➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Alhaji Ibrahim Abdulhamid v Talal Akar & Anor. (2006) – SC
by “PipAr” B.C. Chima
Supreme Court – S.C. 240/2001
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, the 5th day Of May 2006
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Fundamental rights application not being a main claim.
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ FACTS OF THE CASE DETERMINE LEGAL OUTCOME
Whichever is the case, it is important to state and emphasize that in a case of the nature before us, Counsel should have studied the facts of the case very well. Facts are the springboard of law. It is the facts of the case that determine the appropriate remedy. — I.C. Pats Acholonu, JSC.
⦿ PRINCIPAL RELIEF MUST BE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS IN ORDER TO COME UNDER FREP RULES
The position of the law is that for a claim to qualify as falling under fundamental rights, it must be clear that the principal relief sought is for the enforcement or for securing the enforcement of a fundamental right and not, from the nature of the claim, to redress a grievance that is ancillary to the principal relief which itself is not ipso facto a claim for the enforcement of fundamental right. Thus, where the alleged breach of a fundamental right is ancillary or incidental to the substantive claim of the ordinary civil or common law nature, it will be incompetent to constitute the claim as one for the enforcement of a fundamental right: See Federal Republic of Nigeria & Anor v. Ifegwu (2003) 15 NWI.R (Pt. 842) 113, at 180; Tukor v. Government of Taraba State (1997) 6 NWLR (Pt. 510) 549; and Sea Trucks (Nig) Ltd v. Anigboro (2001) 2 NWLR) Pt. 696) 159. – S.A. Akintan, JSC.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Idris Legbo Kutigi, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
➥ CASE HISTORY
The proceedings, which gave rise to this appeal commenced at the Kano State High Court holden at Kano where the Applicant instituted an action under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 1979 against the Respondents after obtaining leave of Court to do so.
The reliefs sought by the Applicant against the Respondents read –
(a) To restrain the Respondents, their agents and servants from harassing, intimidating and subjecting the applicant and members of the applicants’ family and employees to degrading treatment.
(b) To secure the release of the Applicant’s vehicle with Registration No KN 7292 KQ forcefully seized and detained by the Respondents.
(c) To perpetually restrain the Respondents and their agents from seizing and detaining any of the Applicant’s property movable or immovable.
(d.) To claim the sum of N1,000.000.00 (One Million Naira) from the Respondents jointly and severally as a compensation for several harassments, intimidation and degrading treatment of the Applicant and employees and members of the Applicant’s family by soldiers and airforcemen who are agents of the Respondents in consequence of which the Applicant lost and still losing his personal and business reputation and also suffering loss of business goodwill and prosperity.
The learned trial judge in a considered judgment spanning 58 pages of closely typed foolscap-size sheets, found in favour of the Applicant.
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial Court, the Respondents appealed to the Court of Appeal holden at Kaduna. The Applicant also cross-appealed. The Court of Appeal in a unanimous judgment allowed the Respondents’ Appeal and dismissed Applicant’s cross-appeal.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether or not this suit competence could have been determined by reference solely to the nature of the reliefs or claims sought as was done by the Court of Appeal?
A. “The answer to me is simply ‘yes’, in the affirmative. The Court of Appeal was right to have considered the reliefs or claims only, and without reference to anything. It is settled and a fundamental principle that jurisdiction is determined by the Plaintiffs claim or relief. In other words it is the claim before the Court that has to be looked at or examined to ascertain whether or not it comes within the jurisdiction conferred on the Court (see for example Western steel works v. Iron & Steel Workers (1987) 1 N.W.L.R. (pt. 49) 284; Tukur v. Government of Gongola State (1989) 4 N.W.L.R. (pt. 117) 517, Adeyemi v. Opeyori (1976) 9-10 S.C. 311. Issue (2) therefore fails.”
II. Whether or not the Court of Appeal was right in its conclusion that the reliefs or claims sought by the Applicant were not maintainable under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. “I have no doubt at all that a claim under the common law can properly be joined in an application under Section 42 of the 1979 Constitution, where such a claim is secondary, ancillary or incidental to the complaint of a breach of fundamental right. In the instant case, the claims as found by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal were common law claims or reliefs which were wrongly brought under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules instead of by Writ of Summons. This is a fundamental breach and not a mere technicality, which can be waived or ignored. One of the indicia of jurisdiction as laid down in Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) All N.L.R. (part 2) 581 at 589, is that the action is initiated by due process of law, which in this case is by writ of summons. That is lacking here (see Tukur v. Gongola State (supra); Federal Minister of Internal Affairs v. Shugaba Darman (supra). The trial High Court clearly has the jurisdiction to determine all the issues in this case but a proper procedure must be followed. The Court of Appeal was therefore properly guided and came to the correct conclusion. Issue (1) also fails.”
“All the two issues having been resolved against the Applicant, the appeal fails. It is dismissed with N10, 000.00 costs against the Applicant/Appellant and in favour of the Respondents/Respondents.”
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)