CASE SUMMARY OF:
Mrs. O. Adekoya v. Federal Housing Authority (2000) - CA
by NSA PaulPipAr
- statute of limitation;
Mrs. O. Adekoya
Federal Housing Authority
Court of Appeal
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
- Chief Bisi Adegunle.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
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Bank: Zenith Bank.
Name: Branham Paul Chima.
Account No.: 2178756839.
FACT (as relating to the issues)
By way of advertisement in one of the national dailies, Defendant Company invited members of the public to apply for allocation of various types sizes of housing units (flats) at Festival Town, Badagry Road, Lagos. The applicants were to fill a pro forma form accompanying same with a sum of N5. The allocation was to be made only to winners in a balloting exercise. The plaintiff having been interested filled the necessary form and paid the prescribed fee. She also participated in the balloting exercise and won. Thereupon, by a letter Ref. No. FHA/EST/1/TB 317 dated 18/7/77 the defendant/respondent made an offer of allocation to the plaintiff/appellant of flat No. 11, Block 3, 4th Avenue 402 Road "C" Close, Community 1A Festival Town, Badagry Road, Lagos. A formal lease agreement was executed by the parties in respect of the above mentioned identified flat on 25/7/77. Subsequent to that, she paid a sum of N116 as deposit for rent and electricity and was issued with a receipt. But before the plaintiff/appellant took possession of the said flat the defendant informed the plaintiff that it made a mistake in offering flats at Festival Town and the plaintiff was subsequently allocated another flat situate at Nos. 25/26 Badary Cresent, Block 45, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos vide its letter No. FHD/ES/1/18317 of 18/7/77 without formally withdrawing the earlier offer made of the flat situate in Festival Town or canceling same. Aggrieved by the decision of the defendant/respondent the plaintiff/appellant instituted an action at the lower court by filing a writ on 12th October, 1984.
By writ of summons the plaintiff who is the appellant herein sued the defendant who is the respondent in this appeal claiming as below:
(a) An order for specific performance of an agreement dated 25th July, 1977 made between the plaintiff as lessee of the 1st part and the defendant as Lessor of the 2nd part whereby the plaintiff was allocated at No. 11. Block 3, 4th Avenue, 402 Road C Close, Community 1A Festival Town.
(b) An order for payment of the total sum of N36,608:00 representing rents payable by the plaintiff to the defendant from August,1974 up to and including May, 1984 at 844; monthly. Alternatively, the total sum of N10,000 to the defendant as general and special damages for breach of the agreement.
In the cause of the proceedings the defendant successfully pleaded that the action was statute barred by virtue of provisions of Section 8(1)(a) of Limitation Law. Cap 70 Laws of Lagos State and the suit was dismissed for being filed not within 6 years as stipulated by the law. Dissatisfied with the lower court's decision the plaintiff appealed to this court urging us to set aside the judgment of the lower court.
1. Was the Judge right in holding plaintiff's claim defeated by reason of the provision of the Limitation laws?
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. The learned trial Judge made this finding in his judgment:
"From the evidence adduced in the case, I hold and find as a fact that a valid contract to allocate Flat No. 11, Block 3, 4th Avenue, 402 Road C, Close Community 1A Festival Town, Lagos, was concluded by Exhibits 6 and 9 on 25th July, 1977 when the plaintiff executed the standard form contract for a leasehold agreement of the defendant for its housing units in Festival, Town. By Exhibit 88 the plaintiff on 25th July, 1977 accepted again from the defendant, allocation of Flat 25 and 26 Badagry Crescent Amuwo Odofin to which plaintiff wrote a letter dated 27th July, 1977. Admitted as Exhibit 8D wherein plaintiff requested the defendant by protest that she ought to have been given a 3 Bedroom flat at Festival Town. The defendant's reply to Exhibit 8B was admitted on Exhibit 8D by letter of 5th August, 1977 wherein the defendant explained that the allocation of Flat No. 25/26 Block 45 Badagry Crescent, Amuwo Odofin was done on Government approved criteria and guidelines. On the face of the unit and the pleadings the cause of action arose on 25th July, 1977 be it in respect of the Festival Town Flat or the Amuwo Odofin flat..."
By this finding of fact by the trial court which this court has no reason to disturb, it has been established that the cause of action began to run as from 25th July, 1977. I do not see how the submission that the trial court made a case for the defendant as submitted by the appellant counsel can be tenable.
Section 8(1)(a) of Limitation Law of Lagos State Cap 70 of 1973: "8(1) The following actions shall not be brought after the expiration of six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued; (a) Action founded on simple contract; (b) Actions founded on quasi-contract."
Fred Egbe v. Justice Adefarasin (No.2) (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 47) 1-25 where Oputa JSC as he then was said thus:- "Now, let us look at the meaning of cause of action. It is admittedly an expression that defies precised definition. But it can safely be defined as the fact or facts which establish or give rise to a right of action. It is the factual situation which gives a person a right judicial relief. A cause of action is to be distinguished from a right of action. A right of action is the right to enforce presently a cause of action. In other words, a cause of action is the operative fact of facts. (The factual situation) which give rise to a right of action which itself is a remedial right."
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It is trite that it is always necessary when dealing with, a limitation of statute to ascertain the exact date on which the cause of action arose. This is because time will start running right from the date the cause of action arose. It is also the responsibility of a defendant to plead and prove that an action is statute barred. - Sanusi, J.C.A. Adekoya v. FHA (2000)
On the question whether the trial court was right in holding that the action was statute barred, it is pertinent to say that a cause of action is said to be statute barred if the proceeding or action has not been brought within the period limited by the law in this case the Limitation Law of Lagos State. It is the general principle of law that where the law provides time limit within which an action can be brought such period must be respected so that no such action is brought after the time prescribed by that law. Any action brought outside the period limited by the law runs riot and violent to such provision and the action becomes incompetent or stalled and shall therefore not be entertained by the court. - Sanusi, J.C.A. Adekoya v. FHA (2000)
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