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DEFENCE OF ESTOPPEL MUST BE PLEADED

Dictum

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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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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WHEN ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM CAN SUCCEED

Judicial authorities have enunciated the principles which are well pronounced in the case of Makun V. F.U.T. Minna (supra) wherein this court re-iterated that, for a plea of estoppel per rem judicatam to succeed, the party relying thereon must establish the following requirements or pre-conditions namely:- (a) That the parties or their privies are the same in both the previous and the present proceeding. (b) That the claim or issues in dispute in both actions are the same. (c) That the res or the subject matter of litigation in the two cases is the same. (d) That the decision relied upon to support the plea of estoppel per rem judicatam is valid, subsisting and final. (e) That the court that gave the previous decision relied upon to sustain the plea is a court of competent jurisdiction. It has also been held severally by this court that, unless all the above constitutional elements or requirements of the doctrine are fully established, the plea of estoppel per rem judicatam cannot sustain. See also the decisions in Yoye V. Olalode (1974) 10 SC 209; Alase V. Olori-Ilu (1965) NMLR 66; Fadiora V. Gbadebo (1978) 3 SC 219 and Udo V. Obot (1989) 1 SC (Pt. 1) 64.

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

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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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PROMISSORY ESTOPPEL

Otto v. Mabamije (2004) 17 NWLR (Pt. 903) page 489 at page 504, (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 262) 597, this court held as follows:- “By virtue of section 51 of the Evidence Act, when one person by his declaration, act or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to be true and to act on such belief, neither he nor his representatives in interest shall be allowed in any proceeding between himself and such representative in interest to deny the truth of that thing.”

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WHAT IS AN ESTOPPEL

An estoppel is part of the law of evidence. It is no other than a bar to testimony. It’s sole function is to place an obstacle in the way of a case which might otherwise succeed or to remove an impediment out of the way of a case which might otherwise fail.

– Oputa JSC. Gbadamosi v. Bello (1985)

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WHEN DOES ISSUE ESTOPPEL ARISES

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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