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CONDITIONS FOR PLEA OF RES JUDICATA

Dictum

SALAMI AFOLABI V. GOVERNOR OF OSUN STATE (2003) 13 NWLR (Pt.386) 119 at 129 – 130 the Supreme Court emphasized thus: “It is settled law that to sustain in a plea of res judicata, the party pleading it must satisfy the following conditionalities, to wit – i. That parties (or their privies as they may be) are the same in the present case as in previous case; ii. that the issue and subject matter are the same in the previous suit as in present suit; iii. that the adjudication in the previous case must have been given by a court of competent jurisdiction; and iv. that the previous decision must have finally decided the issues between the parties”.

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PRINCIPLE OF RES JUDICATA

In Aro v. Fabolude (1983) 2 SC 75 per Aniagolu, J.S.C. (as he then was) laid down the ingredients of the plea of res-judicata in these words – “In civil cases, before the principle is applied, the res (the subject matter) in contention must be the same; the issue and the parties the same in the new case as in the earlier proceedings. Where any of the three matters is missing in the new case a plea of res-judicata will ordinarily fail (See Odua v. Nwanze (1934) 2 WACA 98 at 100 – 102.)”

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MATTER ALREADY ADJUDICATED UPON IS RES JUDICATA

Para. 19: “The doctrine of res judicata simply states that once a matter/cause has been finally determined, it is not open to either party to re-open or re-litigate that same matter. A matter is said to be res judicata if it has already been adjudicated upon by a competent Court. This prevents it from being pursued further by the same parties. Res judicata precludes the continued litigation of same issues between the same parties. The matter cannot be raised again either in the same Court or in a different Court. In other words, for a plea of res judicata to be sustained, both the subject matter and parties must be the same.”

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

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NATURE OF RES JUDICATA

From the cumulative summary of the foregoing authorities, it is clear that the existence of the principle is entirely a question of fact for purpose of establishing whether the parties and their privies, the facts in issue and the subject matter of the claim are the same in both the previous and the present suits. The plea of res judicata is of a special nature as it operates not only against the parties but also the court itself and robs it of its jurisdiction to entertain the same cause of action on the same issues previously determined between the same parties by a court of competent jurisdiction.

— C.B. Ogunbiyi, JSC. Ogbolosingha v. B.S.I.E.C. (2015) – SC.165/2013

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RES JUDICATA OPERATES WHERE APPLICATION IS SAME AS ONE ALREADY DECIDED SATISFACTORILY

Para. 13: “The Court is of the view that the argument concerning res judicata can only succeed when it is established that the Application brought before it is essentially the same as another one already satisfactorily decided upon before a competent domestic court.”

— Tasheku v FRN (2012) – ECW/CCJ/RUL/12/12

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WHERE AN ISSUE OR FACT HAS BEEN DETERMINED IN A FINAL MANNER, IT CONSTITUTES ESTOPPEL PER JUDGEMENT

The law is settled that where an issue of fact affecting the status of a person or a thing has been determined in a final manner as a substantive part of a judgment of a court having jurisdiction to determine that status, such determination will constitute estoppel by judgment to any subsequent proceedings between any parties whatsoever. See: MADAM ABUSATU AGBOGUNLERI v JOHN DEPO & ORS (2008) LPELR-243(SC) at page 20, paras. D-G, per Muhammad, JSC; MR. AKINFELA FRANK COLE v MR. ADIM JIBUNOH & ORS (2016) LPELR-40662(SC) at pages 37 – 38, para. D, per Kekere-Ekun, JSC; and APC PDP & ORS (2015) LPELR 24587(SC) at page 106, paras. A – E, per Galadima, JSC.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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