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WHAT IS A CAUSE OF ACTION IN LAW

Dictum

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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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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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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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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DEFINITION OF CAUSE OF ACTION

Authorities have also defined cause of action as a factual situation which a Plaintiff relies upon to support his claim, recognized by law as giving rise to a substantive right capable of being enforced against a Defendant. See Agbanelo v. Union Bank of Nigeria Ltd (2002) 4 SC (Pt. 7) 243; Adesokan v. Adegoloru (1997) 3 NWLR (Pt. 493) 61; Emiator v. Nigerian Army (1999) 12 NWLR (Pt. 631) 362; Akande v. Adisa (2004) All FWLR (Pt. 236) 413.

– Oseji, JCA. SIFAX v. MIGFO (2015)

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THE LAW FOR DETERMINING A CASE IS THE LAW AS AT THE TIME CAUSE OF ACTION AROSE

The injury complained of by the Claimant occurred on 14th July 2012. This means that the cause of action arose on that said date. By OBIUWEUBI V. CBN [2011] 7 NWLR (PT. 1247) 465 the law for determining a case is the law as at the time the cause of action arose. This means that the law for determining the instant case is the Employee’s Compensation Act 2010 which replaced the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

— E.N. Agbakoba, J. Igenoza v Unknown Defendant (2019) – NICN/ABJ/294/2014

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DETERMINE A CAUSE OF ACTION

In OPIA v. INEC & ANOR (2014) LPELR-22185(SC) (P. 20, paras. D-F) Per GALADIMA, J.S.C, held thus: ”A cause of action is determined by reference to the plaintiff’s statement of claim. The immediate materials a Court should look at are the Writ of Summons and averments in the statement of claim.”

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