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WHERE COUNSEL HAS LIMITED AUTHORITY TO ACT FOR CLIENT

Dictum

The general principle of the law is that at the trial of an action the authority of Counsel extends, when it is not expressly limited, to the whole of the court action and all matters incidental to it and to the conduct of the trial. See Sourendra Nath Mitra v. Srimati Tarubala Dasi (1930) 46 T.L.R. 191 PC. This general principle, however, does not and has not fettered the discretion of the court where it deems it fit so to exercise the same. See Adewunmi v. Plastex Ltd (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt. 32) 767 at 785. In this regard, it cannot be disputed that where Counsel by the authority of his client and with full knowledge of the facts consents to an order, there being no mistake or surprise in the case, the client cannot arbitrarily withdraw such consent, and the court may proceed to perfect the order but without prejudice to any application which the other side might make to the court to be relieved from his consent all the ground of fraud, mistake, misrepresentation or surprise or for other cogent and sufficient reason. See Harvey v. Croydon Union Rural Sanitary Authority (1884) 26 ChD. 249, CA, Holt v. Jesse (1876) 3 Ch. D. 177. But if it is established that Counsel agreed to the consent order being made under some misapprehension, the court will not hold him or his client to the agreement. See Shepherd v. Robinson (1919) 1 K.B. 474, C.A. Where the authority of Counsel has been expressly limited by the client and Counsel has in defiance consented to an order or judgment contrary to his client’s clear instructions, various considerations would appear to arise. If the limitation of authority is known or communicated to the other side, consent of Counsel outside the limits of his authority and in breach of the express instruction of his client will be inconsequential and of no effect. See Strauss v. Francis (1866) L.R. 1 Q.B. 379 at 382. Where, however, the limitation of authority is unknown to the other side who enters into the compromise in the belief that the opponent’s Counsel has the ordinary unlimited authority of his client, the position would appear, to some extent, to be fluid and uncertain. In such situation the learned authors of Halsbury’s Laws of England, 4th Edition, Volume 3, paragraph 1182 have formulated the applicable true rule under the circumstance as follows:- “But the true rule seems to be that in such case the court has power to interfere; that it is not prevented by the agreement of Counsel from setting aside or refusing to enforce a compromise; that it is a matter for the discretion of the court; and that when, in the particular circumstances of the case, grave injustice would be done by allowing the compromise to stand, the compromise may be set aside, even although the limitation of Counsel’s authority was unknown to the other side, or where clear and unequivocal instructions of limitations have been given.” I confess that I have given the above passage a most careful consideration and must fully and most respectfully endorse the same as the correct position of the present law. It is my view, therefore, that the court possesses the discretionary jurisdiction to examine the entire circumstances of a particular case, in order to determine whether or not the compromise entered into by Counsel should be sanctioned by the court. The remedy, being discretionary, must be exercised with the utmost care and with regard to the injustice or otherwise of allowing an order to stand. It is this jurisdiction that both courts below invoked and exercised in favour of the respondent as plaintiff in the originating summon.

— Iguh JSC. Vulcan Gases Limited V. Gesellschaft Fur Industries Gasverwertung A.G.(G.I.V.) ( SC.67/1995, 4th May 2001)

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COUNSEL (APPEARING FOR HIMSELF) WILL HAVE HIS MISTAKES VISITED ON HIM

In Kotoye v Saraki 1995 NWLR (Pt.395) 256, in circumstances where the party (who is also a legal practitioner) took a decision not to appeal. Uwais J.S.C (as he then was) at Pages 7 and 8 said: “Any act of gambling involves risk taking and no gambler can claim not to be aware of that....

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COUNSEL SHOULD DRAW COURT’S ATTENTION TO PREVIOUS DECISION

However, learned Counsel for the Respondent failed to draw the attention of the Court to this previous decision. Clearly, he had a duty in law to do so; see Global Trans. S.A. v. Free Enter. (Nig.) Ltd. (2001) 5 NWLR (Pt.706) 426 where it was stated that it is the duty of Counsel to draw the Court’s attention to previous decision of the Court on the same subject matter.

— I.E. Ekwo, J. Daudu v FIRS (2023) – FHC/ABJ/TA/1/2021

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WHERE COUNSEL ABSENT, BRIEF WILL BE DEEMED ADOPTED

The Respondent’s Brief of Argument dated and filed on 3rd November, 2020, which was settled by Adedotun Ishola Osobu Esq, was deemed adopted pursuant to Order 19 Rule 9(4) of the Court of Appeal Rules, 2016. — A.B. Mohammed, JCA. ITDRLI v NIMC (2021) – CA/IB/291/2020 Was this dictum helpful? Yes 0 No 0...

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PROCESS SIGNED BY A FIRM OF LEGAL PRACTITIONERS IS NOT VALID IN LAW

The said section 573(1) of Companies and Allied Matters Act Provides as follows:- ‘Every individual firm or corporation having a place of business in Nigeria and carrying on business under a business name shall be registered in the manner provided in this part of this Act The above is not an authority that can be...

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IMPORTANCE OF LAWYERS IN THE SOCIETY

DENNING, MR., in Pett v. Grey Hound Racing Association (No. 1) (1968) 2 ALL E.R. 545 at 549: “It is not every man who has the ability to defend himself on his own. He cannot bring out the points in his own favour or the weakness in the other side. He may be tongue-tied, nervous, confused or (even) wanting in intelligence. He cannot examine or cross-examine witnesses. We see it every day! A magistrate says to a man: You can ask any questions you like, whereupon the man immediately starts to make speech. If justice is to be done, he ought to have the help of someone to speak for him, and who better than a lawyer who has been trained for the task?”

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