➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
ADEGBANKE v. OJELABI & ORS (2021) – SC
by PipAr Chima
Supreme Court – SC.115/2008
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, June 04, 2021
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ SUO MOTO; COURT SHOULD NOT SHUT OUT PARTIES
While the Court as master of the law and its Rules are bound to consider all issues based on facts and relevant law in reaching justice in a matter before it, it must not shut out the parties who initiated the process in the first place and owner of the cause or matter in making the decision which effect would impact on the parties. – M. Peter-Odili JSC. Adegbanke v. Ojelabi (2021)
⦿ FOR REVERSAL OF AN ERROR, A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE MUST HAVE OCCURED
Again to be said is that it is not every error of law that is committed by a trial or appellate Court that justifies the reversal of a judgment. For a reversal to take place, the error must have occasioned a miscarriage of justice as it was material in the decision reached. – M. Peter-Odili JSC. Adegbanke v. Ojelabi (2021)
⦿ COURT IS NOT RESTRICTED TO AUTHORITIES CITED BY PARTIES
It is to be said loud and clear that a Court of law has no legal duty to confine itself only to authorities cited by parties. It can, in an effort to improve its Judgment rely on authorities not cited by parties. The Court is also under no duty to give notice to the parties that it intends to use a particular book or authority. – M. Peter-Odili JSC. Adegbanke v. Ojelabi (2021)
⦿ COURT OF COORDINATE JURISDICTION CANNOT SET ASIDE ANOTHER COORDINATE COURT DECISION
It needs be reiterated that a Court after the dismissal of a suit before it lacks the competence to delve into the matter any longer. The fact that the Court is being presided over by another judge of the same jurisdiction as the judge that dismissed Suit No. HOY/7/97 does not make any difference. The Court lacks the jurisdiction to re-phrase the judgment, of a Court of co-ordinate and competent jurisdiction. – M. Peter-Odili JSC. Adegbanke v. Ojelabi (2021)
⦿ COURT JUDGEMENT IS VALID UNTIL APPEALED AGAINST
The law is settled that the judgment of any competent Court, once perfected, and not appealed against, is valid and subsisting until it is set aside by competent Court or authority. – Kekere-ekun JSC. Adegbanke v. Ojelabi (2021)
⦿ USING THE JUDICIAL PROCESS TO ANNOY OPPONENT IS ABUSE OF JUDICIAL PROCESS
The improper use of judicial process in the multiple suits to irritate, annoy and harass the defendants, his opponents, is itself an abuse of judicial process. – Ejembi Eko, JSC. Adegbanke v. Ojelabi (2021)
Moses Olayiwola Adegbanke
1. Dr. Toyin Ojelabi
2. Executive Governor of Oyo State
3. Director General Ministry Of Lands
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Mary Ukaego Peter-odili, J.S.C
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
– Oladipo Olasore.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
– F.A. Folorunso Esq. (1st Respondent).
➥ CASE HISTORY
By its Writ of Summons filed on the 17th March, 1998, the Plaintiff/Appellant claimed as follows:- (1) A declaration that the Plaintiff’s i.e Akinsanya Akanji Section of Ajayi Family of Jagun Sodeke Compound, Ilora, is entitled to a right of occupancy over all that land known as Igbo Ede lyin and being along Ilora-ljaye Road, Ilora in Afijo Local Government Area of Oyo State.
The grouse of the Respondents (at the Trial Court) was that Suit No. HOY/7/97 which had been terminated was the same as this suit and as such constituted an abuse of the process of Court. The learned trial judge in a ruling dismissed the application on the grounds that the previous Suit No. HOY/7/1997 which was dismissed in limine could not form the basis for res-judicata to prevent the filing of Suit HOY/6/1998.
At page 44 of the record, the Learned Trial Judge held as follows: “l am persuaded that the previous suit was dismissed on the ground that the Plaintiff instituted the action on behalf of Ajayi Family instead of Akinsanya Akanji Section of Ajayi Family. This was a procedural defect and the case itself was dismissed in limine and not on merit. I therefore do not consider the institution of the present action as either vexatious or an abuse of the process of Court.”
It is against that ruling that the respondents herein appealed to the Court of Appeal. In the Court of Appeal, the Learned Justices in considering the appeal, suo-motu raised the effects of Sections 287 and 270 of the 1999 Constitution, decided on it without affording the parties an opportunity to address on the point. The Court of Appeal upheld the appeal of the Respondents thereby overturning the Trial Court.
The Appellant felt that the Court of Appeal in this instance failed to follow the Supreme Court authorities of KOSSEN V SAVANNAH BANK (1995) 12 S.C.N.J 29 AT 40 AND OBASI BROTHERS v MBA SECURITIES (2005) ALL FWLR PT. 261 AT 232 which were brought to their notice to the effect that a dismissal not on the merit has the effect of a mere striking out.
