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LITIGANT HAS NO DUTY TO PAY BAILIFF TO EFFECT SERVICE ON THE OTHER PARTY

Dictum

[W]hen a litigant files a document in the court registry and pays all the fees, it is not his duty to pay the bailiff any money for transport or otherwise so that he could effect service on the other party, if he gives the bailiff any money it is only to speed up the services on the other party.

— Opene JCA. United Bank for Africa (UBA) v. Samuel Igelle Ujor (CA/C/134/99, 20 FEB 2001)

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INEFFECTIVE SERVICE VITIATES COURT’S JURISDICTION

In effect, it, [that is, ineffective service], is a fundamental vice that vitiates the exercise of the jurisdiction and competence of the Court. It is beyond what can be waived for it is a condition precedent to the invocation of the Court’s jurisdiction.

– C.C. Nweze JSC. Odey v. Alaga (2021) – SC.9/2021

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SERVICE OF PROCESS IS FUNDAMENTAL AND FAILURE VITIATES

In SGBN LTD VS ADEWUNMI (2003) LPELR 3081 (SC); (2003) 10 NWLR (PT 829) 526, this Court restated its concern thus: At page 539. “Service of process on a party to a proceeding is fundamental. It is service that confers competence and jurisdiction on the Court seized of the matter. Clearly, due service of process of Court is a condition sine qua non to the hearing of any suit. Therefore, if there is a failure to serve process where service of process is required, the person affected by the order but not served with the process is entitled ex-debito justitiae to have the order set aside as a nullity.”

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STRAINING THE RULE ON PROOF OF SERVICE

The correct position of the law has repeatedly been stated by this court that it is straining the rule on proof of service to say that a defendant who filed a defence to the statement of claim was not served the writ of summons because there was no bailiff’s endorsement on the writ. See: Okesuyi v. Lawal (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt.176) 661, per Olatawura, JSC (of blessed memory).

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

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SERVICE OF PROCESS SHOULD BE DONE IN THE RIGHT MANNER

Put in another way, service is a precondition to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Courts. Where there is no service or there is a procedural fault in service in subsequent proceedings are a nullity ab initio. This is based on the principle of law that a party should know or be aware that there is a suit against him so that he can put up a defence. If after service, he does not put up a defence the law will assume and rightly too for that matter that he had no defence. Failure to serve process where service is required in a particular manner is a fundamental vice. It deprives the Court of the necessary competence and jurisdiction to hear the suit. That is to say, that the condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction was not fulfilled.

– S.C. OSEJI, J.S.C. Odey v. Alaga (2021) – SC.9/2021

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PERSONAL SERVICE OF AN ORIGINATING PROCESS IS FUNDAMENTAL

The law is well settled that personal service of an originating process on a party to a proceeding is fundamental. It is service that confers jurisdiction on the Court seised of the matter. Where there is failure to serve a process where service is required, the person entitled to be served but not so serviced, is entitled, ex debito justicae to have it set aside.

– A. Aboki JSC. Odey v. Alaga (2021) – SC.9/2021

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SERVICE OF ORIGINATING PROCESS ON OTHER PARTY IS JURISDICTIONAL

Undoubtedly, the essence of service of originating processes upon a party, a defendant or Respondent as the case may be in administration of justice, cannot be over emphasized. Indeed, the service of origination process on a party is not merely important but fundamental. Indeed, it goes very deeply to the root of the Jurisdictional competence of the Court to adjudicate upon the matter. Thus, failure to serve the adverse party with the necessary originating process invariably renders the proceedings by the Court and any orders predicated thereupon, nullities.

– I.M.M. Saulawa JCA. Owhor v. Obodo (2020) – CA/PH/448/2017

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