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MEANING OF ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS

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Now, the term ‘Abuse of Court process’ is often seen to be synonymous with multiplicity of suits, but though that in a way is a correct proposition of the law yet abuse of Court process is much more than mere multiplicity of suits. In other words, multiplicity of suits is not the only way by which abuse of Court process could be constituted. Simply put, and for lack of a precise or concise definition of the term ‘abuse of Court process’ denotes the improper use of the process of Court to achieve unlawful ends or the employment of the judicial process to the annoyance or irritation or injury of the person of another and thus it can safely pass as a doctrine of law without any precise or concise definition. This is rightly and arguably so because what would constitute or amount to abuse of Court process is very diverse, imprecise and thus subject to infinite or indefinite considerations.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. General Telephone v. Asset (2017) – CA/L/336/2015

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MEANING OF ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS

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 IS AN ABUSE OF PROCESS

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 effective 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. See Okorodudu v. Okoromadu (1977) 3 S.C. 21, Oyegbola v. Esso West African Inc. (1966) 1 All NLR 170. Thus the multiplicity of actions on the same matter between 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. The abuse consists in the intention purpose, and aim of the person exercising the right to harass, irritate and annoy the adversary, and interfere with the administration of justice; such as instituting different actions between the same parties simultaneously in different courts, even though on different grounds. See Harriman v. Harriman (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt. l 19) 6.

— A.G. Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) – S.C. 250/1991

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ALLEGATION OF ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS MUST BE PROVED

My lords, an allegation of abuse of Court process is a serious allegation and must be established by the person so alleging with sufficient materials before the Court before which the allegation is made. The sufficient material need not be an affidavit if on the face of the processes filed, it is obvious that the party by his own showing is guilty of abusing the process of the Court. However, where such facts are not apparent on the face of the processes filed, then it is incumbent on the party so alleging to place before the Court, mostly by way of affidavit evidence, the material is sufficient enough to warrant the finding of an abuse of Court process, failing which such an objection must fail. For a suit to constitute an abuse of Court process, though the circumstances are varied and infinite, it must be shown in what way or manner it constituted an abuse of Court process by the party so alleging. It is not such an allegation that a party would make and then fold his hands to see how the other party wriggles out of it. The law is simple and very trite he who alleges must prove what be alleges.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. General Telephone v. Asset (2017) – CA/L/336/2015

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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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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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