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INGREDIENTS FOR ISSUE ESTOPPEL TO APPLY

Dictum

It is trite law that for issue estoppel to apply the following ingredients must be present: 1. The parties must be the same in the previous and present actions; 2. The same question that was decided in the previous action must arise in the present action in respect of the same subject matter; and 3. That question must be a final decision of a competent court. See Ebba v. Ogodo (2000) 10 NWLR (Pt. 675) S.C. 387.

— R.O. Nwodo, JCA. Teleglobe v 21st Century Tech. (2008) – CA/L/694/2006

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WHAT IS AN ESTOPPEL

An estoppel is part of the law of evidence. It is no other than a bar to testimony. It’s sole function is to place an obstacle in the way of a case which might otherwise succeed or to remove an impediment out of the way of a case which might otherwise fail.

– Oputa JSC. Gbadamosi v. Bello (1985)

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PRINCIPLE OF ESTOPPEL BY CONDUCT – WAIVER OF RIGHT

The principle of estoppel by conduct is based on the public policy that says that there must be an end to litigation. Its aim is, not only to hold a party to his undertaking that he will no longer insist on either his right to appeal or the accrued right or obligation from the judgment, but also not to allow a person benefit from his prevarication. Equity, generally abhors subterfuge, deception and some other unconscienable conduct. Equity acts in personam … It operates thus: if a person with full knowledge of the rights, interest, profits or benefits conferred upon or accruing to him by and under the law, intentionally decides to give up all these, or some of them, he cannot be heard to complain afterwards that he has not been permitted the exercise of his right, or that he has suffered by his not having exercised his rights. In the circumstance, just like in the instant case, he should be held to have waived his rights and consequently estopped from raising the issue subsequently.

— Ejembi Eko, JSC. County Dev. Co. v Hon. Min. Env. Housing Urban Dev. (2019) – SC.239/2011

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WHEN DOES ISSUE ESTOPPEL ARISES

Issue estoppel arises when the issue has been decided upon to finality by a Court of competent jurisdiction. In other words, once an issue has been raised and distinctively determined between the parties, neither party can be allowed to fight that issue all over again. The same issue cannot be raised by either party again in the same or subsequent proceedings except in special circumstances. See Adone & Ors v. Ikebudu & Ors (2001) LPELR 191 (SC) and Tukur v. Uba & Ors (2012) LPELR 9337 (SC). For issue estoppel to apply, the following conditions must be satisfied: (a) The same question was decided in both proceedings; (b) The decision which creates the estoppel must be final; and (c) The parties to the judicial decision or their privies to the proceedings in which the estoppel is raised. To determine whether the above three elements exist (they must co exist), the Court will closely examine the reasons for the judgment and other relevant facts that were actually in issue in the proceeding. See Oyekola & Ors v. Amodu (2017) LPELR-42391 (CA); OSPM Ltd v. Nibel Co. Nig. Ltd (2017) 3 NWLR (pt.1552) 207 at 234 and Dasuki (Rtd) v. F.R.N. (2018) LPELR-43969 (CA).

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. APM v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/04/2023

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ESTOPPEL: ISSUE & CAUSE OF ACTION ESTOPPEL

Two types of Estoppel by record are:- (a) Cause of Action Estoppel – which precludes a party to an action or his agents and privies from disputing as against the other party in any subsequent proceedings, matters which had been adjudicated upon previously by a court of competent jurisdiction between him and his adversary and involving same issue. (b) Issue Estoppel which precludes a party his servant, agent or privy from re-opening or relitigating as against the other party or his agents and privies in any subsequent proceedings, issues which were distinctly raised in a cause of action and appropriately resolved or determined in any suit between the parties in a court of competent jurisdiction.

– ADEKEYE, JCA. NOGA v. NICON (2007)

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PROMISSORY ESTOPPEL

Otto v. Mabamije (2004) 17 NWLR (Pt. 903) page 489 at page 504, (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 262) 597, this court held as follows:- “By virtue of section 51 of the Evidence Act, when one person by his declaration, act or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to be true and to act on such belief, neither he nor his representatives in interest shall be allowed in any proceeding between himself and such representative in interest to deny the truth of that thing.”

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THE RULE OF ESTOPPEL PREVENTS ONE BLOWING HOT & COLD

By operation of the rule of estoppel a man is not allowed to blow hot and cold, to affirm at one time and deny at the other, or, as it is said, to approbate and reprobate. He cannot be allowed to mislead another person into believing in a state of affairs and then turning round to say to that person’s disadvantage that the state of affairs which he had represented does not exist at all or as represented by him.

– Nnaemeka-agu, JSC. Ude v. Nwara (1993)

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