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JUDGE SHOULD NOT MAKE PRONOUNCEMENTS ON THE CASE AFTER STRIKING OUT FOR WANT OF JURISDICTION

Dictum

It is my judgment that the Judge was wrong in dismissing the suit rather than striking it out when he held that he had no jurisdiction. The court was not just wrong, I dare say that the court abdicated a constitutional obligation or duty. In any case, the law is that even where a court finds that it had no jurisdiction he has no business making any other order or proceeding further other than to do his only duty, which is to strike out the matter or case: Obi v. I.N.E.C. (2007) All FWLR (Pt. 378) 1116, (2007) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1046) 565. Also the case of John Egbele v. The Post Master General (unreported decision of this court in CA/L/585/05 delivered on 10 November 2010) wherein this court, per Mukhtar JCA in his lead judgment said at page 10 thus: “The court below having rightly held that it lacked jurisdiction in the matter, ought to have simply struck out the matter as it lacked the competence to decide any other issue. The further pronouncement by the court that the suit was statute-barred was null and void and same is hereby struck out” In Okotie-Eboh v. Manager (2005) 123 LRCN 256, (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 241) 277, the Supreme Court also made it clear, per Edozie JSC at page 288, paragraph K of the report that the superfluous pronouncement made after a finding that the court had no jurisdiction was academic as courts of law are not academic institutions. I must say that it is for this same reason that I had in the decision of this court in Egbele v. The Post Master General said in my contribution as follows: “it is in the same reasoning that I hold that challenge raised in ground No. 2 of the appeal – bordering as it were on the limitation of action, has no merit as the High Court of a State including that of Lagos State has no jurisdiction to proceed to pronounce on the incompetence of the suit for being statute-barred after it had found … That it lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter.”

— Danjuma, JCA. Tony Anthony Nig. Ltd & Ors. v. NDIC (CA/L/630/2009 • 25 January 2011)

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ILLEGALITY OF A CONTRACT IMPACTS THE JURISDICTION OF A COURT

Illegality of a contract or transaction, whenever it is raised as a defence to a claim founded on the said transaction, impacts on the jurisdiction of the court. When the contract on which the plaintiff sues is ex facie illegal, the courts will decline to enforce it for the courts exercise their jurisdiction only to administer the law of the land. They do not exercise their jurisdiction to help the Plaintiff break the law. See GEORGE & ORS v. DOMINION FLOUR MILLS LTD (1963) 1 ALL NLR 71; IBRAHIM v. OSIM (1988) NWLR 257; BARCLAYS BANK D.O.C. v, MEMUNATU HASSAN (1961) ALL NLR 836.

— E. Eko, JSC. CITEC v. Edicomisa (2017) – SC. 163 2006

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THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF JURISDICTION

In A.G. Kwara State & Anor v Saka Adeyemo & Ors (2016) 7 SC (Pt.II) p. 149. I said that: Jurisdiction is a question of law. There are two types of jurisdiction. 1. Jurisdiction as a matter of procedural law. 2. Jurisdiction as a matter of substantive law. A litigant may waive the former. Again in Appeal No: SC.175/2005 Heritage Bank Ltd v Bentworth Finance (Nigeria) Ltd decided by this Court on 23 February, 2018 Eko J.S.C. explained the distinction between substantive jurisdiction and procedural jurisdiction.

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COURT EXERCISES JURISDICTION ONLY OVER THOSE WHO ARE WITHIN ITS TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION

Courts exercise jurisdiction over persons who are within its territorial jurisdiction: Nwabueze vs. Obi-Okoye (1988) 10-11 SCNJ 60 at 73; Onyema vs. Oputa (1987) 18 NSCC (Pt. 2) 900; Ndaeyo vs. Ogunnaya (1977) 1 SC 11. Since the respondent was fully aware that before the issuance of the writ the appellant’s abode or residence for the past one year was no longer at No.189, Off R.B. Dikko Road, Asokoro, Abuja within jurisdiction, substituted service of the processes should not have been ordered by the learned trial Judge.

— J.T. Tur, JCA. Abdulkardir Abacha v Kurastic [2014] – CA/A/406/2010

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JURISDICTION OF THE COURT IS DETERMINED BY CAUSE OF ACTION

The jurisdiction of the court is determined by the cause of action of the plaintiff as endorsed on the writ of summons or from both the writ of summons and the statement of claim. Where however, an action is commenced by Originating summons then it is the reliefs sought as well as the averments in the affidavit in support of the originating process that would be examined to discern if the court has jurisdiction. These would be relied on if the facts placed before the court as contained in the statement of claim or the affidavit in the case of originating summons are clear and unambiguous to enable it determine the issue. This is because it is the plaintiff who invokes the constitutional right for a determination of his right and accordingly the exercise of the judicial powers of the Constitution vested in the courts. See: A-G., Oyo State v. NLC (2003) 8 NWLR (Pt. 821) page 1; Akande & 2 Ors. v. Busari Alagbe & Anor, (2001) FWLR (Pt. 38) page 1352, (2000) 15 NWLR (Pt.690) 353; A.-G., Federation v. Guardian Newspaper Ltd. & 5 Ors. (2001) FWLR (Pt. 32) page 93, (1999) 9 NWLR (Pt. 618) 187; Messrs N. V. Scheep & Anor. v. The MV’s Araz & Anor. (2000) FWLR (Pt 34) page 556, (2000) 15 NWLR (Pt. 691) 622; NEPA v. Atukpor (2001) FWLR (Pt. 20) page 626, (2000) 1 NWLR (Pt. 693) 96; General Sani Abacha & 3 Ors. v. Chief Gani Fawehinmi (2000) FWLR (Pt. 4) page 557, (2000) 6 NWLR (Pt. 660) 228; Okulate & 4 Ors. v. Awosanya & 2 Ors. (2000) 2 NWLR (Pt. 646) page 530-6.

— Aboki, JCA. Action Congress v INEC (2007) – CA/A/101/07

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WHERE COURT LACKS JURISDICTION, IT CANNOT DETERMINE ANY ISSUE

Kekere-Ekun JSC in the case of James v INEC Supra, at Page 583-584 Para H-A: “…it is clear that where a court lacks jurisdiction to entertain a cause or matter, it lacks jurisdiction to determine any issue arising within that cause or matter. To attempt to do so would amount to delving into the merit of the case, which would amount to a nullity in the event that the court lacks jurisdiction to determine the suit.”

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NO JURISDICTION WHERE STATUTORY CONDITION NOT FULFILLED

After all, it is to be remembered that all appeals in this country and elsewhere exist merely by statute and unless the statutory conditions are fulfilled no jurisdiction is given to any Court of Justice to entertain them.

— Lord Atkin, Ohene Moore v. Akesseh Tayee (1933) JELR 85041 (WACA)

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