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NULLITY FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION

Dictum

Without doubt, where a case is heard and judgment is delivered by a court without jurisdiction, the proceedings will be a nullity. – Iguh, JSC. Oshatoba v. Olujitan (2000)

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NO JURISDICTION MAKES THE PROCEEDING A NULLITY

The Law is well settled that where a court has no jurisdiction to entertain any claim, anything done in respect of the claim will be an exercise in futility. In the celebrated case on the subject of jurisdiction and competence of court of Madukolu & others v Nkemdilim & others (1962) 2 SCNLR 342; (1962) NSCC 374; (1962) 1 All NLR 587; Bairamian, F.J. stated the law at page 595 as follows:- “Before discussing those portions of the record, I shall make some observations on jurisdiction and the competence of a court. Put it briefly, a court is competent when:- (1) it is properly constituted as regards members and qualification of the members of the bench and no member is disqualified for one reason or another; and (2) the subject matter of the case is within its jurisdiction, and there is no feature of the case which prevents the court from exercising its jurisdiction; and (3) the case comes before the court initiated by due process of law, and upon fulfilment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction.” Once there is a defect in competence, it is fatal as the proceedings are a nullity. See Ojo-Ajao & others v Popoola Ajao & others (1986) 5 NWLR (Part 45) 802 and Attorney-General Anambra State v Attorney-General of the Federation (1993) 6 NWLR (Part 302) 692. — Mohammed JSC. AG Kano State v AG Federation (2007) – SC 26/2006

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JURISDICTION IS FUNDAMENTAL TO ADJUDICATION

Jurisdiction, it is settled, is fundamental to adjudication. It is a radical and crucial necessity for, as in the instant case, where a Court proceeds without jurisdiction to hear the case, the proceedings so embarked upon by the Court are a nulity ab initio however well conducted the proceedings and brilliantly decided the issues agitated therein are. Defect in the Court’s competence is intrinsic and not extrinsic to the entire adjudicatory process. See Oloriode V. Oyebi (1984) 5 SC 1 at 32 33, Mustapha V, Governor of Lagos State and Musaconi Limited V. Mr. H, Aspinall (2013) LPELR 20745 (SC). It must be restated that a Court is only vested with jurisdiction and power to adjudicate on an issue when the matter is brought before it in accordance with both substantive and adjectival law. See Madukolu V. Nkemdilim (1962) SCNLR 341, Ukwu V. Bunge (1997) 8 NWLR (Pt 678) 527.

— M.D. Muhammad, JSC. Onyekwuluje v Animashaun (2019) – SC.72/2006

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MANAGEMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF COMPANIES FALLS WITHIN THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT JURISDICTION

Matters relating to management and administration of a Company under the Companies and Allied Matters Act fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court. See: Sken Consult (Nig.) Ltd. & Anor v. Godwin Sekondy Ukey (1981) 1 SC 6; Omisade v. Akande (1987) 2 NWLR (pt.55) 158. Equally, where the suit involves only the interpretation and/or application of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company, it falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court Section 251(1)(e) of the Constitution.

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

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JURISDICTION CAN BE RAISED AT ANYTIME – IT SHOULD BE RAISED EARLIER

The issue of jurisdiction is fundamental and the law is trite that it can be raised by a party at any stage of courts’ proceedings, even at the level of the Supreme Ccourt. See Francis Durwode v. State 2000 15 NWLR part 691 page 467, Otukpo v. John 2000 8 NWLR part 669 page 507. It is however ideal that it be raised at the earliest stage of proceedings to avoid unnecessary waste of time, which the defendant has done in the instant case.

— A.M. Mukhtar, JSC. Adetona & Ors. v Igele (2011) – SC.237/2005

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JUDGE SHOULD NOT MAKE PRONOUNCEMENTS ON THE CASE AFTER STRIKING OUT FOR WANT OF JURISDICTION

It is my judgment that the Judge was wrong in dismissing the suit rather than striking it out when he held that he had no jurisdiction. The court was not just wrong, I dare say that the court abdicated a constitutional obligation or duty. In any case, the law is that even where a court finds that it had no jurisdiction he has no business making any other order or proceeding further other than to do his only duty, which is to strike out the matter or case: Obi v. I.N.E.C. (2007) All FWLR (Pt. 378) 1116, (2007) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1046) 565. Also the case of John Egbele v. The Post Master General (unreported decision of this court in CA/L/585/05 delivered on 10 November 2010) wherein this court, per Mukhtar JCA in his lead judgment said at page 10 thus: “The court below having rightly held that it lacked jurisdiction in the matter, ought to have simply struck out the matter as it lacked the competence to decide any other issue. The further pronouncement by the court that the suit was statute-barred was null and void and same is hereby struck out” In Okotie-Eboh v. Manager (2005) 123 LRCN 256, (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 241) 277, the Supreme Court also made it clear, per Edozie JSC at page 288, paragraph K of the report that the superfluous pronouncement made after a finding that the court had no jurisdiction was academic as courts of law are not academic institutions. I must say that it is for this same reason that I had in the decision of this court in Egbele v. The Post Master General said in my contribution as follows: “it is in the same reasoning that I hold that challenge raised in ground No. 2 of the appeal – bordering as it were on the limitation of action, has no merit as the High Court of a State including that of Lagos State has no jurisdiction to proceed to pronounce on the incompetence of the suit for being statute-barred after it had found … That it lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the matter.”

— Danjuma, JCA. Tony Anthony Nig. Ltd & Ors. v. NDIC (CA/L/630/2009 • 25 January 2011)

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IT IS PARAMOUNT TO DECIDE ISSUE OF JURISDICTION FIRST

The issue of jurisdiction is the bedrock of adjudication by a Court of law and as such, it is basically considered expedient to resolve same before proceeding to consider the main issues presented to the Court for adjudication on the merit. It goes without saying that the determination of a suit by a Court is null and void if done without jurisdiction notwithstanding how well or proper the proceeding was conducted. The jurisdiction of a Court to entertain a matter is therefore fundamental to the extent that if a Court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine a case, the proceedings is a nullity ab initio. See Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR 341; A.G. Lagos State v. Dosunmu (1989) 6 SC (Pt. II) page 1; A.G. Rivers State v. A.G. Akwa Ibom State (2011) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1248) 31; Ajao v. Alao (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt. 45) 802; Galadima v. Tambai (2000) 6 SCNJ 190.

— S.C. Oseji, JCA. Access Bank v Edo State BIR (2018) – CA/B/333/2015

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