CASE SUMMARY OF:
Ken Mclaren & Ors v. James Lloyd Jennings (2003) - CA
1. Ken McLaren
2. Abay Abebe
3. J. C. Onuoha
1. James Lloyd Jennings
 3 NWLR (Pt.808)470;
Court of Appeal - Kaduna Judicial Division
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
- U. A. Ogakwu, Esq.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Saidu Mohammed, Esq.
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Bank: Zenith Bank.
Name: Branham Paul Chima.
Account No.: 2178756839.
It is apt to narrate relevant portion of the circumstances leading to this appeal. Nicon-Noga Hilton Hotels Limited awarded, on 11th April, 1995, a contract of supply of hotel equipment to a company, Sotra Nigeria Limited. Respondent is the managing director of the company which received an advanced payment of N1,628,428.27. Due to some reasons, the company could not supply those goods within the agreed time. The appellants demanded the refund of the deposit. It was pursuance of this demand that the respondent was arrested in Kano and brought for remand in Nicon-Noga Hilton Hotel, Abuja until the said sum of money was refunded.
The plaintiff, per a writ of summons dated 2nd August, 1996, taken out of Kano State High Court of Justice, is claiming against the defendants, jointly and severally, the sum of N5,000,000 damages for wrongful arrest and unlawful detention in Kano and Abuja.
On 1st day of September, 1997, the defendants filed a motion on notice challenging the competence of the court below to hear the action on ground of territorial jurisdiction.
Learned trial Judge, after hearing both parties, in a reserved and considered ruling refused the application and held that Kano State High Court was seised of the matter.
The defendants were unhappy with the decision and being aggrieved appealed to this court.
Whether the plaintiff/respondent's statement of claim in this suit dated the 2nd August, 1996 discloses a cause of action against the defendants/appellants for false detention or imprisonment in Kano and whether in the circumstances High Court of Justice, Kano State cannot assume or exercise jurisdiction over the same?
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. ISSUE 1 was solved in favour of the Respondent.
i. The second defendant did not merely lodge a report to the police and the latter exercised its power of arrest. The defendants supplied the vehicle to take the police to Kano to demand and recover a debt and not for purpose of investigating an offence.
ii. I have scrutinized the provisions of the section and am unable to see a provision providing for or empowering police to enforce contract or collect common debts. The appellants and the policemen they pressed into duty were not in Kano to prevent or detect a crime nor was the respondent an offender. It is equally not the cases of the appellant that there was a break down of law and order, the preservation of which took them to Kano. The court has also not been told of the laws or regulations the group went to enforce in Kano. In short, the appellants and the policemen they took to Kano were there to collect debt which is not one of the several duties assigned to the Police under the provisions of the Police Act to which the court was directed and the court has not been able to find another provision of the Act empowering or constituting the Nigeria Police Force to one of a debt or rent collector. It follows that the policemen who accompanied the appellants to Kano and assisted them in the arrest of the respondent were on the frolics of their own. The arrest was not authorized by the Act and was consequently unlawful, wrongful and illegal and cannot afford the appellants a shield.
iii. The opinion that the exercise of the police power was not in furtherance of the provisions of the Police Act is further strengthened by the appellants' admission that rather than detaining or placing the respondent in the police custody, he was placed in the hotel's custody. If the police officers who arrested the respondent in Kano and apparently escorted him to Abuja were on a lawful exercise of police power he ought to have been taken to the police station where the fact of the arrest would have been registered along with the particular of the arrest before placing him in custody or granting him a police bail. Rather he was left with the management of the Nicon-Noga Hilton Hotels Limited. Learned counsel for appellants who insisted that the exercise was lawful is yet to direct the court to the enactment or legislation which sanctioned the course of action taken that day. I am not persuaded that the arrest of the respondent in Kano was lawful. I can only be persuaded if the law or regulation designating Nicon-Noga Hotel, Abuja as a police or prison cell is produced.
iv. Since the respondent was unlawfully put into custody in Kano the appellants' took a risk upon themselves now that the respondent has amply demonstrated his innocence. The appellant's conduct in Kano is not excused. It follows, therefore, that there is restraint of liberty of the respondent right from the point of his arrest up to and including the time of his release on 2nd April, 1996.
v. I agree with the submission of the learned counsel for appellants that the territorial jurisdiction or area of authority of the Kano State High Court of Justice is restricted and confined to the area in the second column of part 1 of the first schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979. Consequently, the competence of the court to adjudicate does not extend beyond the territorial boundaries of the State and, therefore, does not cover defendants residing outside the State in respect of causes of action arising outside the State. But the initial arrest and detention of respondent which are not only wrongful but also unlawful took place in Kano. All the denial or restraint of personal liberty of respondent in Kano, Kaduna and Niger States could be investigated by the various High Courts through which the respondent was taken notwithstanding that each State High Court including the High Court of Abuja Capital Territory is given exclusive jurisdiction over the area of the State. Since the cause of action was re-enacted in each of the States in the course of the journey from Kano to Abuja, each court is entitled to investigate the matter. The respondent is not expected to institute his claim against the appellants in each of the State or jurisdiction through which he was taken to reach Abuja.
Section 4 Police Act;
Campbell, L.J. in Chiver v. Savage (1855) L.J. QB 85 where it was stated that: "That if the evidence show no more than that the defendant, upon a suspicion of felony, made a complaint and charge to the police upon which they themselves acted and took plaintiff into custody, an action for false imprisonment would not have been maintained, but where the defendant had expressly directed the police to take the plaintiff into custody, this is imprisonment by the plaintiff and an action for false imprisonment would lie."
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It is on the face of the plaintiff's writ of summons or particular of claim, if any, or statement of claim that the plaintiff offers material to the court to decide whether the court has jurisdiction or not. It is upon the statement of claim or particulars of claim that dates of cause of action could be garnered to decide, for example, whether an action is time barred or not, or to determine whether due to one privilege or the other a party ought to stand a trial or not; whether a subject matter is within the competence of a court or determine whether jurisdiction has been ousted by statutes. - Salami, JCA. McLaren v. Jennings (2003)
In this connection, the writ of summons taken out on behalf of the plaintiff who is respondent herein has been superceded by the statement of claim and therefore no longer relevant. - Salami, JCA. McLaren v. Jennings (2003)
The unlawful detention of the respondent therefore started immediately after his unlawful arrest at about 4.45 p.m. on 1st April, 1996. The respondent's movements under the unlawful custody of the 2nd and 3rd appellants in Kano to the bank and then to the respondent's house in search of the money the appellants wanted to recover from him, his detention within that period before he was moved out of the territory of Kano State on their way to Abuja, was enough to vest the High Court of Justice of Kano State with the territorial jurisdiction to entertain and determine the respondent's cases. - Muhmud Muhammed. McLaren v. Jennings (2003)
The best and usual way of resolving the appellants' objection to the trial court's jurisdiction in the present cases is to have recourse to the trite law that in ascertaining or determining the jurisdiction of the trial court it is the claim of the plaintiff as presented at the said trial court rather than the defence or counter-claim of the defendant that is used as a yardstick or parameter. - Dalhatu Adamu, JCA. McLaren v. Jennings (2003)
It is fallacious to contend that the arrest is severable from the detention and did not give rise to an actionable wrong. - Salami, JCA. McLaren v. Jennings (2003)
The end of this brief.
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