-34, F-B, per Sankey, JCA.
STATUTES REFERRED TO
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999|Evidence Act 2011|
Emmanuel Nwaekwe Esq. appears for Appellant.|A.Y. Galadima Esq. appears for Respondent.|
||INTERESTED IN GETTING SUMMARIES LIKE THIS FOR FREE?||