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WHEN DOES ISSUE ESTOPPEL ARISES

Dictum

Issue estoppel arises when the issue has been decided upon to finality by a Court of competent jurisdiction. In other words, once an issue has been raised and distinctively determined between the parties, neither party can be allowed to fight that issue all over again. The same issue cannot be raised by either party again in the same or subsequent proceedings except in special circumstances. See Adone & Ors v. Ikebudu & Ors (2001) LPELR 191 (SC) and Tukur v. Uba & Ors (2012) LPELR 9337 (SC). For issue estoppel to apply, the following conditions must be satisfied: (a) The same question was decided in both proceedings; (b) The decision which creates the estoppel must be final; and (c) The parties to the judicial decision or their privies to the proceedings in which the estoppel is raised. To determine whether the above three elements exist (they must co exist), the Court will closely examine the reasons for the judgment and other relevant facts that were actually in issue in the proceeding. See Oyekola & Ors v. Amodu (2017) LPELR-42391 (CA); OSPM Ltd v. Nibel Co. Nig. Ltd (2017) 3 NWLR (pt.1552) 207 at 234 and Dasuki (Rtd) v. F.R.N. (2018) LPELR-43969 (CA).

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. APM v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/04/2023

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WHEN A COURT DECIDES AN ISSUE, IT CREATES AN ISSUE ESTOPPEL

Para. 12: “On 27th October 2009, the court issued a ruling in an application for preliminary objection raised by the defence. These issues about the court’s jurisdiction in this matter as well as the exhaustion of local remedies were decided in that ruling. It is thus inappropriate for Counsel to raise the same issues again. The principle of law is clear that when a court has decided on some issues in the case, the decision creates issue estoppel as between the parties and/or their privies in the present and any subsequent proceedings in which same issue’s is/are raised. Besides, the decision of this court is final and can only be altered through a revision if the correct procedure is followed. In view of the foregoing, the court cannot re-open these two issues about its jurisdiction and exhaustion of local remedies.”

— SERAP v FRN (2010) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/07/10

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FIVE CONDITIONS FOR ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM TO SUCCEED

I would first refer to the case of Oshodi & 2 ors v. Eyifunmi (2000) 3 NSCQR 320 at 338 – 340, 339 wherein Iguh JSC had proffered five conditions which must be present for the plea of Estoppel per rem judicatam to succeed. These are:- 1. That the parties or their privies are the same that is to say that the parties involved in both the previous and the present proceedings are the same. 2. That the claims or the issues in dispute in both the previous and present actions are the same. 3. The res, that is to say the subject matter of the litigation in the two cases is the same. 4. The decision relied upon to support the plea of Estoppel per rem judicatam must be valid subsisting and final. 5. The court that gave the previous decision relied upon to sustain the plea must be a court of competent jurisdiction.

— M.U. Peter-Odili, JSC. Ugo v. Ugo (2007) – CA/A/110/2007

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WHAT TO BE ESTABLISHED FOR ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATA

In agreement with the learned Senior Counsel’s argument in respect of the rules/requirements for the doctrine of res judicata, it is necessary to outline the conditions for application of estoppel per rem judicatum. For the plea of estoppel per rem judicatum the following must be established: 1. The Parties or their privies are the same in both the previous and present proceedings; 2. The claim or issue in dispute in both actions is the same; 3. That the res or the subject matter of the litigation in the two cases is the same; 4. That the decision relied upon to support the plea of estoppel per rem judicatam is valid, subsisting and final; and 5. That the Court that gave the previous decision relied upon to sustain the plea is a Court of competent jurisdiction.

– Nwaoma Uwa, JCA. NOGA v. NICON (2007)

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MAKING A PERSON BELIEVE IN A STATE OF THINGS CREATES ESTOPPEL

Joe Iga & Ors v. Ezekiel Amakiri & Ors. (1976) 11 S.C 1, this court stated at pp.12-13: “If a man by his words or conduct willfully endeavours to cause another to believe in a certain state of things which the first knows to be false and if the second believes in such state of things and acts upon the belief, he who knowingly made the false statement is estopped from averring afterwards that such a state of things does not exist at the time; again, if a man either in express terms or by conduct, makes representation to another of the existence of a state of facts which he intends to be acted upon in a certain way, in the belief of the existence of such a state of facts, to the damage of him who so believes and acts, the first is estopped from denying the existence of such a state of facts. Thirdly, if a man whatever his real meaning may be, so conducts himself that a reasonable man would take his conduct to mean a certain representation of facts and that it was a true representation, and that the latter was intended to act upon it in a particular way, and he with such belief, does act in that way to his damage, the first is estopped from denying the facts as represented.”

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DEFENCE OF ESTOPPEL MUST BE PLEADED

It is trite law in Nigeria on the authorities I have earlier cited in this judgment that the defence of estoppel, whether founded on admissions or not, must be pleaded and, if it has not been pleaded, any evidence tending to establish it goes to no issue and the evidence ought to be rejected: Ogboda v. Adulugha (1971) 1 All N.L.R. 86. This is a general statement of the law. Let us see if the High Court of Lagos (Civil Procedure) Rules, 1972, which is the applicable law, make provision for an exception.

— M. Bello, JSC. Salawu Ajide V. Kadiri Kelani (SC.76/1984, 29 Nov 1985)

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STANDING BY TO SEE YOUR BATTLE FOUGHT

Where any person having an interest may make himself a party to a suit by intervening and knowing what was passing, was content to stand by and see his battle fought by somebody else in the same interest, he should be bound by the result, and not be allowed to reopen the case.

– Iguh, JSC. Clay v. Aina (1997)

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