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ILLEGALITY OF A CONTRACT IMPACTS THE JURISDICTION OF A COURT

Dictum

Illegality of a contract or transaction, whenever it is raised as a defence to a claim founded on the said transaction, impacts on the jurisdiction of the court. When the contract on which the plaintiff sues is ex facie illegal, the courts will decline to enforce it for the courts exercise their jurisdiction only to administer the law of the land. They do not exercise their jurisdiction to help the Plaintiff break the law. See GEORGE & ORS v. DOMINION FLOUR MILLS LTD (1963) 1 ALL NLR 71; IBRAHIM v. OSIM (1988) NWLR 257; BARCLAYS BANK D.O.C. v, MEMUNATU HASSAN (1961) ALL NLR 836.

— E. Eko, JSC. CITEC v. Edicomisa (2017) – SC. 163 2006

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NO JURISDICTION, COURT CANNOT DECIDE

It is a cardinal principle of law that jurisdiction is fundamental to the determination of a suit, as unless a court is competent, it cannot exercise jurisdiction over a suit to the extent of deciding on it.

– Mukhtar JSC. Goodwill v. Witt (2011) – SC. 266/2005

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COURT LACKS JURISDICTION WHERE THERE ARE NO PROPER PARTIES

It is trite law that for a court to be competent and have jurisdiction over a matter, proper parties must be identified. Before an action can succeed, the parties to it must be shown to be the proper parties to whom rights and obligations arising from the cause of action attach. The question of proper parties is a very important issue which would affect the jurisdiction of the court as it goes to the foundation of the suit in limine. Where proper parties are not before the court then the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the suit.

– Adekeye, J.S.C. Goodwill v. Witt (2011) – SC. 266/2005

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SUBJECT MATTER, TERRITORIAL, AND PERSONAL JURISDICTIONS OF COURT

By way of a rider, I would want to add that my observation for quite some time now, has shown that the issue of which court has jurisdiction over certain matters, between the Federal High Court and a State High Court, generates anxiety among lawyers. Let me say, from the outset, that the two courts are both superior courts of record. Each is a creature of the Constitution. The matters of jurisdiction in our courts, is generally, approached from three dimensions: territorial, subject matter and jurisdiction on persons. On territorial jurisdiction, the Federal High Court enjoys nationwide jurisdiction whereas a State High Court is confined to the territory of the State and that of the Federal Capital Territory to the Federal Capital Territory. On subject matter jurisdiction, the High Court of a State, by the provision of Section 236 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, enjoys unlimited jurisdiction. The Federal High Court has limited jurisdiction or jurisdiction on some enumerated subject matters. A State High Court has jurisdiction mostly over natural persons. Federal High Court has jurisdiction over both natural and artificial persons. There are areas where both the Federal High Court and High Court of a State enjoys concurrent jurisdiction. Example of such is the enforcement of Fundamental Human Rights conferred in Chapter IV of the Constitution.

— I.T. Muhammad, JSC. Adetona & Ors. v Igele (2011) – SC.237/2005

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EXCEPTION TO DETERMINING JURISDICTION BY WRIT & STATEMENT OF CLAIM

The point has to be cleared without delay that the law though well settled is that the writ of summons and statement of claim are the materials on which the issue of competence and jurisdiction of Court is raised, however it is not a principle cast in stone or regarded as immutable as circumstances could arise where, when an objection is made by means of a motion on notice, facts deposed to in affidavit in support as well as the counter affidavits and attached exhibits are also utilised to resolve the question, in the same vein could come up the use of evidence already adduced in the resolution of the question of jurisdiction as was the case in the instant matter which came up at the close of evidence and in the final addresses of counsel. Therefore the Court below erred in holding that the trial High Court was correct to determine the objection by reference solely on the writ of summons and statement of claim even though the oral and documentary evidence in proof of the relevant paragraphs of the statement of claim were staring it in the face of the Court. Indeed the Court below ought not to have closed its eyes to the record and the evidence already before it. See Okoroma v Uba (1999) 1 NWLR (Pt.587) 359; Onuorah v KRPC Ltd (2005) 6 NWLR (Pt.921) 393; NDIC v CBN (2002) 7 NWLR (Pt.766) 272; I.K. Martins (Nig.) Ltd v UPL (1992) 1 NWLR (Pt.217) 322; Agbareh v Mimra (2008) 2 NWLR (Pt.1071) 378; Osafile v Odi NO.1 (1990) 3 NWLR (Pt.137) 130; Nigergate Ltd v Niger State Government (2008) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1103) 111 (CA).

— Tanko Muhammad, JSC. Berger v Toki Rainbow (2019) – SC.332/2009

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TRIAL COURT JURISDICTION DETERMINES COURT OF APPEAL’S JURISDICTION

In APGA V. ANYANWU (2014) 7 NWLR (PT 1407) 541 at 567-568, this Court held as follows:- “The jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal to entertain an appeal is dependent upon the jurisdiction of the trial Court to hear and determine the suit before it in the first instance. Where the trial Court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the case, its proceedings are a nullity and the Court of Appeal would not have the jurisdiction to entertain an appeal arising therefrom. An appeal from proceedings initiated conducted without jurisdiction will be liable to be struck out for want of jurisdiction.”

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JUDGEMENT GIVEN WITHOUT JURISDICTION IS NULL

para. 25: “25. For clarity, the Defendant and the Intervener raised a serious issue of lack of competence of the Court to adjudicate on the matter. It is trite law that a judgment given without jurisdiction amounts to a nullity no matter how well detailed or conducted the proceedings are.”

Ugokwe v FRN (2005) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/03/05

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