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MEANING OF LOCUS STANDI; LOCUS STANDI IS A THRESHOLD ISSUE

Dictum

The term locus standi is a Latin term which translates to “place to stand”. It refers to the legal right of a person, natural or artificial, to file a suit. It is sometimes used interchangeably with terms like “standing”, “standing to sue” and “title to sue”. Unquestionably, the issue of locus standi is a threshold issue, and in order for a court to have jurisdiction, the Plaintiff must have locus standi to commence or file the action. Put differently, if a Plaintiff lacks the legal right to institute an action, no court will in turn have the power or competence or jurisdiction to entertain the suit. A Plaintiff’s locus Page 20 of 41 standi is inextricably linked with the jurisdiction of the court as once a Plaintiff lacks locus, the court is also bereft of jurisdiction. See AKANDE V. JEGEDE (2022) 14 NWLR (PT. 1849) 125; AJAYI V. ADEBIYI (2012) 11 NWLR (PT. 1310) 137; B.M.LTD. V. WOERMANN-LINE (2009) 13 NWLR (PT. 1157) 149.

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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RESTRICTIVE RULES ON STANDING ARE INIMICAL TO A HEALTHY JUDICIAL SYSTEM (India)

The Supreme Court of India in Fertilizer Corporation Kamager Union v Union of India (1981) AIR (SC) 344, succinctly captured the modern Jurisprudence on locus standi as follows: “Restrictive rules about standing are in general inimical to a healthy system of growth of administrative law, if a Plaintiff with a good cause is turned away merely because he is not sufficiently affected personally, that could mean that some government agency is left free to violate the law. Such a situation would be extremely unhealthy and contrary to the public interest. Litigants are unlikely to spend their time and money unless they have some real interest at stake and in some cases where they wish to sue merely out of public spirit, to discourage them and thwart their good intentions would be most frustrating and completely demoralizing”. [This case was relied on in Abdullahi & Ors. v Government of Federal Republic of Nigeria & Ors. (ECW/CCJ/JUD/18/16) [2016] ECOWASCJ 55]

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WHY LOCUS STANDI WAS EVOLVED

In INEC v. Ogbadibo LGC (2014) 22640(CA) 24-25, F-C, by Ogbuinya, JCA as follows:
“From the etymological perspective, the cliche expression, locus standi, traces its roots to Latin Language which means: “place of standing”. In its expounded legal form, locus standi denotes the legal right or capacity of a person to institute an action in a Court of law when his right is trampled upon by somebody or authority. The locus classicus on locus standi in the Nigerian jurisprudence is the case of Adesanya V The President, FRN (1981) 5 SC 112; (1981) 2 NCLR 358… Locus standi was evolved to protect the Court from being converted into a jamboree by professional litigants or meddlesome interlopers who have no interest in matters, See Taiwo V Adegboro (2011) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1159) 562″

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WHO IS A VICTIM IN INTERNATIONAL LAW? – (ECOWAS Court)

In essence; “A victim is anyone who suffers individual or collective harm (or pain) such as physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss, or generally any impairment of human rights as a result of acts or omissions that constitute gross violations of human rights, or serious violations of humanitarian law norms.” See The Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Survivors of Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, GA RES 60/147, PMBL, SEC IX, UN DOC A/RES/60/147 (MARCH 21, 2006).

— The Registered Trustees of Jama’a FOUNDATION v FRN ECW/CCJ/JUD/04/20 para. 65

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WHETHER PERSON STANDING TO SUE IS THE PROPER PERSON TO REQUEST AN ADJUDICATION

When a party’s standing to sue is in issue in a case, the question is whether the person whose standing is in issue is a proper party to request an adjudication of a particular issue and not whether the issue itself is justiciable. See Oloriode v. Oyebi (1984) 1 S. C. N. L. R. 390, 392 Senator Adesanya v. President of Nigeria AND ANOTHER {1981) 2 N. C. L. R. 358. Thomas v. Olufosoye (1986) 1 N. W. L. R. (pt. 18) 669.

— Obaseki, Ag. CJN. Adebanjo v Olowosoga (1988) – SC 134/1986

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WHEN A LARGE COMMUNITY IS AT STAKE, ACCESS TO JUSTICE IS FACILITATED

“56. There is a large consensus in International Law that when the issue at stake is the violation of rights of entire communities, as in the case of the damage to the environment, the access to justice should be facilitated. 57. Article 2 (5) of Convention of “Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision- Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matter “defines the “public concerned” with environment protection as “public affected or likely to be affected by, or having an interest in the environment decision-making for the purposes of this definition nongovernmental organization promoting environment and meeting requirements under national law shall be deemed to have an interest”. Article 9 of the same instrument confirms the access to justice to the public concerned as defined in Article 2 (5).”

— SERAP v FRN – ECW/CCJ/APP/08/09

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STATEMENT OF CLAIM HAS TO BE SCRUTINIZED TO DETERMINE LOCUS STANDI

It cannot be disputed that the question whether or not a plaintiff has a locus standi in a suit is determinable from a totality of all the averments in his statement of claim. In dealing with the locus standi of a plaintiff, it is his statement of claim alone that has to be carefully scrutinized with a view to ascertaining whether or not it has disclosed his interest and how such interest has arisen in the subject-matter of the action. Where the averments in a plaintiffs statement of claim disclose the rights or interests of the plaintiff which have been or are in danger or being violated, invaded or adversely affected by the act of the defendant complained of, such a plaintiff would be deemed to have shown sufficient interest to give him the locus standi to litigate over the subject-matter in issue.

– Abba Aji JSC. CITEC v. Francis (2021) – SC.720/2017

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