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JURISDICTION OF COURT – JURISDICTION CAN BE RAISED AT ANY TIME

Dictum

I have found that ground (1) is premised on the jurisdiction of the lower court. It is the law that even where a court of law does not pronounce whether it has jurisdiction to try a matter or not, once the establishing law or other statutes or the subject matter or party before the court has divested that court of jurisdiction, then jurisdiction does not reside in the court. The ground is properly taken by the appellant in this appeal as issue of jurisdiction can be raised at any level of the proceedings of a court even at appeal levels. See: Nigeria Eng. Works Ltd. v. Denap Ltd. (2001) 18 NWLR (Pt.746) 726.

— T. Muhammad, JSC. VAB Petroleum v. Momah (2013) – SC.99/2004

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ISSUE ON JURISDICTION MUST BE RESOLVED BEFORE ANY OTHER THING

Once the question of jurisdiction is raised, it must be resolved before any further step is taken in the proceedings as the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the suit is fundamental to the competence of the Court, and has been described as the lifeblood of adjudication. See Statoil (Nig) Ltd v Inducon (Nig) Ltd (2021) 7 NWLR Part 1774 Page 1 at 47-48 Para H-F per M.D. Muhammad JSC; Central Bank of Nigeria v Rahamaniyya G.R. Ltd (2020) 8 NWLR Part 1726 Page 314 at 337 Para A-B per Okoro JSC.

— O. Adefope-Okojie, JCA. Kanu v FRN (2022) – CA/ABJ/CR/625/2022

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FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT CLAIM HINGED ON SUBJECT MATTER OUTSIDE FHC JURISDICTION, THE FHC LACKS JURISDICTION

The Supreme Court in ADETONA V. IGELE GENERAL ENTERPRISES LTD. (2011) 7 NWLR (PT. 1247) PG 542 at page 543 held: “Where a person’s fundamental right is breached, being breached or about to be breached, that person may apply under Section 46(1) to the Judicial Division of the Federal High Court in the State or the High Court of the State or that of the Federal Capital Territory in which the breach occurred or is occurring or about to occur. This is irrespective of whether the right involved comes within the legislative competence of the Federation, or the State or the Federal Capital Territory. However it should be noted that the exercise of this jurisdiction by the Federal High Court is where the fundamental right threatened or breached falls within the enumerated matters on which that Court has jurisdiction. Thus, fundamental rights arising from matters outside its jurisdiction cannot be enforced by the Federal High Court.”

Furthermore, the Supreme Court in the most explicit terms interpreted Section 46(2) of the Constitution at P.564, para. E; F, thus: “On Jurisdiction of the Federal and State High Court over action for enforcement of fundamental rights – A High Court of a State lacks Jurisdiction to entertain matters on Fundamental Rights, although brought pursuant to Section 46(2) of the Constitution, where the alleged breach arose from a transaction or subject matter which falls within the exclusive Jurisdiction of the Federal High Court as provided by Section 251 of the Constitution.”

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PARTIES TO A CASE DETERMINE THE JURISDICTION OF A COURT

However, what the learned senior Counsel failed to realize is the fact that the presence of the 2nd Appellant, the National Judicial Council and the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation as parties in the case, had pulled in a feature in the case which brought it out of the jurisdiction of the High Court taking into consideration the decision of this Court in Madukolu v. Nkemdelim (supra) earlier quoted in this judgment.

– Mahmud, JSC. Elelu-Habeeb v. A.G Federation (2012)

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WHERE SUBJECT MATTER OF FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT APPLICATION IS WITHIN FHC, STATE HIGH COURT HAS NO JURISDICTION

Whereas both the State and Federal High Courts have concurrent jurisdiction in the determination of Fundamental Right cases, the phrase “subject to the provision of the Constitution” as embodied under Section 46 (2) demarcated the respective Jurisdictions of the State and Federal High Courts. In essence, a State High Court cannot for instance rightly and validly determine allegations of breach of Fundamental Rights emanating from acts of Terrorism or Treason and Treasonable felonies which fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court. Likewise, a Federal High Court cannot except where circumstances permit, validly determine alleged violation of human rights that arise from torts, rape or armed robbery etc. as the same ordinarily fall within the jurisdiction of the State High Courts.

— U. Onyemenam, JCA. Iheme v Chief of Defence Staff (2018) – CA/J/264/2017

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JURISDICTION IS A THRESHOLD ISSUE

I intend to consider first the Issue of jurisdiction canvassed under Issue 3. It is a threshold issue. It is now universally accepted that when an objection is raised in respect of the competence of a suit or an appeal, the jurisdiction of the court that entertained the suit becomes an issue and that the court has a fundamental, if not imperative, duty to resolve the issue before delving into the merits of the case. See B.A.S.F. NIG. LTD v. FAITH ENTERPRISES LTD (2010) 41.1 NSCQR 381 at page 411 per Adekeye JSC. It is an established principle of Nigerian law that where a court lacks competence to try a person or subject matter before it, whatever decision it arrives at on such a person or subject matter is a nullity: NIGERIAN ARMY v. AMINUN-KANO (2010) 41.1 NSCQR 76. If the suit or appeal was not initiated by due process of court and upon fulfillment of any conditions precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction, the competence of the court to adjudicate in the suit or appeal will be adversely affected: MADUKOLU v. NKEMDILIM (1962) 2 SCNLR 342.

— E. Eko, JCA. SPDC v. Ejebu (2010) – CA/PH/239M/2002

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WRIT & STATEMENT OF CLAIM MUST BE CAREFULLY EXAMINED TO ASCERTAIN JURISDICTION

In their arguments on the sole issue, both learned counsel for the parties correctly stated the often-stated principle of law in determining whether or not a court has jurisdiction to entertain the subject matter of a suit. That is that the writ of summons and the Statement of claim must be carefully examined. See OPITI v. OGBEIWI (1992) 4 NWLR (pt.234) 184 at 195; ADEYEMI v OPEYORI (1976) 9-10 SC.31 at 49. It is well settled that where there is no jurisdiction to hear and determine a cause or matter, everything done in such want of jurisdiction is a nullity. See MUSTAPHA v. GOVERNOR OF LAGOS STATE (1987) NWLR (pt.58).

— S. Galadima JSC. Adetona & Ors. v Igele (2011) – SC.237/2005

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