➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Archibong Tom Udo v Ibanga Udo Robson (2018) – CA
by “PipAr” B.C. Chima
Court of Appeal – CA/C/302/2013
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, 20th July, 2018
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Filing human rights suit jointly.
Jurisdiction for human rights.
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT HAS SPECIAL ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURES
Fundamental right enforcement has a special procedure enthroned under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 to facilitate the exercise of one’s right as dispensed under Chapter IV of the Constitution. The rights themselves are the basic and fundamental human rights which inhere in every human being. These rights are in place because of the elevated nature of human beings above other creatures occupying the earth. — S.J. Adah, JCA.
⦿ FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS SUIT CANNOT BE FILED JOINTLY
The earlier position of this Court is that fundamental rights accrue to citizens individually and by lumping the applications together, the Respondents rendered their application incompetent. — J.O.K. Oyewole, JCA.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Stephen Jonah Adah, JCA.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
Mr. R. A. Manga.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
➥ CASE HISTORY
This is an appeal against the judgment of the High Court of Akwa Ibom State sitting at Eket in Suit No. HEK/29/2011 delivered on 4th day of March, 2013 by Theresa I. Obot, J.
The decision was sequel to an application filed at that Court by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Respondents in this appeal against the Appellant and the 4th and 5th Respondents for the enforcement of their fundamental rights, inter alia, “A DECLARATION that the arrest, detention, harassment and torture of the 1st and 2nd Applicants from the 3rd day of March, 2011 to the 30th day of March, 2011 at the behest and instigation of the 1st Respondent and at the 2nd and 3rd Respondents cell from 12:30am on the 3rd day of March, 2011 to 30th day of March, 2011 is illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void.”
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
[APPEAL: ALLOWED, in part]
I. Whether it is the Akwa Ibom State High Court or the Federal High Court that has jurisdiction over this matter?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. “The law as it is now is that the Federal High Court has jurisdiction to hear any case where there is infraction of fundamental right but that the Federal High Court has jurisdiction only where the infractions are connected to the primary jurisdiction of the Federal High Court as listed in Section 251(1) of the Constitution. In the instant case, the reliefs sought have to do with arrest, detention, harassment and torture. This is a personal claim; it has nothing to do with the primary jurisdiction of the Federal High Court. So, the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction. I therefore agree fully with the learned Counsel for the Respondents that it is the State High Court that has jurisdiction in this case.”
II. Whether it is proper to join several Applicants in one application for the purposes of securing the enforcement of their fundamental rights?
RULING: IN APPELLANT’S FAVOUR.
A. “In the 2009, Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, there is no joinder provision. What we have is consolidation of separate suits filed. The focus may be that fundamental rights are personal rights and cannot be fought together as right varies from one person to the other. But in a situation such as in the instant case, the act complained of is the act of arrest and detention without bail and without an arraignment in Court for any known offence I still believe in the circumstance that the Court in the interest of justice and convenience can allow the parties to file their complaint together for the enforcement of their fundamental rights. Since this provision is not in the rules the Courts are having it difficult to take it up.”
B. “In this appeal under consideration, the application was brought by two separate Applicants (1) Mr. Michael Yedi and (2) Onodje Yedi Nig. Ltd. The words used under Section 46(1) of the Constitution set out above is very clear. The same provision is made in Order 1 Rule 2(1) of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 1979. The adjective used in both provisions in qualifying who can apply to a Court to enforce a right is “any” which denotes singular and does not admit pluralities in any form. It is individual rights and not collective rights that is being talked about. In my humble view, any application filed by more than one person to enforce a right under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules is incompetent and liable to be struck out. The above view is supported by the case of RTFTCIN VS. IKWECHEGH (2000) 13 NWLR PART 683 AT PAGE 1, where it was held among others that: ‘If an individual feels that his Fundamental Rights or Human Rights has been violated, he should take out action personally for the alleged infraction as rights of one differs in content and degree from the complaint of the other … is a wrong joinder of action and incompetent.’”
“With this main issue (issue II) resolved in favour of the Appellant, the appeal is already spent. The judgment of the lower Court which was based on an incompetent application cannot stand. The appeal is therefore allowed. The judgment of the Court below delivered on 4th day of March, 2013 in Suit No. HEK/29/2011 is set aside. The suit before the trial Court is struck out. No costs awarded.”
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
Section 46(1)-(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ A FAMILY AS A UNIT CANNOT COMMENCE FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS APPLICATION
In the case of OKECHUKWU v ETUKOKWU (1998) 8 NWLR 23 (2018) LPELR 45183 (CA) PART 562, PAGE 511, it was held amongst others per Niki Tobi, JCA (as he then was) that: “As I indicated above, the Umunwanne family is the centre of the whole matter. A family as a unit cannot commence an action on infringement or contravention of Fundamental Rights. To be specific, no Nigeria family or any foreign family has the locus to commence action under Chapter IV of the Constitution or by virtue of the 1979 Rules. The provisions of Chapter 4 cover individuals and not a group or collection of individuals. The expression ‘every individual’, ‘every person’, ‘any person’, ‘every citizen’ are so clear that a family unit is never anticipated or contemplated”.
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)