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WHAT IS LOCUS STANDI?

Dictum

Locus standi , which is a Latin word simply means a place of standing. It is the legal right of a party to an action to be heard in Litigation before the Court or Tribunal. The term denotes, the right of a party to institute an action in a Court of Law or seek judicial enforcement of a duty. See Senator Adesanya vs. President FRN (1981) 5 SC 112, Adesolakan Vs. Adegbo vs. A. G, Lagos State (2012) All FWLR (Pt 631) 1522. Locus standi thus, entails the legal capacity of instituting or commencing an action in a competent Court of Law without any inhibition, obstruction or hindrance from any person or body whatsoever. Whenever a person’s Locus to sue is in issue, as in this appeal, the question is really whether the person whose standing is in issue, is the proper person to request an adjudication over the dispute he has brought for adjudication. The issue at this stage, is whether the Plaintiff or the person whose locus is challenged, has disclosed sufficient interest in the dispute or the subject matter of the dispute.

— A.A. Wambai, JCA. Skye Bank v. Haruna & Ors. (CA/K/264/2011, 17th December, 2014)

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RESTRICTIVE RULES ON STANDING ARE INIMICAL TO A HEALTHY JUDICIAL SYSTEM (India)

The Supreme Court of India in Fertilizer Corporation Kamager Union v Union of India (1981) AIR (SC) 344, succinctly captured the modern Jurisprudence on locus standi as follows: “Restrictive rules about standing are in general inimical to a healthy system of growth of administrative law, if a Plaintiff with a good cause is turned away merely because he is not sufficiently affected personally, that could mean that some government agency is left free to violate the law. Such a situation would be extremely unhealthy and contrary to the public interest. Litigants are unlikely to spend their time and money unless they have some real interest at stake and in some cases where they wish to sue merely out of public spirit, to discourage them and thwart their good intentions would be most frustrating and completely demoralizing”. [This case was relied on in Abdullahi & Ors. v Government of Federal Republic of Nigeria & Ors. (ECW/CCJ/JUD/18/16) [2016] ECOWASCJ 55]

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CRITERIA TO HAVE LOCUS STANDI

It is the law that to have locus standi to sue, the plaintiff must show sufficient interest in the suit or matter. One criterion of sufficient interest is whether the party could have been joined as a party in the suit. Another criterion is whether the party seeking the redress or remedy will suffer some injury or hardship arising from the litigation. If the Judge is satisfied that he will so suffer, then he must be heard as he is entitled to be heard. See Chief Ojukwu v. Governor of Lagos State (1985) 2 NWLR (Pl. 10) 806; Busari v. Oseni (1992) 4 NWLR (Pt. 237) 557; Albian Construction Co Ltd. v. Rao Investment and Property Ltd. (1992) 1 NWLR (pt. 219) 583; United Bank for Africa Ltd. v. Obianwu (1999) 12 NWLR (Pt. 629) 78 … A party who is in imminent danger of any conduct of the adverse party has the locus standi to commence an action. See Olawoyin v. Attorney-General of Northern Region (1961) 1 All NLR 269; Gamioba v. Ezesi (1961) 1 All NLR 584; Olagunju v. Yahaya (1998) 3 NWLR (Pt. 542) 501.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Pam & Anor. V Mohammed (2008) – SC.238/2007

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WHEN A LARGE COMMUNITY IS AT STAKE, ACCESS TO JUSTICE IS FACILITATED

“56. There is a large consensus in International Law that when the issue at stake is the violation of rights of entire communities, as in the case of the damage to the environment, the access to justice should be facilitated. 57. Article 2 (5) of Convention of “Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision- Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matter “defines the “public concerned” with environment protection as “public affected or likely to be affected by, or having an interest in the environment decision-making for the purposes of this definition nongovernmental organization promoting environment and meeting requirements under national law shall be deemed to have an interest”. Article 9 of the same instrument confirms the access to justice to the public concerned as defined in Article 2 (5).”

— SERAP v FRN – ECW/CCJ/APP/08/09

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A VICTIM IS A PERSON WHO SUFFERS HARM DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY – (ECOWAS Court)

It follows from the above that a victim can be a person who suffers directly or indirectly any harm or pain (physical or mental injury), emotional suffering (through loss of a close family member or relation), economic loss (loss of Properties) or any impairment that can be categorized as human rights violation. Additionally, other than the loss, harm or damage, an Applicant must prove an interest in the matter which must be direct and personal. This Court has through several decisions made exception for individuals and organizations who have not suffered directly or personally to institute actions in a representative capacity on behalf of victims.

— The Registered Trustees of Jama’a FOUNDATION v FRN ECW/CCJ/JUD/04/20 para. 67

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IF PLAINTIFF RIGHT IS AFFECTED THERE IS LOCUS STANDI

ALEX OLADELE ELUFIOYE & ORS VS IBRAHIM HALILU & ORS (1993) – SC. 310/1989:
“Once the civil rights and obligations of the plaintiffs as individuals are affected, as I hold they are here the courts in exercise of their judicial power set out above can look into such rights and obligations, and for that purpose the plaintiffs have a locus standi before them.”

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AN INTERVENER’S INTEREST IN AN ACTION

para. 34: “In general, “interest in an action” is appreciated with reference to the orders sought in the applications of an Intervener possessing an interest in the resolution of the dispute submitted to the court, and when these orders have no other purpose than to support or reject the order by another party.”

Ugokwe v FRN (2005) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/03/05

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