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ONCE JURISDICTION IS LACKING, THE SUIT COMES TO AN END

Dictum

Once the Court finds that it lacks jurisdiction over the matter before it, it has a duty to put an end to the proceedings, Sken-consult (Nig.) Ltd v Ukey [1981] 1 SC 6, 25; Adesokan and Ors. v. Adetunji and Ors. [1994] LPELR-152 (SC); Metilelu v. Olowo-Opejo and Anor [2006] LPELR-11598 (SC).

— C.C. Nweze, JSC. Uzoho v NCP (SC.141/2007, Friday, May 13, 2022)

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THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF JURISDICTION

In A.G. Kwara State & Anor v Saka Adeyemo & Ors (2016) 7 SC (Pt.II) p. 149. I said that: Jurisdiction is a question of law. There are two types of jurisdiction. 1. Jurisdiction as a matter of procedural law. 2. Jurisdiction as a matter of substantive law. A litigant may waive the former. Again in Appeal No: SC.175/2005 Heritage Bank Ltd v Bentworth Finance (Nigeria) Ltd decided by this Court on 23 February, 2018 Eko J.S.C. explained the distinction between substantive jurisdiction and procedural jurisdiction.

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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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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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JURISDICTION GOES TO THE FOUNDATION OF ANY MATTER

Jurisdiction is very fundamental to adjudication because it goes to the foundational competence of any cause or matter or action before the Court. It is indeed the epicenter of the entire litigation process and thus, without it there can be no validity in any proceedings or resultant judgment or ruling of the Court. Thus, without jurisdiction there can be no competence in the Court to exercise its adjudicatory powers. In such a situation, zealousness to do substantial justice, where there is no competence, is not a virtue. It is simply over zealousness. This is so because “Without jurisdiction, the laborers that is the litigant and counsel on the one hand and the Court on the hand labor in vain”.

– B.A. Georgewill, JCA. Ganiyu v. Oshoakpemhe & Ors. (2021) – CA/B/12A/2021

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JURISDICTION IS A THRESHOLD MATTER

Jurisdiction is a threshold matter. Once raised all proceedings abate until it is resolved. Proceedings conducted without jurisdiction amount to a nullity. There is nothing as useless as conducting a trial flawlessly only to find out that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter. That explains why the issue of jurisdiction can be taken at any stage of the proceedings, at trial, on appeal and even in the Supreme Court for the first time.

– Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Olabomi v. Oyewinle (2013) – SC.345/2012

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INITIATING APPLICATION DETERMINES COURT’S JURISDICTION

In Bakary Sarre & 28 Ors vs. Senegal (2011) (unreported) Pg. 11, Para. 25, the Court held that its competence to adjudicate in a given case depends not only on its texts, but also on the substance of the Initiating Application. The Court accords every attention to the claims made by the Applicants, the pleas in law invoked, and in an instance where human right violation is alleged, the Court equally carefully considers how the parties present such allegations.

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