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JURISDICTION OF THE COURT IS DETERMINED BY CAUSE OF ACTION

Dictum

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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JURISDICTION CAN BE RAISED AT ANYTIME – IT SHOULD BE RAISED EARLIER

The issue of jurisdiction is fundamental and the law is trite that it can be raised by a party at any stage of courts’ proceedings, even at the level of the Supreme Ccourt. See Francis Durwode v. State 2000 15 NWLR part 691 page 467, Otukpo v. John 2000 8 NWLR part 669 page 507. It is however ideal that it be raised at the earliest stage of proceedings to avoid unnecessary waste of time, which the defendant has done in the instant case.

— A.M. Mukhtar, JSC. Adetona & Ors. v Igele (2011) – SC.237/2005

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IT IS ONLY SIGNATORIES TO THE ECOWAS TREATY WHO CAN BE SUED BEFORE THE ECOWAS COURT

✓ In the case of JOHNNY KING & 10 Ors V. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA & 9 Ors ECW/CCJ/RUL/06/19, the Court held that: “The Court has looked at the laws regarding its jurisprudence as well as precedents in this Court, and it is so clear that, it is only member states of ECOWAS who are signatories to the treaties can be brought before this Court for human rights violations and this Court has maintained that position in all its decisions.”
✓ In SERAP V. THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA & Ors ECW/CCJ/RUL/07/10, The Court confirms that: “In the context and legal framework of ECOWAS, the court stands by its current understanding that only member States and Community Institutions can be sued before it for alleged violation of human right as laid down in Peter David v. Ambassador Ralph Uwechue delivered on 11 th day of June 2010”.

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WHEN A COURT IS COMPETENT TO EXERCISE JURISDICTION OVER A SUIT

A court is said to be competent to exercise jurisdiction over a suit when the following are present: 1. It is properly constituted as regards members and qualification 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 3. The case comes before the Court initiated by due process of law, and upon fulfilment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction. See MADUKOLU V. NKEMDILIM (1962) 2 SCNLR 341; O’BAU ENGINEERING LTD V. ALMASOL (NIG.) LTD (2022) LPELR 57985 (SC); PETROLEUM (SPECIAL) TRUST FUND V. FIDELITY BANK & ORS (2021) LPELR 56625 (SC); ENEH V. NDIC & ORS (2018) LPELR 44902 (SC); JAMES V. INEC & ORS (2015) LPELR 24494 (SC).

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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IT IS PARAMOUNT TO DECIDE ISSUE OF JURISDICTION FIRST

The issue of jurisdiction is the bedrock of adjudication by a Court of law and as such, it is basically considered expedient to resolve same before proceeding to consider the main issues presented to the Court for adjudication on the merit. It goes without saying that the determination of a suit by a Court is null and void if done without jurisdiction notwithstanding how well or proper the proceeding was conducted. The jurisdiction of a Court to entertain a matter is therefore fundamental to the extent that if a Court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine a case, the proceedings is a nullity ab initio. See Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR 341; A.G. Lagos State v. Dosunmu (1989) 6 SC (Pt. II) page 1; A.G. Rivers State v. A.G. Akwa Ibom State (2011) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1248) 31; Ajao v. Alao (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt. 45) 802; Galadima v. Tambai (2000) 6 SCNJ 190.

— S.C. Oseji, JCA. Access Bank v Edo State BIR (2018) – CA/B/333/2015

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ISSUES BETWEEN CUSTOMER AND BANKER FALLS WITHIN A STATE HIGH COURT JURISDICTION

So, where any dispute relates to breach of or non-compliance with certain formalities required by law for the lawful operation of banking business, the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court. See: Merchants Bank Ltd. v. Federal Minister of Finance (1961) All NLR 598. It is to be noted as well, where what is involved is only a dispute between a Bank and its customer in the ordinary cause of banking business, like an action by a bank to recover overdrafts granted to the customer, the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction. It is the State High Court that has jurisdiction in such a case. See: Jammal Steel Structures Ltd. v. African Continental Bank Ltd (1973) 1 All NLR (Pt.11)208; Bronik Motors Ltd & Anor v. Wema Bank Ltd (1983) 1 SCLR 296; FMBN v. NDIC (1999) 2 SCNJ 57 at 82.

— I.T. Muhammad, JSC. Adetona & Ors. v Igele (2011) – SC.237/2005

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JURISDICTION OF COURT – JURISDICTION CAN BE RAISED AT ANY TIME

I have found that ground (1) is premised on the jurisdiction of the lower court. It is the law that even where a court of law does not pronounce whether it has jurisdiction to try a matter or not, once the establishing law or other statutes or the subject matter or party before the court has divested that court of jurisdiction, then jurisdiction does not reside in the court. The ground is properly taken by the appellant in this appeal as issue of jurisdiction can be raised at any level of the proceedings of a court even at appeal levels. See: Nigeria Eng. Works Ltd. v. Denap Ltd. (2001) 18 NWLR (Pt.746) 726.

— T. Muhammad, JSC. VAB Petroleum v. Momah (2013) – SC.99/2004

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