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ACCRUAL OF RIGHT VS ACCRUAL OF CAUSE OF ACTION

Dictum

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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ASCERTAIN WHEN CAUSE OF ACTION ACCRUED

It is also trite that in order to ascertain the time when the cause of action accrued, for the purpose of the limitation law, the courts only looks at the writ of summons and the statement of claim which ordinarily ought to contain averments of facts as to when the wrong committed by the Defendant took place and compare it with the date when the writ of Summons was filed.

– Oseji, JCA. SIFAX v. MIGFO (2015)

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ESTOPPEL: ISSUE & CAUSE OF ACTION ESTOPPEL

Two types of Estoppel by record are:- (a) Cause of Action Estoppel – which precludes a party to an action or his agents and privies from disputing as against the other party in any subsequent proceedings, matters which had been adjudicated upon previously by a court of competent jurisdiction between him and his adversary and involving same issue. (b) Issue Estoppel which precludes a party his servant, agent or privy from re-opening or relitigating as against the other party or his agents and privies in any subsequent proceedings, issues which were distinctly raised in a cause of action and appropriately resolved or determined in any suit between the parties in a court of competent jurisdiction.

– ADEKEYE, JCA. NOGA v. NICON (2007)

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CAUSE OF ACTION IS SET OF FACTS WHICH JUSTIFIES PLAINTIFF TO SUE

Para. 21: “A cause of action is a set of facts sufficient to justify a right to sue. It must contain a clear and concise statement of the material facts upon which the pleader relies for his claim with sufficient particularity to enable the opposite party to reply thereto. The term “cause of action” was defined in McKenzie v Farmers’ Co-operative Meat Industries Ltd 1922 AD 16 at 23 as “…”every fact which would be necessary for the plaintiff to prove, if traversed, in order to support his right to the judgment of the Court. It does not comprise every piece of evidence which is necessary to prove each 22 fact, but every fact which is necessary to be proved.” See also Mousa Leo Keita (2004-2009) CCJELR pg. 75 See also Afolayan V. Oba Ogunrinde & 3 ORS, (1990), 1 NWLR, (Pt. 127) 369 @ 371. SCNJ 62. Where Karibi-Whyte JSC stated that a cause of action means: ‘a) A cause of complaints; b) A civil right or obligation for the determination by a Court of law; c) A dispute in respect of which a Court of law is entitled to invoke its judicial powers to determine.’”

— Osaghae v Nigeria (2017) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/03/17

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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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WHAT IS A CAUSE OF ACTION?

What then is a “cause of action ? Admittedly, the term “cause of action” defies a single precise definition. However, it has been variously defined or described as a bundle or aggregate of facts which the law recognizes as giving a Plaintiff a right to claim a relief or remedy against a defendant. It is thus, a factual situation which gives a person a right to judicial remedy. It is the operative fact or factual situation which gives rise to a right of action which itself is a remedial right EGBE Vs. ADEFARASIN (1987) 1 SC at 34 36. Cause of action may be defined as; (i) a cause of complaint; (ii) a civil right or obligation by a Court of Law; (iii) a dispute in respect of which a Court of Law is entitled to invoke its judicial powers to determine; (iv) consequent damages; See A. G. F. VS ABUBAKAR (2007) 10 NWLR (Pt1047) 1 SC MOBIL OIL PLC VS DENR (2004) 1 NWLR (Pt 853) 142. Thus, the words “cause of action” comprises every fact which would be necessary for the Plaintiff to prove, if traversed to support his right to the Judgment of the Court READ VS. BROWN (1882) 22 4 BD. it is all those things necessary to give a right of action whether they are to be done by the Plaintiff or a 3rd party. per Agbaje JSC in E. O. Amodu vs. Dr J, O, Amode & 4 Ors ( 1 990) 9 SCNJ 1, at 9 . It has also been defined simply as “a factual situation” the existence of which entitles one person to obtain from the Court a remedy against another THOMAS vs OLUFOSOYE (1996) 1 NWLR (pt 18) 6691 per Obaseki JSC.

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

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WHAT IS A CAUSE OF ACTION IN LAW

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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