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DEFINITION OF CAUSE OF ACTION

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Authorities have also defined cause of action as a factual situation which a Plaintiff relies upon to support his claim, recognized by law as giving rise to a substantive right capable of being enforced against a Defendant. See Agbanelo v. Union Bank of Nigeria Ltd (2002) 4 SC (Pt. 7) 243; Adesokan v. Adegoloru (1997) 3 NWLR (Pt. 493) 61; Emiator v. Nigerian Army (1999) 12 NWLR (Pt. 631) 362; Akande v. Adisa (2004) All FWLR (Pt. 236) 413.

– Oseji, JCA. SIFAX v. MIGFO (2015)

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NATURE OF A CAUSE OF ACTION

A cause of action is that action which connotes every fact which is material to be proved before a competent Court of law to entitle the plaintiff to succeed or all those things necessary to give a right to relief in law or equity. Thus, it is the factual base or some factual situation, a continuation of which makes the matter in litigation an enforceable or an actionable wrong. Consequently, before a party files a matter in Court, he must possess a cause of action against some person(s) or institution(s). In other words, a plaintiff/claimant must show by his pleadings that he has a cause of action maintaining in a Court of law against the defendant.

– Shuaibu JCA. Diamond Bank v. Mocok (2019)

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WHAT IS A CAUSE OF ACTION?

What then is a “cause of action ? Admittedly, the term “cause of action” defies a single precise definition. However, it has been variously defined or described as a bundle or aggregate of facts which the law recognizes as giving a Plaintiff a right to claim a relief or remedy against a defendant. It is thus, a factual situation which gives a person a right to judicial remedy. It is the operative fact or factual situation which gives rise to a right of action which itself is a remedial right EGBE Vs. ADEFARASIN (1987) 1 SC at 34 36. Cause of action may be defined as; (i) a cause of complaint; (ii) a civil right or obligation by a Court of Law; (iii) a dispute in respect of which a Court of Law is entitled to invoke its judicial powers to determine; (iv) consequent damages; See A. G. F. VS ABUBAKAR (2007) 10 NWLR (Pt1047) 1 SC MOBIL OIL PLC VS DENR (2004) 1 NWLR (Pt 853) 142. Thus, the words “cause of action” comprises every fact which would be necessary for the Plaintiff to prove, if traversed to support his right to the Judgment of the Court READ VS. BROWN (1882) 22 4 BD. it is all those things necessary to give a right of action whether they are to be done by the Plaintiff or a 3rd party. per Agbaje JSC in E. O. Amodu vs. Dr J, O, Amode & 4 Ors ( 1 990) 9 SCNJ 1, at 9 . It has also been defined simply as “a factual situation” the existence of which entitles one person to obtain from the Court a remedy against another THOMAS vs OLUFOSOYE (1996) 1 NWLR (pt 18) 6691 per Obaseki JSC.

— A.A. Wambai, JCA. Skye Bank v. Haruna & Ors. (CA/K/264/2011, 17th December, 2014)

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THE LAW FOR DETERMINING A CASE IS THE LAW AS AT THE TIME CAUSE OF ACTION AROSE

The injury complained of by the Claimant occurred on 14th July 2012. This means that the cause of action arose on that said date. By OBIUWEUBI V. CBN [2011] 7 NWLR (PT. 1247) 465 the law for determining a case is the law as at the time the cause of action arose. This means that the law for determining the instant case is the Employee’s Compensation Act 2010 which replaced the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

— E.N. Agbakoba, J. Igenoza v Unknown Defendant (2019) – NICN/ABJ/294/2014

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ASCERTAIN WHEN CAUSE OF ACTION ACCRUED

It is also trite that in order to ascertain the time when the cause of action accrued, for the purpose of the limitation law, the courts only looks at the writ of summons and the statement of claim which ordinarily ought to contain averments of facts as to when the wrong committed by the Defendant took place and compare it with the date when the writ of Summons was filed.

– Oseji, JCA. SIFAX v. MIGFO (2015)

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WHAT IS A “DISPUTE”

As to what constitutes a “Dispute”, Uwais, CJN, (Rtd) in his Ruling in the case of Attorney-General of the Federation v Attorney-General of Abia State & 35 others (supra), stated as follows:- “What constitutes a dispute under section 212 subsection (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979, which has exactly the same provisions as section 232 subsection (1) in question, had been considered by this Court in the cases of Attorney-General of Bendel State v Attorney-General of the Federation & 22 others (1981) 10 SC 1 and Attorney-General of the Federation v Attorney-General of Imo State & 2 others (1983) 4 NCLR 178. In Attorney-General of Bendel State’s case , Bello, JSC, (as he then was), stated as follows on pages 48 to 49 thereof:- ‘To invoke the original jurisdiction of this Court there must be a dispute as so qualified between the Federation and a State or between States. The issue of jurisdiction was contested on three grounds, firstly, that there is no dispute which affected the interest of the Federation and Bendel State between the plaintiff (Bendel State) and the Federation. Secondly, . . . I think the first point may be easily disposed of from the definition of the word “dispute”. The Oxford Universal Dictionary defines it as ‘the act of arguing against, controversy, debate, contention as to rights, claims and the like or on a matter of opinion . . .’
Ogbuagu JSC also held as follows on page 320 thereof:- “It is well established principle of the interpretation of constitution that the words of a constitution are not to be read with stultifying narrowness – United States v Classic 313 U.S 299 and Nafiu Rabiu v The State (1980) 8-11 SC 130. The word ‘dispute’ in section 212(1) should therefore be given such meaning that will effectuate rather than defeat the purpose of that section of the Constitution. Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (2ed), provides that ‘dispute’ is synonymous with controversy, quarrel, argument, disagreement and contention”. (Relied on in AG Kano State v AG Federation (2007) – SC 26/2006)

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WHAT IS A CAUSE OF ACTION?

Literally, the noun ’cause’ simply means to bring about or effect. A ’cause of action’ invariably denotes a combination (group) of operative facts thereby resulting in one or more bases for suing. In a sense, a cause of action is a factual situation that entitles one person to a remedy in Court from another person. An action brought outside the prescribed period offends against the provision of the section and does not give rise to a cause of action. A cause of action means the factual situation stated by the Plaintiff, if substantiated, entitle him to a remedy against the defendant.

– Saulawa, JSC. Oko v. Ebonyi State (2021)

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