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FIVE CONDITIONS FOR ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM TO SUCCEED

Dictum

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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WHERE BY WORDS OR CONDUCT A PARTY HAS MADE THE OTHER PARTY CHANGE HIS STANCE

The position of the law still remains the same. It is that where by words or conduct, a party to a transaction freely makes to the other an unambiguous promise or assurance which is intended to affect the legal relations between them and the former acts upon it by altering his position to his detriment, the party making the promise of assurance will not be permitted to act inconsistently with it. This is as pronounced in Central London Property Trust Ltd. v. High Trees House Ltd. (1947) K.B. 130. It has remained good law for a long time now. I approve same without any reservation.

— J.A. Fabiyi, JSC. BFI v. Bureau PE (2012) – SC.12/2008

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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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INGREDIENTS FOR ISSUE ESTOPPEL TO APPLY

It is trite law that for issue estoppel to apply the following ingredients must be present: 1. The parties must be the same in the previous and present actions; 2. The same question that was decided in the previous action must arise in the present action in respect of the same subject matter; and 3. That question must be a final decision of a competent court. See Ebba v. Ogodo (2000) 10 NWLR (Pt. 675) S.C. 387.

— R.O. Nwodo, JCA. Teleglobe v 21st Century Tech. (2008) – CA/L/694/2006

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PRINCIPLE OF ESTOPPEL BY CONDUCT – WAIVER OF RIGHT

The principle of estoppel by conduct is based on the public policy that says that there must be an end to litigation. Its aim is, not only to hold a party to his undertaking that he will no longer insist on either his right to appeal or the accrued right or obligation from the judgment, but also not to allow a person benefit from his prevarication. Equity, generally abhors subterfuge, deception and some other unconscienable conduct. Equity acts in personam … It operates thus: if a person with full knowledge of the rights, interest, profits or benefits conferred upon or accruing to him by and under the law, intentionally decides to give up all these, or some of them, he cannot be heard to complain afterwards that he has not been permitted the exercise of his right, or that he has suffered by his not having exercised his rights. In the circumstance, just like in the instant case, he should be held to have waived his rights and consequently estopped from raising the issue subsequently.

— Ejembi Eko, JSC. County Dev. Co. v Hon. Min. Env. Housing Urban Dev. (2019) – SC.239/2011

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REQUIREMENT FOR ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATA

Now, for a judgment to constitute issue estoppel the following conditions must be satisfied: – 1. the same question must be for decision in both proceedings (i.e. the same question for decision in the current suit must have been decided in the previous suit); 2. the decision relied upon to support the plea of issue estoppel must be final; 3. the parties or their privies must be the same. The three elements must be present and co-exist for a plea of estoppel per rem judicata to apply. See Ito v. Ekpe & Ors (2000) 3 NWLR (pt. 650) 678; Oshoboja v. Amida & Ors (2009) LPELR-2803 (SC) and Oleksandr & Ors v. Lonestar Drilling Co. Ltd & Anor (2015) LPELR – 24614 (SC).

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. APM v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/04/2023

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WHEN A COURT DECIDES AN ISSUE, IT CREATES AN ISSUE ESTOPPEL

Para. 12: “On 27th October 2009, the court issued a ruling in an application for preliminary objection raised by the defence. These issues about the court’s jurisdiction in this matter as well as the exhaustion of local remedies were decided in that ruling. It is thus inappropriate for Counsel to raise the same issues again. The principle of law is clear that when a court has decided on some issues in the case, the decision creates issue estoppel as between the parties and/or their privies in the present and any subsequent proceedings in which same issue’s is/are raised. Besides, the decision of this court is final and can only be altered through a revision if the correct procedure is followed. In view of the foregoing, the court cannot re-open these two issues about its jurisdiction and exhaustion of local remedies.”

— SERAP v FRN (2010) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/07/10

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