CASE SUMMARY OF:
Sanusi Aiyeriyina Alade v. Olalere Akanji Alemuloke & Ors. (1988) - SC
1. SANUSI AIYERIYINA ALADE
1. OLALERE AKANJI ALEMULOKE;
2. KARUMU AIKI;
3. ADETUTU ABAKE
(1988) NWLR (Pt.69)207;
(1988) 2 S.C 1
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
- Otunba Adesina Odedina;
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
- M. A. O. Okusaga;
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Bank: Zenith Bank.
Name: Branham Paul Chima.
Account No.: 2178756839.
FACT (as relating to the issues)
In this case now on appeal, the facts had been examined, sifted and reviewed by three Courts namely:- (i) the Ibadan City No.1 Grade "A" Customary Court; (ii) the Ibadan Judicial Division of the Oyo State High Court exercising its appellate jurisdiction; and (iii) the Court of Appeal Ibadan Division.
These three Courts consistently found for the Plaintiffs now Respondents on the facts. The trial Court believed the Plaintiffs and their witnesses and disbelieved the Defendants' version. The two appellate Courts below did not disturb the findings of fact of the trial Court.
1. Ground 1: The learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they held at page 6 of the judgment to wit:- He was therefore correct in holding that Grade A Customary Court would have jurisdiction on the matter before it, even though the value of the land is not stated."
2. GROUND 2: The learned Justices of the Court of Appeal in their consideration of the appellants' defence of laches, standing-by and acquiescence further erred in law when they held at p.12 of the judgment to wit: If the plaintiff was in Lagos most of the time as he testified and the defendant's house was built in his absence which is the purport of his evidence, the defendant could not be held to have led by acquiescence to alter his position by expending money..."
ARGUMENTS OF PARTIES
* FOR THE APPELLANT
*FOR THE RESPONDENT
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
[APPEAL: DISMISSED WITH N500 COST]
1. FOR GROUND 1 THE COURT HELD AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. Under Section 18(2) of the Customary Courts Law of the Western State Grades of the Customary Courts were established the jurisdiction conferred on Grade "B" and Grade "C" Courts were limited in land matters according to the value of the land in dispute and these amounts were required by Order 3 Rule 3(3) and Order 4 Rule 1(2a) of the Customary Courts Rules to be stated in the particulars of the Summons to enable the Court decide whether the case is within or without its jurisdiction. Grade "A" Customary Courts being conferred and invested with unlimited jurisdiction in land cases there will be no need stating any amount on the particulars of the writ because its jurisdiction is not limited by the value of the land in dispute. The Court of first instance therefore acted within jurisdiction and the High Court and the Court of Appeal were right in holding that the trial Court had jurisdiction.
2. GROUND 2 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. Now let me consider the general principle involved in the defence of acquiescence, laches and standing-by. All these are species of the genus known as estoppel and the general rule as to estoppel by silence and standing-by is that if a man either by word or conduct has intimated that he consents to an act which has been done and that he will offer no opposition to it although it could not have been lawfully done without his consent and he thereby induces others to do that from which they might otherwise have abstained, he cannot afterwards question the legality of the act he has so sanctioned to the prejudice of those who have given faith to his words, or to the fair inference to be drawn from his conduct. For this principle to apply it has to be shown and proved that the party against whom these defences are set up had notice of what was being done, that he did nothing to prevent it and that the position of the opposite party had been altered to his prejudice or detriment or that he had been induced by the other party's inaction to expend money. So many cases on this branch of our law have been decided by this Court that it is hardly necessary to catalogue them here. In the case now on appeal the Defendants/Appellants were sued inter alia for trespass. The validity and the legality of the Defendants being on the land was in issue as the Plaintiffs/Respondents claimed to be the owners and regarded the presence of the Defendants/Appellants on the land as part of the trespass they are complaining of. Instead of sleeping over their rights the Plaintiffs/Respondents on learning of the Defendant's trespass reported instantly to the Police and Police Constable No.23811, Augustus Ajani called as P.W.10 was detailed to investigate. During his investigation he saw some labourers digging may be the foundation of the house of the 3rd Defendant. He approached the 3rd Defendant who alleged he bought the land from one Okunola Adio. The 3rd Defendant must then have known that the ownership of the land was in dispute. If he knew this (as he ought to) and still continued with his building it will be wrong and inequitable for him to set up this same building as a bar to the Plaintiffs/Respondents' claim for a matter the validity of which is at issue in a legal proceeding, cannot be set up as a bar in the same proceeding. Also no man can take advantage of his own wrong. If the land does not belong to the defendants as the trial Court found, then they cannot be allowed to set up their trespass as a bar to the Plaintiffs' action. Also the trial Court found that the house of the 3rd Defendant on the land "was built during the dispute". There was therefore no acquiescence, no laches and no standing-by. These equitable defences are not available to the present Appellants in the surrounding circumstances of this case. Ground 2 therefore fails.
