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PURPOSE OF A PRELIMINARY OBJECTION

Dictum

A preliminary objection is the procedure adopted where a respondent objects to the hearing of an appeal. Its purpose is to terminate the appeal in limine.

– PER M.L. SHUAIBU, J.C.A. Cross & Star v. Government of Cross River State (2022)

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PRELIMINARY OBJECTION IS TO BE TAKEN FIRST BEFORE ANY STEP IN THE PROCEEDING

Generally, the rules of this Court allow a respondent to rely on a preliminary objection to the hearing of the appeal. The purpose of the objection is to bring the appeal to an end after being discovered to be incompetent and or fundamentally deceptive. In either case, it will be unnecessary to continue with the appeal once an objection is raised, without disposing of same. In other words, the Court is expected to deal with and dispose of a preliminary objection once raised by a respondent before taking any further step in the appeal. See; General Electric Company Vs. Harry Ayoade Akande & Ors (2010) 12 (Pt.2) SCM 96; Lamidi Rabiu Vs. Tola Adebajo (2012) 6 SCNM 201; Udenwa & 1 Ors Vs Uzodinma & 1 Ors (2012) 12 (Pt.2) 472 at 483.

— O. Ariwoola, JSC. Galadima v. State (2017) – SC.70/2013

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WHERE A PRELIMINARY OBJECTION SUCCEEDS, NO NEED TO CONSIDER THE ISSUE ON MERIT

I have had the benefit of a preview of the lead Ruling of my lord, S. D. BAGE, JCA, and I must stress that it is well settled that where a preliminary objection succeeds, there will be no need to consider the arguments in support of the issue or issues for determination.

— M.A. Danjuma, JCA. Portland Paints v Olaghere (2012) – CA/L/1046M/11

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MOTION ON NOTICE, NOT PRELIMINARY OBJECTION, IS THE PROPER PROCESS TO CHALLENGE SOME GROUNDS OF APPEAL

The emphasis is that a preliminary objection can only be issued against the hearing of the appeal, and not against a selection of grounds of appeal, which even if it is upheld cannot terminate the appeal in limine. In KLM Royal Dutch Airlines v. Aloma (2017) LPELR- 42588 (SC), this Court, per Kudirat Motonmori Olatokunbo Kekere-Ekun, JSC at pages 6-7, paras D-B, held:- The purpose of a preliminary objection is to truncate the hearing of an appeal in limine. It is raised where the respondent is satisfied that there is a fundamental defect in the appeal that would affect the Courts jurisdiction to entertain it. Where there are other grounds that could sustain the appeal, a preliminary objection should not be filed. Where the purpose of the objection is merely to challenge the competence of some grounds of appeal, the best procedure is by way of motion on notice. The reason is that the success of the objection would not terminate the hearing of the appeal. See Odunukwe v. Ofomata (2010) 18 NWLR (Pt.1225) 404 at 423 C-F, Ndigwe v. Nwude (1999) 11 NWLR (Pt.626) 314; N.E.P.A. v. Ango (2001) 15 NWLR (Pt. 734) 627; Muhammed v. Military Administrator Plateau State (2001) 18 NWLR (Pt.744) 183. See also the case of Adejumo v. Olawaiye (2014) 12 NWLR(Pt.1421) 252 at 279 where this Court, per Rhodes-Vivour said:- ‘A preliminary objection should only be filed against the hearing of an appeal and not against one or more grounds of appeal which are not capable of disturbing the hearing of the appeal… Where a preliminary objection would not be the appropriate process to object or show to the Court defects in processes before it, a motion on notice filed complaining of a few grounds or defects would suffice.’ From the authorities I have highlighted above, it is clear that the preliminary objection in the instant case is inappropriate and same is liable to be struck out. Accordingly, same is hereby struck out.

— P.A. Galumje, JSC. Compact Manifold v Pazan Ltd. (2019) – SC.361/2017

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COUNSEL MUST SEEK TO ARGUE PRELIMINARY OBJECTION FIRST

It was after appellants’ counsel had argued his appeal that respondent’s counsel argued his preliminary objection. Where respondent gives notice of preliminary objection to an appeal and incorporates argument thereon in his brief of argument, he is required to seek leave of Court to argue the objection before appellant’s counsel adopts his brief of argument. Where he fails to do so and allows appellant’s counsel to adopt his brief of argument first, it will be taken as an abandonment of the preliminary objection.

– Ekanem JCA. C.O.P. v. Doolor (2020) – CA/MK/182/2017

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WHERE PRELIMINARY OBJECTION IS ARGUED IN THE BRIEF OF ARGUMENT

I shall now consider the Preliminary Objection. Order 2 Rule 9 of the Supreme Court Rules provides for the filing of Preliminary Objections. It enjoins a respondent who intends to rely on a Preliminary Objection to give the appellant three clear days notice before the hearing setting out in clear terms the grounds of objection. The purpose is to give the appellant enough time to address the respondents objection. It is also accepted practice for the respondent to argue his Preliminary Objection in his brief in which case the appellant would have to respond in a reply brief. In this appeal the respondents argued their Preliminary Objection in their brief. The procedure adopted by the respondents obviates the need to file a separate notice of preliminary objection.The appellants responded by filing an amended reply brief. The Preliminary Objection and the appellants response are thus properly before this court.

— O. Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Wassah & Ors. v. Kara & Ors. (2014) – SC.309/2001

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WHEN TO USE A PRELIMINARY OBJECTION OR A MOTION ON NOTICE

In BANK OF INDUSTRY LTD v. AWOJUGBAGBE LIGHT INDUSTRIES LTD (2018) LPELR-43812(SC), page 7 para. B-D, per Rhodes-Vivour JSC, reiterated the above principle of law thus: “This Preliminary Objection is against the hearing of this suit. In Isah v. INEC & 3 Ors (2014) 1-2 SC (Pt.iv) p.101. I explained Preliminary Objections and when to file them and when not to file them. I said that: “A Preliminary Objection should only be filed against the hearing of an appeal and not against one or more grounds of appeal which are not capable of disturbing the hearing of the appeal. The purpose of a Preliminary Objection is to convince the Court that the appeal is fundamentally defective in which case the hearing of the appeal comes to an end if found to be correct. Where a preliminary objection would not be the appropriate process to object or show to the Court the defects in processes before it, a motion on notice filed complaining about a few grounds or defects would suffice.

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