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IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL BREACH NOT TO DETERMINE A PRELIMINARY OBJECTION

Dictum

per Rhodes-Vivour JSC in Isaac Obiuweubi v Central Bank (2011) 7 NWLR Part 1247 Page 465 at 494 Para D-F, and cited with approval in James v INEC Supra, “Any failure by the Court to determine any preliminary objection or any form of challenge to its jurisdiction is a fundamental breach which renders further steps taken in the proceedings a nullity”.

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WHERE PRELIMINARY OBJECTION IS ARGUED IN THE BRIEF OF ARGUMENT

I shall now consider the Preliminary Objection. Order 2 Rule 9 of the Supreme Court Rules provides for the filing of Preliminary Objections. It enjoins a respondent who intends to rely on a Preliminary Objection to give the appellant three clear days notice before the hearing setting out in clear terms the grounds of objection. The purpose is to give the appellant enough time to address the respondents objection. It is also accepted practice for the respondent to argue his Preliminary Objection in his brief in which case the appellant would have to respond in a reply brief. In this appeal the respondents argued their Preliminary Objection in their brief. The procedure adopted by the respondents obviates the need to file a separate notice of preliminary objection.The appellants responded by filing an amended reply brief. The Preliminary Objection and the appellants response are thus properly before this court.

— O. Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Wassah & Ors. v. Kara & Ors. (2014) – SC.309/2001

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ESSENCE OF PRELIMINARY OBJECTION

This is more so as the whole essence of preliminary objection is to foreclose hearing the appeal. – Chukwuma-Eneh JSC. Yaro v. Arewa CL (2007)

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HOW TO FILE A PRELIMINARY OBJECTION

In response to the submissions of the learned counsel to the Appellant, the learned counsel to the Respondent in his brief of argument, argued at length what he termed a preliminary objection. It is noted that it was not headed as such and there was no Notice of the preliminary objection filed with the grounds upon which it was brought. It was argued as a preliminary point/preliminary objection under the background facts. When the appeal was argued the learned counsel to the Respondent did not argue the supposed preliminary objection before the main appeal was argued. No wonder then that the learned counsel to the Appellant did not respond to it but, only responded to the substantive appeal. It is taken that the supposed preliminary objection was abandoned by the learned counsel to the Respondent. The Court of Appeal Rules, 2016 outlined the mode of raising a preliminary objection on appeal in Order 10 Rule (1) thus: 10:(1) “A respondent intending to rely upon a preliminary objection to the hearing of the appeal, shall give the Appellant three clear days’ notice thereof before the hearing, setting out the grounds of objection, and shall file such notice together with twenty copies thereof with the registry within the same time.” The requirements for reliance on a preliminary objection to the hearing of an appeal as provided for by Order 10 Rule (1) are three fold. These are: (1) Three clear days’ notice must be given by the Appellant before the hearing of the appeal. (2) The grounds of the objection must be clearly set out in the preliminary objection. (3) Twenty copies of the preliminary objection shall be filed with the Registrar within the same time. The Respondent did not comply with any of the requirements. No doubt, a Notice of objection can be given in the brief of argument, it does not dispense with the need for the Respondent to move the court at the hearing for the reliefs prayed for. Where a preliminary objection to an appeal is set out in the brief of argument, the Respondent cannot merely adopt his brief of argument in respect of the preliminary objection; which is what the learned counsel to the Respondent did in this case when the appeal was argued. Learned counsel is required to proffer oral argument in support of the grounds which are incorporated in the preliminary objection. The Notice of preliminary objection can be given in the Respondent’s brief, but, learned counsel must ask the court for leave to move the Notice of objection before the oral hearing of the appeal commences, otherwise it would be deemed to have been waived and therefore abandoned. The Respondent clearly failed to comply with the Rules of this court in raising and arguing a preliminary objection challenging the competence of this appeal.

