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MEANING OF ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS

Dictum

Abuse of court process means that the process of the court has not been used bonafide and it may occur when a party improperly uses a judicial process to the harassment, irritation and annoyance of his opponent and to interfere with the administration of justice. The institution of multiplicity of actions by the parties, in the instant case, constitutes an abuse of the court process. There must be an end to litigation. Although, every person as citizen has a right of access to the court for redress, that right should be exercised in good faith. [Okafor v. Attorney-General of Anambra State (1991) 6 NWLR (Pt.200) 659;Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt.264) 156;Owonikoko v. Arowosaiye (1997) 10 NWLR (Pt.523) 61 referred to].

— Adeyemo v. Ida & Ors. (1998) – CA/1/6/92

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WHAT CONSTITUTES ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS

Saraki vs Kotoye (1992) 11-12 SCNJ, on what constitutes abuse of Court process, as follows: “The abuse consists in the intention, purpose and aim of the person exercising the right of issue (of the process) to harass, irritate and annoy the adversary, and interfere with the administration of Justice, such as instituting actions between the same parties, simultaneously, in different Courts even though on different grounds … Abuse of process of the Court is a term generally applied to a process which is wanting in bonafide and is frivolous, vexatious or oppressive. It can also mean abuse of legal procedures or improper use of judicial process.”

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ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS ON MULTIPLE ACTIONS

The trite position of the law on abuse of a court process is that it happens in regard to multiple actions between the same parties, on the same subject matter, when a party (such as the appellant in this appeal) improperly uses judicial process to the irritation, of annoyance and harassment of his opponent (the respondent herein) not only in respect of the same subject matter but also in respect of the same issues in the other action or actions. See: Okafor v. A – G Anambra State (1991) 6 NWLR (Pt.200) 659 at 681; Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt.264) 156; Ikine v. Edjerode (2001) 18 NWLR (Pt.745) 446.

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

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THE CONCEPT OF ABUSE OF JUDICIAL PROCESS IS IMPRECISE

The concept of abuse of Judicial Process has been held to be imprecise. It involves circumstances and situations of infinite varieties and conditions. It’s one common feature is the improper use of the Judicial process by a party in litigation to interfere with the due administration of Justice. It is recognised that the abuse of the process may lie in both a proper or improper use of the judicial process in litigation. But the employment of judicial process is only regarded generally as an abuse when a party improperly uses the issue of the judicial process to the irritation and annoyance of his opponent, and the efficient and effectual administration of Justice. This will arise in instituting a multiplicity of actions on the same subject matter against the same opponent on the same issues. Thus, the multiplicity of actions on the same parties, even where there exists a right to bring the action, is regarded as an abuse. The abuse lies in the multiplicity and manner of the exercise of the right, rather than the exercise of the right per se. See the case of:- -Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) 9 NWLR part 264 page 156.

— J.O. Bada, JCA. Conoil v Vitol (2011) – CA/A/213/2010

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WHAT IS ABUSE OF PROCESS

There is abuse of process when a party uses the issue of judicial process to the irritation and annoyance of the other party and in the process disrupts the smooth administration of justice. A proceeding that is frivolous or oppressive is an abuse of process, e.g. filing multiplicity of actions on the same subject matter against the same opponent on the same issue. See Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt. 264) p. 156. Agwasim v. Ojichie (2004) 10 NWLR (Pt. 882) p.613; Okorodudu v. Okoromadu (1997) 3 SC p.21.

— O. Rhodes-Vivour JSC. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc V. Longterm Global Capital Limited & Anor. (SC.535/2013(R), 23 June 2017)

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WHAT QUALIFIES AS ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS

It is trite law that, abuse of Court or judicial process simply means, the use of a Court process mala fide or in bad faith to the annoyance of the opponent. One variety of it is the institution of multiferous actions between the same parties with regard to the same subject matter and same issue, in the same or another Court. See Abdu Yunusa Indabawa v. Garba Magashi & Anor (2016) LPELR 41626 (CA) and Umeh v. Inu (2008) 8 NWLR (pt. 225) at 245. A quick look at the Originating Summons in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1275/2022 will show that, same was instituted in the Federal High Court, Abuja on the 27th day of July, 2022. Being a pre election matter, it ought to have been determined within 180 days as required by Section 285(10) of the 1999 Constitution. It therefore means that it lapsed by January, 2023 about a month before the Election in question was conducted. This petition having been instituted on the 20/3/2023 when Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1215/2022 was no more alive, does not qualify as an abuse of Court process. This ground for this objection is also discountenanced.

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

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