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DETERMINING THE EXISTENCE OR NONEXISTENCE OF A CAUSE OF ACTION

Dictum

In determining the existence or non-existence of a cause of action in a suit, the Court is to consider the Writ of Summons and the statement of claim. And what distinguishes a claim which discloses cause of action from the one that does not is that where a statement of claim discloses some reasonable cause of action on the facts alleged in it, it is where the claim has some chances of success and once it raises some issues of law or fact calling for determination by the Court. Put differently, it is irrelevant to consider the weakness of the plaintiff’s claim but whether it raise some questions fit to be decided by a Court. And for a statement of claim to be said to disclose no cause of action it must be such as nobody can understand what claim he is required to meet.

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

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DEFINITION OF CAUSE OF ACTION

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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ACCRUAL OF RIGHT VS ACCRUAL OF CAUSE OF ACTION

As I had earlier stated, there is a difference in accrual of right from accrual of cause of action, even though it is a very thin line of demarcation between them. When a right accrues, it is the duty of the beneficiary of that right to make moves to claim his right. When the move is made without success or a favourable response from the other party, there is nothing more to infer than that that refusal to respond is tantamount to a denial. At this point, the cause of action has accrued and is now enforceable through the instrumentality of a judicial process.

– M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Oko v. Ebonyi State (2021)

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DEFINITION OF CAUSE OF ACTION

The Supreme Court in the case of A.G. OF ADAMAWA STATE & ORS v. A.G. OF THE FEDERATION (2014) LPELR-23221(SC) (P. 28, paras. C-F) Per PETER-ODILI, J.S.C, defined cause of action thus: ”The definition that has been followed on cause of action is that cause of action is the fact or facts which establish or give rise to a right of action. It is the factual situation which gives a person a right to judicial relief. Thus, when an action is said to be statute-barred, what it connotes is that the plaintiffs may have an actionable cause of action, but their recourse to judicial remedy is voided. No proceedings could be brought to prosecute the action. Muhammed v Military Administration, Plateau State (2001) 16 NWLR (Pt.740) 510 at 544 – 545; Egbe v Adefarasin (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt. 3) 1; Yusuf v C.C.B. Ltd (1994) 7 NWLR (Pt.359) 676.”

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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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ACCRUAL OF RIGHT VS CAUSE OF ACTION

That accrual of rights is not the same thing as accrual of cause of action or accrual of right of action. The implication is that an unviolated right does not confer on the holder of right, any rights of action because there is no cause of action. In my humble view therefore, right of action and cause of action can be coterminous but accrual of right per se stands alone. It follows that accrual of right under the Constitution entitles the holder of the right to call in aid the judicial powers of the Court under our statutes. It is the infringement of that right which is the cause of action and gives the holder the right of action to activate the judicial powers of the Court under Section 6 (6) (a) & (b) of the CFRN 1999 as amended.

– M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Oko v. Ebonyi State (2021)

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