➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Chike Onyekwuluje v G.B. Animashaun (2019) – SC
by “PipAr” B.C. Chima
Supreme Court – SC.72/2006
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, 25th January, 2019
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Consent to sell family land.
Processes signed by a law firm.
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ SUPERFLUOUS AND OVERLAPPING ISSUES ARE NOT NECESSARY
The issues formulated by the parties are needlessly overlapping and superfluous in several aspects. The Appellants formulated twelve (12) issues for determination when in actual fact the contention in this appeal appears straightforward. On their part, the Respondents formulated seven (7) issues with inelegant verbosity. This is not necessary in a Court as busy as the Supreme Court, perhaps any Court at all. — S.D. Bage, JSC.
⦿ ISSUES FORMULATED ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ARGUMENTATIVE
Issues for determination are formulated’ and not supposed to be argumentative’ as formulated. The parties are expected to coin their issues for determination as precise as possible with professional elegance and brevity but without sacrificing its essential messages. By practice, issues formulated are different from issues argued or arguments on issues. Arguments or analogies on issues formulated are not to be contained in the issues so formulated. Arguments and analogies are to be supplied separately to amplify on the issues so formulated. The Respondents’ Counsel is found inadequate in this regard for formulating convoluted issues for determination at pages 7-8 of the Respondents’ Brief. — S.D. Bage, JSC.
⦿ YORUBA CUSTOMARY LAW REQUIRES CONSENT OF FAMILY TO SELL LAND
It is a settled position of law that, by Yoruba Customary Law, a transaction for the sale and conveyance of family land requires the consent of all members of the family or substantial majority of them. See AFOLABI COKER VS MARIAMO OGUNTOLA & ORS (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 87); ELIAS VS OLAYEMI DISU & 3 ORS (1962) 1 ALL NLR 214; FOKO VS FOKO (1965) NMLR 3, EBOSIE VS EBOSIE (1976) 6 UILR 217. — S.D. Bage, JSC.
⦿ JURISDICTION IS FUNDAMENTAL TO ADJUDICATION
Jurisdiction, it is settled, is fundamental to adjudication. It is a radical and crucial necessity for, as in the instant case, where a Court proceeds without jurisdiction to hear the case, the proceedings so embarked upon by the Court are a nulity ab initio however well conducted the proceedings and brilliantly decided the issues agitated therein are. Defect in the Court’s competence is intrinsic and not extrinsic to the entire adjudicatory process. See Oloriode V. Oyebi (1984) 5 SC 1 at 32 33, Mustapha V, Governor of Lagos State and Musaconi Limited V. Mr. H, Aspinall (2013) LPELR 20745 (SC). It must be restated that a Court is only vested with jurisdiction and power to adjudicate on an issue when the matter is brought before it in accordance with both substantive and adjectival law. See Madukolu V. Nkemdilim (1962) SCNLR 341, Ukwu V. Bunge (1997) 8 NWLR (Pt 678) 527. — M.D. Muhammad, JSC.
⦿ SALE BY MEMBER WITHOUT CONSENT OF FAMILY HEAD OR PRINCIPAL MEMBERS IS VOID AB INITIO
The law as rightly argued by the Respondents is that consent of principal members of the family is required before the Sale or transfer of title of family land can be valid. Where consent is not obtained, any sale of family land is void-ab-initio. This position was reiterated by this Court in the case of Fayehun v. Fadoju (2000) 6 NWLR (Pt. 661) P. 390 at 404 where Karibi-White, JSC (of blessed memory) held as follows: “A sale of Family land by a member of the family without the consent of the Chief or Head of the family and principal members of the family is void ab initio. See Ekpendu v. Erika (1954) 4 FSC 79 (1959) SCNLR 186. It is essential to the validity of sale of family land, that the Chief or Head of family must join in the conveyance and the principal members of the family must consent to the transaction … Such a combination of parties to the conveyance of family land by the Chief or Head of the family and the principal members of the family is in my opinion unimpeachable.” — J.I. Okoro, JSC.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Sidi Dauda Bage, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
- N.F.P. Egonu.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Oladipo Akinosun.
➥ CASE HISTORY
The Respondents instituted this suit as Suit No. O/21/81 at the High Court, Onitsha on 30th January, 1981 against the Defendants-Appellants. The Respondents’ claims at the trial Court are as follows, inter alia, “A declaration that purported Deed of Lease made on 26th January, 1975 between I.B. Animashaun and R. B. Animashaun and the defendant touching and concerning a plot of land lying, being and situated at No. 23 New Market Road, Onitsha registered as No.29 at Page 29 in Volume 766 of the Deed Registry, Enugu is contrary to Law and is therefore of no legal effect and should be set aside.”
