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DETERMINATION CONFINED TO CAUSE OF ACTION

Dictum

It must be borne in mind, the settled principle that the hearing and determination of any cause or matter must be confined to the cause of action and the issues raised on the pleadings.

– Ejinwunmi JSC. Awoniyi v. AMORC (2000)

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AN ILLEGALITY CANNOT BE MADE THE SUBJECT MATTER OF AN ACTION

In Langston vs. Hughes (1813) 1 M&S 593 or 12 Digest 270 at 2214, Ellenborough, C.J., held that: “What is done in contravention of the provisions of an Act of Parliament cannot be made the subject-matter of an action” cited in Bostel Bros. Ltd. vs. Hurlock (1948) 2 All E.R. 312 at 313.

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NATURE OF A CAUSE OF ACTION

A cause of action is that action which connotes every fact which is material to be proved before a competent Court of law to entitle the plaintiff to succeed or all those things necessary to give a right to relief in law or equity. Thus, it is the factual base or some factual situation, a continuation of which makes the matter in litigation an enforceable or an actionable wrong. Consequently, before a party files a matter in Court, he must possess a cause of action against some person(s) or institution(s). In other words, a plaintiff/claimant must show by his pleadings that he has a cause of action maintaining in a Court of law against the defendant.

– Shuaibu JCA. Diamond Bank v. Mocok (2019)

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ACCRUAL OF RIGHT VS ACCRUAL OF CAUSE OF ACTION

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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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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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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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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