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It is true that Section 213 of the 1979 Constitution, as amended, created the right of appeal from the Court of Appeal to this Court but care should be taken not to abuse that right. There should therefore be some sort of control over the exercise of this right otherwise this Court will be inundated, as is now being done, with a deluge of appeals which should not in all honesty have been allowed to come before the country's final Court of last resort. - Oputa, JSC. Sanusi v. Olalere (1988)
In some countries issues of fact do not go beyond the Court of Appeal. In this country it is the policy of our Supreme Court to uphold the concurrent findings of the two Court below. Any appellant coming to the Supreme Court on issues of fact, and especially on issues of the credibility of witnesses, whom the Supreme Court never saw or heard, is undertaking an uphill task of considerable magnitude as he has to convince this Court that his case reveals such exceptional circumstances (as the fact that the two judgments appealed against were perverse or that there was a radical error of law or procedure and that these led to a miscarriage of justice) that will compel this Court to intervene to redress the balance in the interest of justice. If learned counsel take this policy seriously perhaps they will think hard, and think again, before rushing to this Court on the facts. In some countries not all issues of law are allowed to go up to the country's final Court. It is only issues of law of considerable magnitude and importance that are allowed to be tested and/or restated in the House of Lords (England) or the United States Supreme Court. - Oputa, JSC. Sanusi v. Olalere (1988)
Jurisdiction is the legal authority, the extent of the power given to a Court by the law or statute establishing the said Court. This jurisdiction may be limited or unlimited. It may be limited either locally, that is, in terms of the geographical area over which the Court's jurisdiction may extend. It may be limited personally as where a quorum is required for the Court to be properly constituted. It may be limited as to the amount over which the Court should not exceed for the case to fall within its jurisdiction. It may be limited as to the type or character of the questions to be determined by and in the Court. It may be limited by and as to the value of the property in litigation etc. When the jurisdiction of the Court is thus limited that Court is called a Court of limited jurisdiction. When there is no such limitations the Court is called a Court of unlimited jurisdiction. - Oputa, JSC. Sanusi v. Olalere (1988)
Like pleading, grounds of appeal should be concise and deal with the real complaint the ground is supposed to highlight. - Oputa, JSC. Sanusi v. Olalere (1988)
This Court in Fadiora & anor. v. Festus Gbadebo & Anor. (1978) 3 S.C.219 at p.248 recognised the possibility of this Court (being the Court of last resort) entertaining, in the interest of justice, a point of law which was not raised in the Courts below. - Oputa, JSC. Sanusi v. Olalere (1988)
If the new point is a substantial point of law and no further evidence would be required then the appellate Court may take up the new point. There is thus a discretion in this Court. There is thus a discretion in this Court. It is thus not quite correct to say that this Court "will not allow to be raised on appeal a ground not raised in the Court below." - Oputa, JSC. Sanusi v. Olalere (1988)
Court cases are not mere academic exercises. No, not at all. Rather they are application of relevant laws to the existing and proved facts, for without a known fact, it is impossible to know the law on that fact. A great deal of difficulty will be caused in the administration of law by decision which are not based on, or in accordance with, the facts of the case as accepted by the trial judge. - Oputa, JSC. Sanusi v. Olalere (1988)
The primary responsibility of the Supreme Court should be that of developing and maintaining consistency in the law to be applied in our subordinate Courts and in interpreting the country's fundamental law its Constitution. These are two functions of cardinal importance and the Supreme Court should not be unduly distracted from these two important functions, distracted from its proper role by a deluge of unimportant if not frivolous appeals. It is beyond doubt that in the hurry of business, in the hurry to clear and dispose of the huge pile of pending appeals the most able panel of justices is bound to err and any error in the country's final Court is disastrous. Everything possible should therefore be done to minimize the possibilities of such errors. - Oputa, JSC. Sanusi v. Olalere (1988)
Acquiescence, Laches and Standing by, cannot be considered unless there exists on the record credible evidence, on which these defence can be founded, based, and sustained. - Oputa, JSC. Sanusi v. Olalere (1988)
Viqilantibus, et non dormientibus, jura subveniunt the law aids the vigilant and not the sleepy for delay defeats even equity. - Oputa, JSC. Sanusi v. Olalere (1988)
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