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ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS ON MULTIPLE ACTIONS

Dictum

The trite position of the law on abuse of a court process is that it happens in regard to multiple actions between the same parties, on the same subject matter, when a party (such as the appellant in this appeal) improperly uses judicial process to the irritation, of annoyance and harassment of his opponent (the respondent herein) not only in respect of the same subject matter but also in respect of the same issues in the other action or actions. See: Okafor v. A – G Anambra State (1991) 6 NWLR (Pt.200) 659 at 681; Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt.264) 156; Ikine v. Edjerode (2001) 18 NWLR (Pt.745) 446.

— T. Muhammad, JSC. VAB Petroleum v. Momah (2013) – SC.99/2004

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WHAT IS ABUSE OF PROCESS

There is abuse of process when a party uses the issue of judicial process to the irritation and annoyance of the other party and in the process disrupts the smooth administration of justice. A proceeding that is frivolous or oppressive is an abuse of process, e.g. filing multiplicity of actions on the same subject matter against the same opponent on the same issue. See Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt. 264) p. 156. Agwasim v. Ojichie (2004) 10 NWLR (Pt. 882) p.613; Okorodudu v. Okoromadu (1997) 3 SC p.21.

— O. Rhodes-Vivour JSC. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc V. Longterm Global Capital Limited & Anor. (SC.535/2013(R), 23 June 2017)

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MEANING OF ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS

Abuse of court process means that the process of the court has not been used bonafide and it may occur when a party improperly uses a judicial process to the harassment, irritation and annoyance of his opponent and to interfere with the administration of justice. The institution of multiplicity of actions by the parties, in the instant case, constitutes an abuse of the court process. There must be an end to litigation. Although, every person as citizen has a right of access to the court for redress, that right should be exercised in good faith. [Okafor v. Attorney-General of Anambra State (1991) 6 NWLR (Pt.200) 659;Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt.264) 156;Owonikoko v. Arowosaiye (1997) 10 NWLR (Pt.523) 61 referred to].

— Adeyemo v. Ida & Ors. (1998) – CA/1/6/92

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THE CONCEPT OF ABUSE OF JUDICIAL PROCESS IS IMPRECISE

The concept of abuse of Judicial Process has been held to be imprecise. It involves circumstances and situations of infinite varieties and conditions. It’s one common feature is the improper use of the Judicial process by a party in litigation to interfere with the due administration of Justice. It is recognised that the abuse of the process may lie in both a proper or improper use of the judicial process in litigation. But the employment of judicial process is only regarded generally as an abuse when a party improperly uses the issue of the judicial process to the irritation and annoyance of his opponent, and the efficient and effectual administration of Justice. This will arise in instituting a multiplicity of actions on the same subject matter against the same opponent on the same issues. Thus, the multiplicity of actions on the same parties, even where there exists a right to bring the action, is regarded as an abuse. The abuse lies in the multiplicity and manner of the exercise of the right, rather than the exercise of the right per se. See the case of:- -Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) 9 NWLR part 264 page 156.

— J.O. Bada, JCA. Conoil v Vitol (2011) – CA/A/213/2010

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WHAT CONSTITUTES ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS

Saraki vs Kotoye (1992) 11-12 SCNJ, on what constitutes abuse of Court process, as follows: “The abuse consists in the intention, purpose and aim of the person exercising the right of issue (of the process) to harass, irritate and annoy the adversary, and interfere with the administration of Justice, such as instituting actions between the same parties, simultaneously, in different Courts even though on different grounds … Abuse of process of the Court is a term generally applied to a process which is wanting in bonafide and is frivolous, vexatious or oppressive. It can also mean abuse of legal procedures or improper use of judicial process.”

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ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS IS OF INFINITE VARIETY

The concept of abuse of process is imprecise and of infinite variety. However, its most common feature is in instituting multiplicity of actions on the same subject matter against the same opponent on the same issues. The abuse lies in the multiplicity and manner of exercise of the right, rather than the exercise of the right per se. See OKORODUDU vs. OKOROMADU (1977) 3 SC 21 and SARAKI vs. KOTOYE (1992) 9 NWLR (PT 264) 156 at 188.

— U.A. Ogakwu, JCA. General Telephone v. Asset (2017) – CA/L/336/2015

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WHAT IS AN ABUSE OF PROCESS

It is recognised that the abuse of the process may lie in both a proper or improper use of the judicial process in litigation. But the employment of judicial process is only regarded generally as an abuse when a party improperly uses the issue of the judicial process to the irritation and annoyance of his opponent, and the efficient and effective administration of justice. This will arise in instituting a multiplicity of actions on the same subject matter against the same opponent on the same issues. See Okorodudu v. Okoromadu (1977) 3 S.C. 21, Oyegbola v. Esso West African Inc. (1966) 1 All NLR 170. Thus the multiplicity of actions on the same matter between the same parties even where there exists a right to bring the action is regarded as an abuse. The abuse lies in the multiplicity and manner of the exercise of the right, rather than the exercise of the right, per se. The abuse consists in the intention purpose, and aim of the person exercising the right to harass, irritate and annoy the adversary, and interfere with the administration of justice; such as instituting different actions between the same parties simultaneously in different courts, even though on different grounds. See Harriman v. Harriman (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt. l 19) 6.

— A.G. Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) – S.C. 250/1991

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