— C.N. Uwa, JCA. FRN v Ozekhome (2021) – CA/L/174/19

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MOTION ON NOTICE, NOT PRELIMINARY OBJECTION, IS THE PROPER PROCESS TO CHALLENGE SOME GROUNDS OF APPEAL

The emphasis is that a preliminary objection can only be issued against the hearing of the appeal, and not against a selection of grounds of appeal, which even if it is upheld cannot terminate the appeal in limine. In KLM Royal Dutch Airlines v. Aloma (2017) LPELR- 42588 (SC), this Court, per Kudirat Motonmori Olatokunbo Kekere-Ekun, JSC at pages 6-7, paras D-B, held:- The purpose of a preliminary objection is to truncate the hearing of an appeal in limine. It is raised where the respondent is satisfied that there is a fundamental defect in the appeal that would affect the Courts jurisdiction to entertain it. Where there are other grounds that could sustain the appeal, a preliminary objection should not be filed. Where the purpose of the objection is merely to challenge the competence of some grounds of appeal, the best procedure is by way of motion on notice. The reason is that the success of the objection would not terminate the hearing of the appeal. See Odunukwe v. Ofomata (2010) 18 NWLR (Pt.1225) 404 at 423 C-F, Ndigwe v. Nwude (1999) 11 NWLR (Pt.626) 314; N.E.P.A. v. Ango (2001) 15 NWLR (Pt. 734) 627; Muhammed v. Military Administrator Plateau State (2001) 18 NWLR (Pt.744) 183. See also the case of Adejumo v. Olawaiye (2014) 12 NWLR(Pt.1421) 252 at 279 where this Court, per Rhodes-Vivour said:- ‘A preliminary objection should only be filed against the hearing of an appeal and not against one or more grounds of appeal which are not capable of disturbing the hearing of the appeal… Where a preliminary objection would not be the appropriate process to object or show to the Court defects in processes before it, a motion on notice filed complaining of a few grounds or defects would suffice.’ From the authorities I have highlighted above, it is clear that the preliminary objection in the instant case is inappropriate and same is liable to be struck out. Accordingly, same is hereby struck out.

— P.A. Galumje, JSC. Compact Manifold v Pazan Ltd. (2019) – SC.361/2017

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PRELIMINARY OBJECTION IS TO BE TAKEN FIRST BEFORE ANY STEP IN THE PROCEEDING

Generally, the rules of this Court allow a respondent to rely on a preliminary objection to the hearing of the appeal. The purpose of the objection is to bring the appeal to an end after being discovered to be incompetent and or fundamentally deceptive. In either case, it will be unnecessary to continue with the appeal once an objection is raised, without disposing of same. In other words, the Court is expected to deal with and dispose of a preliminary objection once raised by a respondent before taking any further step in the appeal. See; General Electric Company Vs. Harry Ayoade Akande & Ors (2010) 12 (Pt.2) SCM 96; Lamidi Rabiu Vs. Tola Adebajo (2012) 6 SCNM 201; Udenwa & 1 Ors Vs Uzodinma & 1 Ors (2012) 12 (Pt.2) 472 at 483.

— O. Ariwoola, JSC. Galadima v. State (2017) – SC.70/2013

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COURT IS OBLIGED TO CONSIDER PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS AS FAILURE AMOUNTS TO DENIAL OF FAIR HEARING

It is glaring that the Tribunal lumped several preliminary objections together, without considering each of them and the issues raised in each, dismissed them. The exact text of its decision reads thusly – “the several preliminary objections to the competence of the 1st petitioner as a candidate in the election and the jurisdiction of this Tribunal to determine the said petition are hereby dismissed.” This amounts to sweeping aside the objections without hearing or determining them. The dismissal of the objections did not proceed from the determination of any of the objections. It violates the fair trial of the objections and the entire petition and the right of the parties to fair hearing. This feature renders Tribunal’s judgment a nullity.

— E.A. Agim, JSC. Oyetola v INEC & Ors. (2022) – SC/CV/508/2023

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