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ISSUE OF JURISDICTION CAN ONLY BE RAISED AT THE ARBITRATION PANEL

Dictum

The law therefore is that although in the regular Courts, the issue of jurisdiction can be raised at all stages of the proceedings of a case; from the trial to the final appellate, where a statute prescribed the stage at which the issue is to be raised in the course of the proceedings of a case, the issue cannot be validly and properly raised at any other stage other than the one stipulated in the statute. The general principle applies only where there was no statutory provision as to the particular or specific stage of the proceedings of a case at which the issue of jurisdiction is to be raised by a party.

– Garba, JCA. Dunlop v. Gaslink (2018)

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CRIMINAL MATTERS & FRAUD ARE NOT ARBITRABLE

Disputes which are subject of an arbitration agreement must be arbitrable. Matters like criminal matters or where fraud is alleged and raised as a matter of public policy are not to be settled privately by arbitration. See B. J. EXPORT & CHEMICAL CO. LTD v. KADUNA PETRO-CHEMICAL CO. LTD. (Supra).

— H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. UBA v Triedent Consulting Ltd. (SC.CV/405/2013, July 07, 2023)

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COURT PROPERLY CONSTITUTED

Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) 1 All NLR 587 per Bairamian FJ as follows:- “Put briefly, a court is competent when: It is properly constituted as regards numbers and qualifications of the members of the bench, and no member is disqualified for one reason or another; (2) The subject matter of the case is within its jurisdiction and there is no feature in the case which prevents the court from exercising its jurisdiction; and the case comes before the court initiated by the due process of law and upon fulfillment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction.”

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WHEN CAN IT BE SAID THAT A COURT HAS JURISDICTION TO HEAR A CASE

It is now settled law that jurisdiction is the life blood of adjudication in that any decision by a Court that lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine a matter is a nullity no matter how well conducted see Madukolu vs Nkemdilim 1962 NSCC 374 at 379-380. When can it be said that a Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine a case? As stated earlier, the Supreme Court in the above cited case decided that for a Court to have the requisite jurisdiction to hear a matter: (a) the Court must be properly constituted as regard numbers and qualifications of members of the bench, and no member is disqualified for one reason or another; (b) the subject matter of the case is within the jurisdiction of the Court and there is no feature in the case that prevents the Court from exercising its jurisdiction; and (c) the case comes before the Court initiated by due process of the law, and upon fulfilment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction.

— Onnoghen, CJN. Nwachukwu v Nwachukwu (2018) – SC.601/2013

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ISSUES ON CONSTITUTION AND JURISDICTION SHOULD BE ADDRESSED AT EARLIEST OPPORTUNITY

It is crystal clear that the question involved in issue 2 for the determination of this court is entirely constitutional. A constitutional issue, like the question of jurisdiction, is not only fundamental but must be disposed of by the court as soon as it is raised to ensure that the proceedings in which it is raised is not rendered nugatory and null and void and that the Constitution which is the supreme law of the land is not breached. See Alhaji Rufai Agbaje and others v. Mrs. W.A. Adelekan and others (1990) 7 NWLR (Pt. 164) 595 at 614. It is in the interest of the best administration of justice that where the issue of jurisdiction or a constitutional issue is raised in any proceedings before any court, it should be dealt with at the earliest opportunity and before a consideration of any other issues raised in the proceedings as anything purportedly done without or in excess of jurisdiction or in breach of the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, by any court established under the said Constitution is a nullity and of no effect whatever. See On venta and others v. Oputa and others (1987) 3 NWLR (Pt.60) 259; (1987) 2 N.S.C.C. 900; Attorney General of the Federation and others v. Sode and other (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt. 128) 500; (1990) I N.S.C.C. 271; Tukur v. Government of Gongola State (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 117) 517 at 545 etc. Accordingly, I will proceed firstly to examine issue 2 which raises a grave constitutional question in this appeal.

— Iguh JSC. Onuoha v State (1998) – SC. 24/1996

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SUBJECT MATTER OF THE CLAIM THAT DETERMINES JURISDICTION

It is trite law that it is the claim of the Plaintiff that determines the jurisdiction of the Court. P & C.H.S CO. LTD. & ORS. V. MIGFO (NIG.) LTD. & ANOR. (2012) VOL. 212 LRCN 1; ABDULHAMID V. AKAR (2006) 5 SCNJ 43. Making it more explicit, the Apex Court in the case of OLORUNTOBA-OJU & ORS. V. DOPAMU & ORS. (2008) LPELR 2595 (SC) P. 19 PARAS. A-B, Per Oguntade JSC, held thus: “The jurisdiction of the Court will be determined by the subject matter of the claim and not the claim relating to the injunction which was an ancillary relief and depend on the primary claim.”

— U. Onyemenam, JCA. Iheme v Chief of Defence Staff (2018) – CA/J/264/2017

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PARTIES TO A CASE DETERMINE THE JURISDICTION OF A COURT

However, what the learned senior Counsel failed to realize is the fact that the presence of the 2nd Appellant, the National Judicial Council and the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation as parties in the case, had pulled in a feature in the case which brought it out of the jurisdiction of the High Court taking into consideration the decision of this Court in Madukolu v. Nkemdelim (supra) earlier quoted in this judgment.

– Mahmud, JSC. Elelu-Habeeb v. A.G Federation (2012)

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