The trial court dismissed the claim of the Claimant/Respondent. The Claimant/Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. The Appellants, being dissatisfied with the judgment of the lower Court filed further appeal to this Court. On 5th March, 1996, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal, set-aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and remitted the case to the Court of Appeal to re-hear.
After rehearing the appeal, the Court of Appeal on the 30th day of November, 2005 set aside the judgment of the trial Court and ordered as follows: “In its place, respondent’s claim in the Court below is dismissed”. The Appellants being dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, has appealed to this Honourable Court vide a Notice of Appeal dated 8th February, 2018.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether consent of the Respondent was sought before the lease agreement was completed?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. “A crucial fact that is central to the validity of the lease in Exhibit H is consent in line with the law under which the property is being held intestate. Consent in this circumstance must be direct and not inferential. Knowledge of a transaction, assuming the Respondents family had knowledge of the lease, is different from consent. In our complex society, knowledge may be given or perhaps inferred. What is important is that consent of necessary family members were sought and obtained. It does not appear so in this case. These crucial findings are contained in the evidence of PW-1 at trial as replicated at pages 191 of the Record of Appeal: ‘I do not know anything about a lease granted to the defendant in January 1975, in respect of No. 23 New Market Road, Onitsha. I know someone called R.B. Animashaun. He is a distant relation. Mr. R.B. Animashaun has never been administror of No. 23 New Market Road, Onitsha. Neither myself not any member of our family was consulted before the granting of the lease in 1975 of No. 23 New Market Road Onitsha to the Defendant.’”
PW.2, the son of the late Badaru Animashaun also gave similar evidence of lack of consent to the transaction, and further stressed the fact that, quote, “Our family normally met before a lease is granted to anybody”.
B. “I have no doubts in my mind that the consent of Respondents’ principal family members was neither sought nor obtained in respect of the so-called lease, Exhibit H, in respect of No. 23 New Market Road, Onitsha.”
C. “From the totality of evidence adduced before the trial Court, it has been glaringly shown that the consent of the Badaru Animashaun family was neither sought nor obtained regarding Exhibit H’. Curiously, there were sufficient evidence from both parties and Exhibits J and H as to the extent of the land subleased to the Appellant by Sylvanus N. Kamelu and his co-lease late Isiaka Badaru Animashaun. The lower Court was then right in its conclusion that the trial Court evaluated the evidence wrongly.”
II. Effect of the originating processes signed by a law firm?
RULING: BOTH PARTIES ARE AT FAULT.
A. “From the records, two processes were affected by this Virus. (1) The Appellants claim filed 30th day of January, 1981 at the trial Court upon which this action was commenced was signed by a Law firm “EZEBUILO UMEADI & CO.” See page 2 of the record of appeal; (2) In the same vein, the Respondents Notice and Grounds of Appeal dated the 8th day of March, 1985 on which the Respondents appealed to the Court of Appeal against the judgment of the trial Court as originated and signed by a Law firm.”
B. “These two processes are both initiating processes upon which this action was commenced. The defect in both processes is extrinsic, to the effect that they were signed by a person not ascertainable in Law and procedure.”
“The defect in this Suit is extrinsic to the adjudication of this case. Also the condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction is absent. The entire appeal collapses, and it is hereby struck out. Also the defective claim at the trial Court must be struck out, and it is hereby struck out. The entire action is struck out. Parties to bear their own costs.”
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ WHAT IS MISDIRECTION
See ACHILIHU VS ANYATONWU (2013) 1 SCNJ 332 at 359 thus: “The exception is where there is misdirection by the trial Court. Misdirection occurs where issues of fact in the case for the parties or the law applicable to the issue raised are not fairly appraised or considered or misconceived or the law applicable is incorrectly applied by the trial Court as a result there would be a miscarriage of justice if the decision reached is allowed to stand.”
⦿ ORIGINATING PROCESSES SIGNED BY A LAW FIRM IS DEFECTIVE
In the case of CHIEF GABRIEL IGBINEDION & ANOR VS WATSON & SONS LTD (2018) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1621) at 381 letters “A” to “B”, the Court of Appeal stated the law as follows: “….. any originating process such as an application for a writ of summons or statement of claim signed by a law firm, as was the case here, would render the initiation of the case bad and the subsequent proceedings predicated on the mortally defective originating process would bring to grief the entire suit and render the decision or judgment and ruling arrived threat a null and void.”
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)