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SHIFT FROM THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE THAT JURISDICTION MUST BE HEARD FIRST

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A Court is naked and exposed without jurisdiction. It is therefore the general rule to determine jurisdiction first whilst it is an exceptional rule to take steps in defending of protecting the authority of the court first before jurisdiction. However, in recent times, there appears to be a move or a shift by the courts away from the general principle of law which state that the issue of jurisdiction must be determined first before taking any other step in the proceedings. This is due to some unscrupulous litigants who perch on the general principle of objection of jurisdiction to intentionally delay litigation and prosecutions of cases to the annoyance of their adversaries and in most cases resulting to abuse of court processes. In such cases the litigants are bent to drag the issue of jurisdiction up to the Apex Court while the substantive matter is stayed in the trial court thereby resulting in delay of cases. In order to honour the time adage of “justice delayed is just denied,” some courts have employed the practice of hearing preliminary objections on jurisdiction along with the substantive matter but decide the issue of jurisdiction first in the judgment. Some courts also in the spirit of quick dispensation of justice, have also made Rules of Court which have provided for the consolidation of preliminary objection with any other court process where the other process is an originating summons where the facts are not in dispute. See Order 29 Rule 1 of the Federal High Court Rules, 2009; Inakoju vs. Adeleke (2007) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1025) 423, First Inland Bank Plc. vs. Alliance International Nigeria Limited delivered on 23/1/2013 in CA/E/96/2009.

– T. Akomolafe-Wilson, JCA. Onnoghen v. FRN (2019) – CA/A/44C/2019

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FEDERAL HIGH COURT APPELLATE JURISDICTION – SECTION 27 FHC ACT

The Federal High Court, like a High Court of a State or of the Federal Capital Territory has appellate jurisdiction conferred by Section 27 of the Federal High court Act. It can hear and determine appears from: 1) the decisions of Appeal Commissioners established under the Companies Income Tax Act, 1961 and the Personal Income Tax Act, 1968 in so far an applicable as Federal Laws; 2) decisions of the Board of Customs and Excise established under Customs and Excise Management Act, 1958 3) decisions of Magistrates Courts in respect of civil or criminal cases or matters transferred to such courts pursuant to the Federal High Court Act; 4) decisions of any other body established by or under any other Federal enactment or law in respect of matters concerning which jurisdiction is conferred upon that court by the Act.

— I.T. Muhammad, JSC. Adetona & Ors. v Igele (2011) – SC.237/2005

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PROCEEDING WILL BE REGARDED AS A NULLITY – JURISDICTION

Generally, proceedings before the Court of law can be regarded as a nullity where:- (a) The Court is not properly constituted as regards numbers and qualifications of the members of the bench. (b) The subject-matter of the action is not within the jurisdiction of the Court. (c) The case before the Court is not initiated by due process of law, or that there is a condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction. See MADUKOLU V NKEMDILIM, (1962)1 ALL N.L.R 587. — M.L. Shuaibu, JCA. Ekpo v GTB (2018) – CA/C/324/2013

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RULES OF COURT DO NOT VEST JURISDICTION IN A COURT OF LAW

There is another aspect of the matter and it is the citation of Order 43 Rule 1 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules of Abia State. While I agree that they are the current Rules, can Rules of Court vest jurisdiction in a court of law? Rules of court do not possess any legal capacity to vest jurisdiction in a court. That is never their function. The function belongs to the Constitution and statutes; not rules of court. I will therefore not examine the content of Order 43 Rule 1 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules of Abia State.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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JURISDICTION IS A THRESHOLD ISSUE

I intend to consider first the Issue of jurisdiction canvassed under Issue 3. It is a threshold issue. It is now universally accepted that when an objection is raised in respect of the competence of a suit or an appeal, the jurisdiction of the court that entertained the suit becomes an issue and that the court has a fundamental, if not imperative, duty to resolve the issue before delving into the merits of the case. See B.A.S.F. NIG. LTD v. FAITH ENTERPRISES LTD (2010) 41.1 NSCQR 381 at page 411 per Adekeye JSC. It is an established principle of Nigerian law that where a court lacks competence to try a person or subject matter before it, whatever decision it arrives at on such a person or subject matter is a nullity: NIGERIAN ARMY v. AMINUN-KANO (2010) 41.1 NSCQR 76. If the suit or appeal was not initiated by due process of court and upon fulfillment of any conditions precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction, the competence of the court to adjudicate in the suit or appeal will be adversely affected: MADUKOLU v. NKEMDILIM (1962) 2 SCNLR 342.

— E. Eko, JCA. SPDC v. Ejebu (2010) – CA/PH/239M/2002

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ISSUE OF STATUTE BARRED CHALLENGES COURT JURISDICTION

It is also well established that when a party raises the issue that an action is statute barred, he is no doubt challenging the competence of the Suit and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain it.

– Oseji, JCA. SIFAX v. MIGFO (2015)

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NO JURISDICTION WHERE STATUTORY CONDITION NOT FULFILLED

After all, it is to be remembered that all appeals in this country and elsewhere exist merely by statute and unless the statutory conditions are fulfilled no jurisdiction is given to any Court of Justice to entertain them.

— Lord Atkin, Ohene Moore v. Akesseh Tayee (1933) JELR 85041 (WACA)

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