⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Ndukkie Erisi & Ors v. Uzor Idika & Ors (1987) – CA
– Inherent jurisdiction;
– Notice of appeal;
– Mixed law and fact;
1. Ndukkie Esiri;
2. Onu Ohioma;
3. Okam Eze;
4. Ibiam (For themselves and as Representing the people of Ubolo Community, Ekoli Eda, Afikpo Local Government Area.)
1. Uzor Idika;
2. Enworo Ikwor;
3. Ikwor Eua;
4. Ede Ota;
5. Okoro A Ja;
6. Uwakwe Ama;
7. Ogbu Obo;
8. Ndem Ukpai;
9. Kalu Ama;
10. Isu Nnachi;
11. Efa Udu;
12. Elughu Nnachi (For themselves and as representing the Matrilineal families Ibe Uma, Ibe Ekworo, lbe Echeawo, Ibe Eneogu and Ibe Nwaechulu of Egwuma Eda.)
(1987) 3 NWLR (Pt.66)503;
(1987) A. N.L.R 529;
(1987) 9-11 S.C 170
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Mr. I. F. Ogbuagu.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Mr. A. O. Mogboh, SAN.
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The Appellants appealed to the Supreme Court. However, their notice of appeal contained grounds of mixed law and fact. They then applied to the Court of Appeal to regularise the notice of appeal, which the Court of Appeal granted.
The Respondents/Applicants herein, have raised a preliminary objection to the effect that such regularisation is not proper in law as the Court of Appeal cannot make such order in retrospective.
1. Did the Court of Appeal have power to make the order which it made?
2. Was that order made in violation of the jurisdiction of this Court such that it would necessarily have been made without jurisdiction?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
[OBJECTION: THE PRELIMINARY OBJECTION WAS DISMISSED; COST OF N25 AWARDED AGAINST THE RESPONDENT/APPLICANT]
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANT BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENT/APPLICANT.
i. It seems to me that the Court of Appeal had the power under its inherent jurisdiction to make the consequential order in the terms as per the drawn order: “the Notice and Grounds of Appeal exhibited with the motion paper is deemed to have been filed on 28/2/86”. Be it remembered that these notice and grounds of appeal were at all materials times before the Court of Appeal having been annexed to the motion papers praying for leave to appeal. If the consequential order was not made, the defendant/appellants would have prepared another notice and grounds of appeal, filed same in the Registry and probably paid fees a second time. That to me would be reducing the processes of court to mere mechanical exertions completely oblivious of any consideration for the much talked about speedy administration of justice. The Court of Appeal, be it added has not contravened any statutory provision, at least not Section 213(3) of the Constitution. It had gone beyond it.
2. ISSUE 2 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANT BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENT/APPLICANT.
i. As previously mentioned, the grounds of appeal in the purported notice of appeal filed by defendants on 28/2/86 raised questions of mixed law and fact, and as no leave was obtained prior to their filing, they remained no more than mere documents. They were not notice and grounds of appeal within the meaning of order 2, Rule 20 and order 8, Rule 2, Supreme Court Rules, 1985. They acquired that statute after the Court of Appeal orders on 25th March, 1986. It follows that there was prior to 25/3/86 no appeal by the Defendants pending in this Court. The Court of Appeal did not therefore traverse into matters exclusively within the jurisdiction of this court.
S. 213(3) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999;
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
Order 8, Rule 2(1) of the Supreme Court Rules, 1985 provides that, “All appeals shall be by way of rehearing and shall be brought by notice (hereinafter called “the notice of appeal”) to be filed in the Registry of the Court below which shall set forth grounds of appeal…”
Order 2, Rule 30 of the Supreme Court Rules, 1985 provides that “An Appeal shall be deemed to have been brought when the notice of appeal has been filed in the Registry of the court below”
⦿ RELEVANT CASES
In Adigun v. A.G. of Oyo State (1987) 2 N. W. L. R. 197, this Court quoted with approval the views of Mr Jacob in an article titled “The inherent jurisdiction of the Court” to the effect that, “(a) the inherent jurisdiction of the Court is a concept which must be distinguished from the exercise of judicial discretion; (b) it may be exercised in any given case notwithstanding that there are rules of court governing the circumstances of each case. The powers conferred by Rules of Court are generally speaking additional to and not in substitution of powers arising out of the inherent jurisdiction of the Court; (c) the terms inherent jurisdiction of the Court is not used in contra distinction to the jurisdiction conferred on court by Statute. The Court may exercise its inherent jurisdiction even in respect of matters which are regulated by statute or by rule of court so long as it can do so without contravening any statutory provision”.