This is an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Ibadan Division or Court below or lower Court, Coram: M.D. Muhammad, J.I. Okoro JJCA (as they then were) and A.P.E Awala JCA. The Court below allowed the appeal of the respondents herein by its decision of 18/04/2007 and it is against that judgment that the appellant has come to the Supreme Court.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether the Court of Appeal was right in suo motu raising and deciding the issue of Sections 270 and 287 of the 1999 Constitution without giving the parties the opportunity to address on the point?
The court held that there was no miscarriage of justice occasioned by the suo moto ruling; hence no need to overturn the decision, ruling in 1st Respondent’s favour.
II. Whether the Court of Appeal was right in holding that the dismissal of Suit No. HOY/7/97 in limine constituted a bar to a subsequent action i.e HOY/6/98?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
II.A. In the case at hand, the appellant had filed the instant suit between the same parties in respect of the same subject matter and issues as in Suit HOY/7/97 that had been dismissed.
It need be brought up that it is not in all instances of failure of a Court to give opportunity to the parties to address it that automatically occasions a miscarriage of justice since each case depends on its own merit. Therefore, it is not sufficient for the purpose of reversing a judgment merely to show that an error of law was committed by the trial or appellate Court. The appellant must further demonstrate or show that the error of law in the case in question occasioned a miscarriage of justice. In other words, the error must have substantially affected the result of the decision and that is not the case in this instance.
II.B. The appellant has laboured in vain in the action that had been determined with finality at the trial High Court with that dismissal albeit without a hearing of evidence. The circumstances surrounding that dismissal wherein the trial Court held that there was no disclosure of a cause of action made it so. Therefore, the institution of Suit No. HOY/6/98 by the appellant against the respondents constitutes an abuse of Court process, the said suit being between the same parties and on the same subject matter as Suit No. HOY/7/97 which had been dismissed. The Court of Appeal was right on all fronts in the summation and conclusion.
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
Sections 270 and 287 of the 1999 Constitution.
Section 74(1) of the Evidence Act.
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ COURT MAY RELY ON AUTHORITIES NOT CITED BY PARTIES
T.M. Orugbo & Anor v. Bulana Una & Ors (2002) 9 SCNJ 12 at 32-33. This Court held that “A Court of law has no legal duty to confine itself only to authorities cited by the parties. It can, in an effort to improve its judgment, rely on authorities not cited by the parties. Historical books or whatever books are authorities and the Koko District Customary Court was free to make use of them in its judgment. That per se is not breach of fair hearing, not even the twin rules of natural justice. The Court is under no duty to give notice to the parties that it intends to use a particular book. That will be a ridiculous situation.”
⦿ AN ERROR OF LAW COMPLAINED OF MUST HAVE CAUSED A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE
OLADEJO ADEWUYI AJUWON & ORS VS FADELE AKANNI & ORS (1993) 12 SCNJ 32 AT 52 this Court held “It is not every error of law that is committed by a trial or appellate Court that justifies the reversal of a judgment. An appellant, to secure the reversal of a judgment, must further establish that the error of law complained of did in fact occasion a miscarriage of justice and/or substantially affected the result of the decision. An error in law which has occasioned no miscarriage of justice is immaterial and may not affect the final decision of a Court. This is because what an Appeal Court has to decide is whether the decision of judge was right and not whether his reasons were, and a misdirection that does not occasion injustice is immaterial. The error in law in applying the doctrine of lis pendens complained of did not occasion any miscarriage of justice. The erroneous application of the doctrine of lis pendens notwithstanding, there was no other course that was open to the Court of Appeal in the appeal than to invalidate the sale in issue and to dismiss the appeal before it”.
⦿ SUBMISSIONS OF COUNSEL WITHOUT ORAL EVIDENCE MAY AMOUNT TO HEARING
The word “Hearing” was judicially considered by the Supreme Court in OKOYE & ORS VS NIGERIAN CONSTRUCTION & FURNITURES CO. LTD. & ORS (1991) 6 NWLR (PT.199) 501 AT 522 where this Court held “Hearing” a case is not only by oral evidence. Submissions from counsel without oral evidence from parties and the Court consequently giving judgment on the basis of the submissions may amount to hearing and determination of a case or matter.
⦿ WHAT IS A DECISION ON MERIT?
TOMTEC NIGERIA LIMITED VS FEDERAL HOUSING AUTHORITY (2009) 12 SCNJ 190 AT 201 -202 where this Court held “A decision on merit is one rendered after argument and investigation and a determination as to which of the parties is in the right as distinguished from a judgment or decision rendered upon some preliminary or formal part or by default and without trial”.
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)