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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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ASCERTAIN WHEN CAUSE OF ACTION ACCRUED

It is also trite that in order to ascertain the time when the cause of action accrued, for the purpose of the limitation law, the courts only looks at the writ of summons and the statement of claim which ordinarily ought to contain averments of facts as to when the wrong committed by the Defendant took place and compare it with the date when the writ of Summons was filed.

– Oseji, JCA. SIFAX v. MIGFO (2015)

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DETERMINATION CONFINED TO CAUSE OF ACTION

It must be borne in mind, the settled principle that the hearing and determination of any cause or matter must be confined to the cause of action and the issues raised on the pleadings.

– Ejinwunmi JSC. Awoniyi v. AMORC (2000)

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WHAT IS A “DISPUTE”

As to what constitutes a “Dispute”, Uwais, CJN, (Rtd) in his Ruling in the case of Attorney-General of the Federation v Attorney-General of Abia State & 35 others (supra), stated as follows:- “What constitutes a dispute under section 212 subsection (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979, which has exactly the same provisions as section 232 subsection (1) in question, had been considered by this Court in the cases of Attorney-General of Bendel State v Attorney-General of the Federation & 22 others (1981) 10 SC 1 and Attorney-General of the Federation v Attorney-General of Imo State & 2 others (1983) 4 NCLR 178. In Attorney-General of Bendel State’s case , Bello, JSC, (as he then was), stated as follows on pages 48 to 49 thereof:- ‘To invoke the original jurisdiction of this Court there must be a dispute as so qualified between the Federation and a State or between States. The issue of jurisdiction was contested on three grounds, firstly, that there is no dispute which affected the interest of the Federation and Bendel State between the plaintiff (Bendel State) and the Federation. Secondly, . . . I think the first point may be easily disposed of from the definition of the word “dispute”. The Oxford Universal Dictionary defines it as ‘the act of arguing against, controversy, debate, contention as to rights, claims and the like or on a matter of opinion . . .’
Ogbuagu JSC also held as follows on page 320 thereof:- “It is well established principle of the interpretation of constitution that the words of a constitution are not to be read with stultifying narrowness – United States v Classic 313 U.S 299 and Nafiu Rabiu v The State (1980) 8-11 SC 130. The word ‘dispute’ in section 212(1) should therefore be given such meaning that will effectuate rather than defeat the purpose of that section of the Constitution. Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (2ed), provides that ‘dispute’ is synonymous with controversy, quarrel, argument, disagreement and contention”. (Relied on in AG Kano State v AG Federation (2007) – SC 26/2006)

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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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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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INTEREST IS THE MEASURING ROD FOR A CAUSE OF ACTION – (ECOWAS Court)

ODAFE OSERADA V. ECOWAS COUNCIL OF MINISTERS, ECOWAS PARLIAMENT & ECOWAS COMMISSION, ECW/CCJ/JUD/01/08 @ 27, the Court held that: “Generally, and from a legal standpoint, the necessity for an Applicant to provide justification of interest in a case is attested to by the adage that where there is no interest, there is no action, and also an interest is the measuring rod for an action. In other words, an application is admissible only when the applicant justifies that he brings a case before a Judge for the purposes of protecting an interest or defending an infringement of such. Such an interest must be direct, personal and certain.”

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