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NATURE OF A CAUSE OF ACTION

Dictum

A cause of action is that action which connotes every fact which is material to be proved before a competent Court of law to entitle the plaintiff to succeed or all those things necessary to give a right to relief in law or equity. Thus, it is the factual base or some factual situation, a continuation of which makes the matter in litigation an enforceable or an actionable wrong. Consequently, before a party files a matter in Court, he must possess a cause of action against some person(s) or institution(s). In other words, a plaintiff/claimant must show by his pleadings that he has a cause of action maintaining in a Court of law against the defendant.

– Shuaibu JCA. Diamond Bank v. Mocok (2019)

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WHAT IS A CAUSE OF ACTION IN LAW

What then is a cause of action in law? Simply put a cause of action refers to those facts which show or give life to a right of action. It is the factual situation which gives a person a right of action. It is only where the claim of the Claimant does not disclose his sufficient interest in the subject matter that it must be terminated in limine by the Court if so moved by the Defendant. See Thomas v. Olufosoye (1986) 1 NSCC 321. See also AG. Federation v. AG Abia State and Ors (2001) FWLR (Pt. 64) 202 @ p. 264; Ndamzu v. Nemson Fishing Enterprises (2000) FWLR (Pt. 7) 1064 @ p. 1072.

— B.A. Georgewill JCA. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc V. Longterm Global Capital Limited & Ors. (CA/L/427/2016, 9 Mar 2018)

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ESTOPPEL: ISSUE & CAUSE OF ACTION ESTOPPEL

Two types of Estoppel by record are:- (a) Cause of Action Estoppel – which precludes a party to an action or his agents and privies from disputing as against the other party in any subsequent proceedings, matters which had been adjudicated upon previously by a court of competent jurisdiction between him and his adversary and involving same issue. (b) Issue Estoppel which precludes a party his servant, agent or privy from re-opening or relitigating as against the other party or his agents and privies in any subsequent proceedings, issues which were distinctly raised in a cause of action and appropriately resolved or determined in any suit between the parties in a court of competent jurisdiction.

– ADEKEYE, JCA. NOGA v. NICON (2007)

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ACCRUAL OF RIGHT VS ACCRUAL OF CAUSE OF ACTION

As I had earlier stated, there is a difference in accrual of right from accrual of cause of action, even though it is a very thin line of demarcation between them. When a right accrues, it is the duty of the beneficiary of that right to make moves to claim his right. When the move is made without success or a favourable response from the other party, there is nothing more to infer than that that refusal to respond is tantamount to a denial. At this point, the cause of action has accrued and is now enforceable through the instrumentality of a judicial process.

– M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Oko v. Ebonyi State (2021)

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WHAT IS A CAUSE OF ACTION?

Literally, the noun ’cause’ simply means to bring about or effect. A ’cause of action’ invariably denotes a combination (group) of operative facts thereby resulting in one or more bases for suing. In a sense, a cause of action is a factual situation that entitles one person to a remedy in Court from another person. An action brought outside the prescribed period offends against the provision of the section and does not give rise to a cause of action. A cause of action means the factual situation stated by the Plaintiff, if substantiated, entitle him to a remedy against the defendant.

– Saulawa, JSC. Oko v. Ebonyi State (2021)

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AN ILLEGALITY CANNOT BE MADE THE SUBJECT MATTER OF AN ACTION

In Langston vs. Hughes (1813) 1 M&S 593 or 12 Digest 270 at 2214, Ellenborough, C.J., held that: “What is done in contravention of the provisions of an Act of Parliament cannot be made the subject-matter of an action” cited in Bostel Bros. Ltd. vs. Hurlock (1948) 2 All E.R. 312 at 313.

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JUDICIAL POWERS IS UNAVAILABLE FOR RIGHTS NOT INFRINGED

It is only when the civil rights and obligations of a person fall for determination because of infringement or incursion by another person or authority, the Courts of the country have a right of adjudication. That is to say, in the face of accrued rights which had not been violated, tampered with or alleged to be violated or tampered with, the judicial powers of the Courts of Nigeria remain latent in the face of naked accrued rights.

– M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Oko v. Ebonyi State (2021)

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