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THE AWARD OF COSTS – GUIDING PRINCIPLES

Dictum

It is trite that the award of costs is always at the discretion of the court but such discretion must be exercised judiciously and judicially. It is also a well settled principle that costs follow event and a successful party is entitled to costs except where there are special reasons for depriving him of such entitlement and these ought to be shown by the judge. See OBAYAGBONA VS OBAZEE (1972) 5 SC 247. AMIRA NIG) LTD VS MAL (NIG) LTD. (2001) 17 NWLR (PT 742) 269 and DONATUS IDAM VS ALEX IDEMYOR MENE (2009) 17 NWLR (PT 1169) 74 … It is worthy of note that costs are not imposed as a punishment on the party who pays them, neither are they awarded as a bonus to the benefiting party. The party entitled should only be indemnified for his out of pocket expenses and be compensated for the true and fair expenses for the litigation. See BUHARI VS OBASANJO (2005) All FWLR (PT 258) 1604; KUKOYI VS ODUFALE (1965) 1 All NLR 300 and OLASOPE VS NATIONAL BANK OF NIGERIA (1985) 3 NWLR (PT 11) 147.

— S.C. Oseji, JCA. ACB v Ajugwo (2011) – CA/E/66/2006

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CONSIDERATIONS CONSIDERED WHEN COURT IS TO AWARD COST

This Court had, per Ikongbeh, JCA in the case of UZOMA v OKORIE (2000) 15 NWLR (612) 882 at 893, held that: “Matters such as the number of years it takes to conclude a case, the number of adjournments, processes that had to be filed and the transportation of counsel to and from the Court are such that the Court may take into consideration when fixing the amount of costs and Court may not need to expressly state so. Thus … the fact that the reasoning of the trial Court on the matter was not recorded did not necessarily make the decision on costs arbitrary.” See also CITIBANK Nig Ltd. v. Ikediashi (2014) LPELR22447; Total Engineering Services Team Inc. v. Chevron (2010) LPELR5032 (CA); Emori v. Egwu (2016) LPELR-40123 (CA).

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AWARD OF COST SHOULD NOT BE ON SENTIMENT – MUST BE JUDICIAL AND JUDICIOUS

The award of costs involves a judicial discretion which must be exercised judicially and judiciously on fixed principles that is according to rules of reason and justice not according to private opinion. See Wurno v. VAC Ltd. (1956) I FSC 33 at 34. The exercise of such discretion must similarly not be affected by question of benevolence or sympathy. The award of costs is not meant to be a bonus to the successful party and should not be awarded on sentiment. See Universal Bank of Nigeria Ltd. v. Nwaokolo (1995) 11 Kings Law report (KLR) 919. Rewani v. Festus Okotie-Eboh (1960) 5 FSC 200 at 207. It follows therefore that the discretion of the court in awarding costs must be judicially and judiciously. It is an acceptable practice in law for appellate court not to interfere with the exercise of discretion by lower courts. In this regard appellate courts seldom interfere with the exercise of discretion in awards of costs except where such discretion is not exercised judicially and judiciously. See Nwaubani v. Golden Guinea Breweries Plc. (1995) 6 NWLR (Pt 400) page 191. A trial judge has discretion whether to award costs or not and also as regards the person by whom the costs are to be paid.

— Abdu Aboki JCA. ACB v Ajugwo (2011) – CA/E/66/2006

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APPEAL TO SET ASIDE COST AWARDED AGAINST COUNSEL SHOULD PROVIDE TENABLE REASON

Before I round off, learned senior counsel for the Appellant has urged this court to set aside the costs of #5 million awarded against J.O. Olotu, Esq, counsel who settled the Appellant’s brief at the lower court. Without belabouring the point, let me state clearly that the Appellant has not placed before this court, any tenable reason or argument why the lower court’s order as to costs should be set aside or interfered with. Hence, the Appellant’s prayer in that regard is refused.

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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FACTORS CONSIDERED IN AWARDING COST – LITIGATION

Speaking generally, costs as between party and party are given or awarded as an indemnity to the person entitled to them, usually a successful party at the conclusion of proceedings in a case, not as a bonus to him or imposed as a punishment to the losing party. REWANE v OKOTIE-EBOH (1960) SCNLR 461; UBN v SCPOK (NIG) LTD (1998) 12 NWLR 578; OGUNMOKUN v MILAD, OSUN STATE (1999) 3 NWLR (594) 261 at 287. In addition, in awarding costs, a Court is entitled to consider among other factors, the following: a) the summons fee b) duration of the case c) legal representation d) expenses incurred by the successful party in the ordinary course of prosecuting the case. e) The value or purchasing power of the Naira at the time of the award. See ONABANJO V EWETUGA (1993) 4 NWLR ( 2 8 8 ) 4 4 3 a t 4 6 0 ; DELTA STEEL CO. LTD v AMERICAN COMP. TECH. LTD (1999) 4 NWLR (597) 53 at 68.

— H.M. Ogunwumiju, JCA. First Bank v Oronsaye (2019) – CA/B/335/13

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AWARD OF COST IS AT COURT’S DISCRETION

Mrs Eno Umo v Mrs Cecilia Udonwa (2012) LPELR-7857 (CA), this Court held as follows per Garba JCA: “On the issue of costs, ordinarily, the assessment and award of costs in a case are left at the discretion of the Court by the relevant rules. For our purposes in the present appeal, Order 31, Rule 6 of the High Court of Cross River State (Civil Procedure) Rules 1987, applicable at the time of suit, provides thus: “6. Subject to the provisions of any applicable law and these Rules, costs, both actual and incidental to all proceeding in the High Court, including the administration of estates and trusts, shall be at the discretion of the Judge, and the Judge shall have full power to determine by whom and to what extent the costs are to be paid.”

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