Lord Morris in Conelly v. D.P.P. (1964) A.C. at 1301, writing on the inherent jurisdiction of the Court was of the view that “a Court which is endowed with a particular jurisdiction has powers which are necessary to enable it to act effectively within such jurisdiction. I would regard them as powers which are inherent in its jurisdiction. A Court must enjoy such powers in order to enforce its rules of practice and to suppress any abuse of its process and to defeat any attempted thwarting of its powers”.
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
Section 213 of the 1979 Constitution gave an appellant two rights namely 1. A right of appeal as of right; and 2. A right of Appeal with leave. When an appellant is appealing on a point of law, that is to say, when his grounds of appeal are grounds of pure law he appeals as of right, see Section 213(3) of the 1979 Constitution. But when he appeals on grounds of fact or of mixed law and fact his purported appeal is incompetent, a nudum Pactum, without the requisite leave. Therefore to decide whether there is a proper appeal pending before the Supreme Court by virtue of Section 213 supra, one has to go beyond the papers title “Notice of Appeal” and carefully examine all the grounds supporting and animating that Notice of Appeal. – Oputa, JSC. Erisi v. Idika (1987)
There are a plethora of decisions of this Court, and this matter has almost become trite law, that an appeal to the Supreme Court from a decision of the Court of Appeal on questions of fact or mixed law and fact in respect of which leave to appeal has not been obtained from the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court is incompetent and would inevitably be struck out. In such a case the Supreme Court would lack jurisdiction to entertain such an appeal. – Nnamani, JSC. Erisi v. Idika (1987)
Inherent powers enure to a Superior Court Court of Record enabling it to make such orders or take such actions as will protect or enhance the dignity of the Court, or promote the speedy or fair dispensation of justice. – Nnamani, JSC. Erisi v. Idika (1987)
It remains for me to say, with all respect, that substantial and well reasoned as this objection has been, it is nevertheless a further journey into the arena of technicalities. This Court has resolutely set its face against them, preferring in numerous decisions of which Nofiu Surakatu v. Nigeria Housing Development Society Ltd. and Anor.(1981)4 S.C. 26, may be one of those marking the beginning of that stance, to do substantial justice between the parties. The Courts are Courts of law but may the day never come when they cease to be courts of justice. Substantial Justice cannot be done unless Courts of Justice strain to ensure that appeals are heard on their merit. – Nnamani, JSC. Erisi v. Idika (1987)
All appellate Courts are creatures of Statute which clearly defines and delimits their jurisdictions. – Oputa, JSC. Erisi v. Idika (1987)
Any Court after delivering its judgment either at first instance or on appeal becomes functus officio and then will lack the jurisdiction to take any further step in the case/appeal except as provided for in and by any written law. In this case, when the Court of Appeal Enugu Division delivered its judgment on the 13th day of January, 1986 its normal jurisdiction came to an end. – Oputa, JSC. Erisi v. Idika (1987)
It is doubtful if justice can be effectively administered in our Courts if the Courts do not possess inherent power to make consequential Order, Orders that directly or indirectly, immediately or intermediately promote the process of litigation and ensure proper administration of justice. The jurisdiction, inherent though it may be, to make consequential orders is the most effective weapon in the judicial and jundical armoury of our courts. After all judgments in favour of one party or the other should be consequential in the sense that it should follow from the facts as found and from the operation of the law on those facts. A consequential order should therefore be that which follows as a result of what has gone before. – Oputa, JSC. Erisi v. Idika (1987)