➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Moses Benjamin v Adokiye Kalio (2017) – SC
by “PipAr” B.C. Chima
Supreme Court – SC/207/2006
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, 15 December 2017
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Estoppel by conduct.
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ PARTY CANNOT RESILE AFTER SUBMISSION TO CUSTOMARY ARBITRATION
On these facts of the customary arbitration by the Abuloma Council of Chiefs before whom the parties herein lead consensually submitted themselves to for the resolution of their dispute and the verdict of which arbitration was acceptable to all of them, it would no longer be open to either of the parties to subsequently back out or resile from the decision or verdict reached and pronounced upon the arbitration. See Oparaji v. Ohanu (1999) 9 NWLR (Pt. 618) 290, (2001) FWLR (Pt. 43) 385. The appellants are now estopped from resiling out of the customary arbitration of the Abuloma Council of Chiefs, which they voluntarily submitted their dispute with the respondents to, and agreed to accept the verdict of. Apart from this specie of estoppel operating as estoppel per rem judicatam; it also operates as estoppel by conduct by virtue of section 150 of the Evidence Act, 1990 (now section 169 of the Evidence Act, 2011). It is, therefore, unconscionable for the appellants, having by their words or conduct made the respondents to believe that they would be bound by the verdict of the Abuloma Council of Chiefs, to resile out of it and set up the suit, the subject of this appeal. See Joe Iga & Ors. v. Ezekiel Amakiri & Ors. (1976) 11 SC 1 at pages 12 – 13. — Eko JSC.
⦿ SUPREME COURT WILL NOT INTERVENE IN CONCURRENT FINDINGS OF LOWER COURTS
My lords, the appellants have not shown that the concurrent findings of fact made by the trial court and the lower court are perverse or unreasonable. Neither have they shown that any miscarriage of justice had been occasioned by the concurrent findings. The attitude of this court to concurrent findings of facts by the two lower courts is well settled. This court will only interfere with such concurrent findings when the appellants show special circumstances by establishing either that there was a miscarriage of justice, or a serious violation of some principles of substantive law or procedure, or that the findings are perverse, or that the findings do not flow from the evidence adduced by the parties. See Enang v. Adu (1981) 11 – 12 SC 25 at page 42, (1981) 5 SC 291; Lokoyi v. Olojo (1983) 8 SC 61 at page 73; Ojomu v. Ajao (1983) 9 SC 22 at page 53; Ibodo v. Enarofia (1980) 5 – 7 SC 42 at page 45; Akayepe v. Akayepe (2009) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1152) 217. The principle has been repeated and repeated times without numbers. Unfortunately, legal practitioners, obviously for their economic gains, keep encouraging litigants to approach this court with appeals repeating the same complaints over findings of facts by courts of first instance which had been duly affirmed by the intermediate court. I think there should be serious sanction for these vexatious frivolities. — Eko JSC.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
➥ CASE HISTORY
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether exhibit L, is a registrable land instrument allegedly not registered in accordance with the provisions of the Rivers State Land Instruments (Preparation and Registration) Law, Cap. 74, 1999, was admissible in evidence?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. “It is obvious to me, upon painstaking and dispassionate perusal of section 20 of the Law, Cap. 74 of Rivers State that the Rivers State House of Assembly had purportedly enacted a piece of legislation on evidence. Their legislative intent or purport is clear and categorical that no land instrument, mandatorily registerable, which is not so registered “shall not be pleaded or given in evidence in any court as affecting any land”. This clearly is an act of legislative trespass into the exclusive legislative terrain of the National Assembly prescribed by the Constitutions, since 1979. Section 20 of the Law, Cap. 74 of Rivers State has therefore rendered inadmissible exhibit L, a piece of evidence that is relevant and admissible in evidence under the Evidence Act. Because, in my firm view, Exhibit L is a piece of evidence pleadable and admissible in evidence by virtue of the Evidence Act read together with Item 23 of the Exclusive Legislative List and section 4(3) and (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the provisions in pari materia with section 4(3) and (5) of the 1979 Constitution, it cannot, accordingly, be rendered unpleadable and inadmissible in evidence in any proceedings before any court of law by any law enacted by the State House of Assembly, as the Rivers State House of Assembly had purportedly done by their enactment of section 20 of the law Cap 74. In my firm view, the argument of the appellant, that section 20 of the Land Instruments (Preparation and Registration) Law, Cap. 74 of the Laws of Rivers State has rendered exhibit L, a land instrument, unpleadable and inadmissible in the proceedings at the trial court goes to naught.”
II. Whether the respondents proved their claim at the trial court to warrant the order of the Court of Appeal affirming the decision of the trial court?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. “Both courts in their concurrent findings attached great prominence to the evidence of DW2 in support of the respondents’ case. The appellants, instead of showing how perverse or unreasonable the two courts were in relying on the evidence of the DW2 chose rather to attack (albeit feebly and unsuccessfully) the trifling of the court below not being correct in holding that the respondents had properly negotiated with the Gobo family, paid them the purchase price and thereafter performed the customary rite of giving them a goat and the “bush entry” fee. The appellants submit that the respondents never produced any receipt to show evidence of payment for the sums they allegedly paid the appellants’ family. Exhibit L had a receipt clause. This, at least, was conceded in the appellants’ brief of argument. It is not an immutable rule that proof of transactions shall only be by production of receipts as evidence of payment of the purchase price. The evidence of DW1, DW2 and DW3, believed by the trial court and which findings were affirmed by the court below, sufficiently establish the fact that the Gobo family had sold the disputed parcels of land and transferred their interests thereon to the respondents. The rule in Fasoro v. Beyioku (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt. 76) 263 at page 273, paragraphs E – F, which the appellants had been fastidious about is to the effect that where a party pleads his root of title based on sale or conveyance, he must prove either the sale or conveyance; failing which he would fail. Fasoro v. Beyioku (supra) is not an authority for the preposition that production of the receipt for the purchase price is the only means by which the transaction of sale or conveyance is established. The onus is, of course, on the defendant, like the respondents, who asserts that he got his title from the plaintiffs’ family, to establish their plea that there had been an absolute grant to them by the plaintiffs’ family. Ochonma v. Unosi (1965) 1 NMLR 321 at page 323.”
III. Whether the lower court is justified in awarding the sum of N750,000.00 (seven hundred and fifty thousand naira) as general damages for trespass against the appellants?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. “I am not satisfied that the appellants have made any case for my intervention in the N750,000.00 (seven hundred and fifty thousand naira) the lower court awarded against them as general damages. I am inclined to dismissing their appeal on this issue, and I so do.”
B. “The appellants are enjoined to establish that the general damages they appeal against, as wrongly awarded against them, is either manifestly too high or extremely too low or that the award was made on entirely wrong principle of law as to make it, in the opinion of the appellate court, an entirely erroneous estimate of damages the plaintiff was entitled to. See Neka B. B. B. Manufacturing Co. Ltd v. A.C.B Ltd (2004) All FWLR (Pt. 198) 1175, (2004) 2 NWLR (Pt. 858) 521, (2004) 1 SC (Pt. 1) 32, (2004) 1 SCNJ 193. The appellants did not satisfactorily establish any or all these factors.”
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
Section 20, 37 of the Law, Cap. 74 of Rivers State.
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)