⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Engr. Chinedum O. Anya v. Barr. Onwuchekwa O. Anya & Ors (2020) – SC
by NSA PaulPipAr
– Suo Moto;
Engr. Chinedum O. Anya
1. Barr. Onwuchekwa O. Anya;
2. Ogbonnaya Anya;
3. Barr. (Mrs.) Udemma Ngbor (Nee Anya);
4. Mrs. Ijeoma U. Blunt (NEE ANYA);
5. Hon. Justice Oriaku Z. Ikeorha
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Uwani Musa Abba A JI, J.S.C.
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– O.A. EZE, ESQ;
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– O.O. ANYA, ESQ;
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The Appellant as Plaintiff at the trial Court is the 1st son of late Oji Anya who died in Enugu on 16/6/2004 while the original 1st Respondent was the mother of the Appellant with others, who was the surviving wife of the said late Oji Anya but she died during the pendency of the appeal at the lower Court. After the death of late Oji Anya, his family had several meetings to distribute his estate among them since it was believed that he died intestate. After commencing the process of obtaining Letters of Administration from the Probate Registry of the High Court, Umuahia, problem ensued as to the entitlement of the parties to the said estate and whether the female children of the family should receive any portion. This caused the extended family to intervene and resolved that an equitable formula for the distribution be adopted.
The original 1st Respondent (now deceased) rejected the resolution and alleged that the deceased left a Will prepared by one Clement H. C. Nwanya, Esq., appointing her and Mr. Nwanya as Executors of the 2 buildings forming part of the estate as 1 Exhibit A.
This suit by the Appellant (Plaintiff) against the Respondents (as defendants as the trial Court) at the trial Court as follows:
a. A declaration that the plaintiff’s father late Chief Oji Uke Anya who died on the 16th day of June, 2004 at Enugu, Enugu State died intestate.
b. A declaration that the document dated the 26th day of October 1998 purportedly deposited at the probate registry Enugu purporting to be the will and last testament of Chief Oji Uke Anya is void and of no effect whatsoever.
c. A declaration that the estate of Chief Oji Uke Anya is to be distributed in accordance with the land and custom of inheritance of Igbere people of Abia State of Nigeria.
d. A perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from acting or purporting to act as Executors of the said purported will and last testament of Chief Oji Uke Anya or in any way or manner tempering with or dealing in the assets of the estate of late Chief Oji Uke Anya wherever found or situate.
e. An order directing the defendant to render an account unto the plaintiff of all monies collected by them as rent from 2 buildings in the estate of late 2 Chief Oji Uke Anya respectively situate at No. 35 Zik Avenue and No. 25 Ibiam Street all in Uwani Enugu State.
The Respondents counter-claimed and defended it wherein the trial Court’s judgment favoured the Respondents, same affirmed by the lower Court, hence this appeal.
1. Was the Court of Appeal right to set aside the findings of facts by the High Court against which there was no appeal?
2. From the unchallenged findings of fact by the High Court, was the Court of Appeal right when it found that failure to attach weight to Exhibit T did not affect the conclusion reached by the High Court?
3. Was the Court of Appeal right to suo motu raise and resolve the issue of purported allegation of forgery without affording the parties an opportunity to address on it?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1 & 2. ISSUE 1 & 2 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. The instant case proved and as confirmed by the lower Court that the Will of the deceased, Exhibit A, met all the requirements of a valid Will to be sustained and granted. In fact, the requirements of 2 witnesses who witnessed the deceased, Chief O.U. Anya, appending his signature to the Will and they thereafter signed and put their names therein was abundantly proved. It was further proved on the weight between Exhibit A and Exhibit T that the Will satisfied all the formal requirements of a valid Will; that there was cogent evidence that the testator, Chief O.U. Anya, had the mental and educational capacity to make a Will. There was also evidence that the deceased had no disability with his eyes and that 2 persons (Legal Practitioners) witnessed him append his signature to the Will before they subscribed to same. This therefore has proved the validity and superiority of Exhibit A over Exhibit T that no weight should in fact be attached to Exhibit T at all having been knocked down by Exhibit A.
3. ISSUE 3 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT BUT AGAINST THE APPELLANT.
i. The facts in this case do not show that this was the case. The Appellant’s case before the trial Court was founded on the fact that the Will left by the deceased was forged wherein in proof or otherwise, a handwriting expert testified, which was in favour of the Respondents. How then did the issue of forgery become fresh on appeal? The lower Court being confronted with the whole facts and as reflected in the record, discovered that the issue of forgery was well founded and cannot be a new issue calling for address of parties. I think the Appellant is lost as to the distinction between raising an issue suo motu and looking into the case/file by the Court to determine a matter.
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
Every civil case is determined by balance of probability on the scale of justice. – Abba A JI, J.S.C. Anya v. Onwuchekwa (2020)
The law is well entrenched further that the Appeal Court has the discretion to take on a point suo motu and the general principle is that the parties must be given an opportunity to be heard. However, authorities have shown that the failure to observe this principle would result into a misdirection which will be over-turned only if there has been a substantial miscarriage of justice. – Abba A JI, J.S.C. Anya v. Onwuchekwa (2020)
A Court cannot be accused of raising an issue, matter or fact suo motu if the issue, matter or fact exists in the litigation. – Abba A JI, J.S.C. Anya v. Onwuchekwa (2020)