➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
OBI v. UZOEWULU (2021) – SC
by PipAr Chima
Supreme Court – SC.242/2008
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, February 05, 2021
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Inheritance to stool;
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ WHERE FRESH ISSUE IS TO BE RAISED LEAVE OF COURT MUST BE SOUGHT
Need I remind the Appellant’s counsel that it is still a valid general principle that where a party seeks to raise a fresh issue on appeal, as he tried to do in this appeal, he must seek the leave of Court. Where he fails to do so, the issue, which ipso facto is rendered incompetent, would be liable to be struck out. – A. Aboki JSC. Obi v. Uzoewulu (2021)
Chief Edmund Obi (The Isi Obi Of Nsumano/Ezekwuabo Village Otolo, Nnewi)
Chikezie Uzoewulu (Substituted For The Deceased AUGUSTINE UZOEWULU. By Order Of The Court Of Appeal Made On Thursday, The 22nd Day Of March 2007).
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Abdu Aboki, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Victor Agunzi.
➥ CASE HISTORY
According to the Appellant, while Dibia-Agu was the Isi-Obi, of Ezekwuabo village, the said village was faced with series of wars (the war of nine fronts, popularly called Mbu Agha Teghete), with its neighbors. The then Isi-Obi could not control the situation so he handed over the mantle of Obiship to one of the descendants of Ezekwuabo called Ezekpo who was a great warrior and strategist, to lead the people in the war. Since then, the title of Isi-Obi Ezekwuabo remained in the lineage of Ezekpo up to the present day and time, with the Appellant as the present/incumbent Obi. He stated that the Respondent who is claiming the title is not even a descendant of the Ezekwuabo family, because his ancestor, Dim Onyenagolum was brought into the Ezekwuabo family from Dim Mnaniogu family and was assimilated into the Ezekwuabo family.
The story of the Respondent however is that the he descended from the same great ancestor Ezekwuabo, just like the Appellant. According to him, the ancestor begat Ikeogu and other sons. Ikeogu in turn begat Dim Onyenagolum, the ancestor of the Respondent, and Dim Ughanwa, Appellant’s ancestor. The first son of Ezekwuabo was Ezemuo, who died during his father’s lifetime. Ikeogu thus became the okpala and successor to the office of Isi-Obi Ezekwuabo when Ezekwuabo died. He said that when Dim Onyenagolum died, his son, Dim Aguluebo, was a minor and Ezekpo then stepped in and acted as a Regent, and that thence on, the Ezekpo line of the Appellant usurped the family Isi-Obi.
The Appellant herein was the Plaintiff at the High Court of Anambra State (hereafter called the Trial Court). By a Writ of Summons and an Amended Statement of Claim dated the 27th of October, 1997, the Appellant claimed, inter alia, the following reliefs: 1. A DECLARATION that the defendant and his members of Dim-Onyenagolum family are not entitled and cannot occupy the Obiship of Umui-Ikeogu/Ezekwuabo/Nsunano.
Parties called their respective witnesses and filed their respective addresses, and in its judgment, the learned trial Judge at Pages 288 to 321 of the Record, dismissed the Appellant’s claim and entered judgment for the Respondent in respect of his counter claim.
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Trial Court, the Appellant appealed to the Lower Court via a Notice of Appeal dated 27th day of March 2006, as can be found at Pages 322 to 330 of the Record. While the appeal was ongoing, the initial Respondent at the Lower Court passed away and was substituted by the current Respondent before this Court. The Lower Court, in a unanimous decision dismissed the Appellant’s appeal.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether the decision of the Court of Appeal sustaining the judgment of the Court of first instance, is correct?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
I.A. The defendant says that the custom as therein stated is generally the practice but in the case of the Plaintiff, the obiship claimed got into his family through an act of USURPATION. The 1st son of Ezekwuabo was Ezeomu who died before his father, consequent upon which the Obiship moved to the next or 2nd son of Ezekwuabo named Ikeogu. In line with the said operative patrilineal custom of inheritance, the obiship after Ikeogu descended to his son, Ezejimofor, who in turn had three sons, Dim Onyenagolum, Dim Ughanwa and Ilodu, and Dim Onyenagolum succeeded their father Ezejimofor as Isi-Obi. At the death of Dim Onyenagolum, his 1st son Dim Aguluebo whose turn it was to assume the Isi-Obi of the family was a minor and the Ezekpor (the 1st son of Dim Ughanwa) who was of age at that time stepped in and acted as a Regent. Thence on, the Ezekpo line (of the Plaintiff), usurped the family Isi-Obi by the successions of Eze Ufeukwu (Uketu), Ezeaghaigbo (Obiadimbugha), Chief Ndupu Obi and now Chief Edmund Obi (the Plaintiff), in that order. The defendant further states that the family Ofo, which is a necessary complement of Obiship status in Nnewi town has through the ages up till present, remained in the Defendant’s Dim Onyenagolum lineage inspite of Ezekpo’s usurpation. By Nnewi custom, if Ezekpo and his successors were entitled to the Isi-obi, each of them would have at the same time officiated over the Ofor Ezekwuabo, which was never the same. I agree with the decision of the Trial Court, and as affirmed by the Court below that the Respondent established his case. The Trial Court believed the testimony of DW3 and held that he was a witness of truth.
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ WHEN GROUNDS OF APPEAL ARE ONE OF LAW
In NNPC v. FAMFA OIL LTD. (2012) 17 N.W.L.R. (Part 1328) S.C. 148, this Court, while faced with a similar objection to the grounds of appeal, went ahead to deal extensively with the criteria for identifying when a ground of appeal is one of law, of fact, or of mixed fact and law. Rhodes-Vivours J.S.C., at Pp. 175 – 176, Paragraphs C – H, as follows: “…. In Nwadike v. Ibekwe (Supra), this Court explained further that: (a) It is an error in law if the adjudicating Tribunal took into account some wrong criteria in reaching its conclusion. (b) Several issues that can be raised on legal interpretation of deeds, documents, terms of arts and inference drawn there from are grounds of law. (c) Where a ground deals merely with a matter of inference, even if it be inference of fact, a ground framed from such is a ground of law. (d) Where a tribunal states the law in point wrongly, it commits an error in law. (e) Where the complaint is that there was no evidence or no admissible evidence upon which a finding or decision was based, same is regarded as a ground of law. (f) If a Judge considers matters which are not before him and relies on them for the exercise of his discretion, he will be exercising same on wrong principles and this will be a question of law…..”
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)