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ONLY PARTIES TO A DEED CAN SUE

Dictum

There can be no doubt about the general position that, under English law, a person who is not a party to a deed cannot sue to set it aside or to have it declared null and void: only parties to the deed can do so. This is because the remedy is basically equitable in origin and, as equity acts in personam, the question of cancellation or setting aside of a deed which has been signed, sealed, and delivered was strictly a matter between the parties to the deed. It was possible, on grounds of fraud or constructive fraud committed upon one of the parties to have the deed set aside or ordered to be delivered up for cancellation by order of court.

– Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Adejumo v. Ayantegbe (1989)

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PROPER, DESIRABLE, NECESSARY, PARTIES

Proper parties are those who, though not interested in the Plaintiffs claim, are made parties for some good reasons e.g. where an action is brought to rescind a contract, any person is a proper party to it who was active or concurring in the matters which gave the plaintiff the right to rescind. Desirable those who have an interest or who may be affected by the result. Necessary parties are those who are not only interested in the subject-matter of the proceedings but also who in their absence, the proceedings could not be fairly dealt with. In other words the question to be settled in the action between the existing parties must be a question which cannot be properly settled unless they are parties to the action instituted by the plaintiff.

– Oputa, JSC. Green v. Green (1987)

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WHO IS AN INTERESTED PARTY IN A LITIGATION

✓ Nigerian Social Insurance Trust v. Klifco Nigeria Ltd (2010)LPELR 22 23 Paras CE as follows: ‘As regards the phrase “a person interested “I agree with the respondent that the phrase has been examined in the case of Evan v. Noble (1949) 1 KB 222 at 225 where a person not interested in the outcome of action has been described as, a person who has no temptation to depart from the truth one side or the other, a person not swayed by personal interest but completely detached, judicial, impartial, independent’. In other words, it contemplates that the person must be detached, independent, and non-partisan and really not interested which way in the context the case goes. Normally, a person who is performing an act in official capacity cannot be a person interested under Section 91(3). I think the phrase a person interested’ ever moreso has been quite definitively put in the case of Holton v. Holton (1946) 2 AER 534 at 535 to mean a person who has pecuniary or other material interest in the result of the proceeding a person whose interest is affected by the result of the proceedings, and, therefore would have no temptation to pervert the truth to serve his personal or private ends. It does not mean an interest in the sense of intellectual observation or an interest purely due to sympathy. It means an interest in the legal sense, which imports something to be gained or lost.’

✓ In C.P.C. v. Ombugadu (2013) ALL FWLR (Pt.706) 406 at 472 473 Para H B when considering and determining who is a person interested under Section 91(3) of the Evidence Act 2011 held thus: “By the provision of Section 91(3), Evidence Act, a person interested is a person who has a pecuniary or other material interest and is affected by the result of the proceedings and therefore would have a temptation to pervert the truth to serve his personal or private ends. It does not mean an interest purely due to sympathy. It means an interest in the legal sense which imports something be gained or lost”.

✓ In fact, in its most recent decision in OYETOLA & ANOR v INEC & ORS (2023) LPELR-60392(SC), the Supreme Court, per Agim, JSC restated this position in the following words: “The other evidence adduced by the Appellant to prove their case is the expert analysis report prepared by PW1, who by his own admission is a member of the 2nd Appellant and had been a Special Assistant to the 1st Appellant and was engaged by the Appellants to establish the invalidity of the disputed results in Form EC8A for the 744 polling units. He testified further that “I made the report as directed by the Petitioners” and that “I am part of those who wrote the Petition”. By his own testimony he established that he was no an independent expert as he had an interest in the subject of his analysis and carried out the analysis from the conclusion that the results were invalid, to justify to support the contemplated election petition. It was an analysis from an answer and not from a question. Such a report is not the product of an independent, impartial, detached and professional analysis. He is clearly a person with the disposition or temptation to depart from the truth… The listing of the expert analysis report in the Petition among the documents to be relied on to prove the petition show it was made in anticipation or contemplation to be filed. The report having been made by PW1 as a person interested in the subject matter of the report when the petition was anticipated to establish that the election result was invalid is not admissible evidence.

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NO LAW MAKES PARTY APPEARANCE IN COURT MANDATORY

Instructively, there is no law making it compulsory for a party in a civil action to appear physically in Court. All that is necessarily required, in the best interest of good administration of justice, is that the day to day judicial schedule (Cause List) of the Court is not stultified or frustrated by non-appearance of a party before it.

– I.M.M. Saulawa JCA. Owhor v. Obodo (2020) – CA/PH/448/2017

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WHOEVER ALLEGATION IS MADE AGAINST SHOULD BE JOINED IN AN ELECTION PETITION, NOT JUST THE CONTESTANTS

I am however of the opinion that the second complaint of 1st respondent against paragraph 129 of the petition, that it also deserves to be struck out for petitioners’ failure to join Hon. Adejoh, Chairman of Olamaboro L.G.A. of Kogi State accused by them of having led thugs at gun point to force Electoral officers in named polling units in Olamaboro L.G.A. of Kogi State to declare concluded elections in the said units cancelled, is well made. The petitioners’ response that not only was no relief claimed by them against Hon. Adejoh, he did not even participate’ in the election neither was he returned so he is not a person contemplated by section 133 of the Electoral Act 2022 to be joined to an election petition, is not a valid response. Section of 133 of the Electoral Act 2022 only deals with the issue of which contestant of an election ought to be joined in an election petition by a co-contestant. It has nothing to do with the issue of joining of third parties against whom allegations of electoral infraction are made by petitioners as in this case. Such persons must be joined to the petition if the court is not to be exposed to the risk of infringing their fundamental right to fair hearing guaranteed by the Constitution. It is also of no moment that no relief was claimed against such persons in the petition; what is important is that allegations of electoral malpractice, which will require the court to make findings, including condemnation of their alleged conduct where necessary, are made in the petition. Support for that position can be found in NWANKWO V. YAR’ADUA (2010) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1209) 518 at 583 where Muntaka-Coomassie, J.S.C., after reproducing the provisions of the then newly enacted section 144(2) of the Electoral Act 2006 (in pari materia with section 133(2) of the Electoral Act 2022) and confirming that that provision had done away with the old regime of the Electoral Act 2002 that required petitioners to join all relevant Electoral Officers of INEC that conducted an impugned election, in addition to INEC itself, spoke thus at page 583: “Unless the conduct of a party who is not an agent of the Commission is in question, it will then be necessary to join such party as a necessary party to the petition in order to afford such party a fair hearing.” (Italics mine) As regards the consequence of failure to join such necessary parties on the petition itself, His Lordship again said as follows: “However, where such a party is not made a party, it will not result into the whole petition being struck out, but the particular allegation against such party is liable to be struck out.” That is the fate of paragraph 129 of the petition where allegations of electoral malpractice were made by the Petitioners against Hon. Adejoh yet he was not cited in the petition. Incidentally, this is also one of the main reasons the Supreme Court gave in dismissing the appeal of the petitioners in the Ondo State Governorship case of Eyitayo Jegede & Another v. I.N.E.C. & Ors (2021) LPELR-55481 (SC) where allegations were made by the Petitioners in that case against the then National Caretaker Committee Chairman of the present 3rd Respondent, APC, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, yet he was not joined to the petition by the Petitioners.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 2023)

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DIRECTING PERSONAL ATTENDANCE OF APPELLANT INFRINGES LIBERTY

The order of the Court directing the personal attendance of the appellants is an interference with their liberty as provided under Section 35 of the Constitution 1999 (as amended) when there is no law or rules of Court expressly authorizing the infringement.

– Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)

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