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RULES OF COURT DO NOT VEST JURISDICTION IN A COURT OF LAW

Dictum

There is another aspect of the matter and it is the citation of Order 43 Rule 1 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules of Abia State. While I agree that they are the current Rules, can Rules of Court vest jurisdiction in a court of law? Rules of court do not possess any legal capacity to vest jurisdiction in a court. That is never their function. The function belongs to the Constitution and statutes; not rules of court. I will therefore not examine the content of Order 43 Rule 1 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules of Abia State.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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BEFORE A COURT CAN EXERCISE JURISDICTION

Before a court can exercise jurisdiction respect of any matter, it must:- (a) be properly constituted as regards numbers and qualification of the members of the bench, and no member is disqualified for one reason or the others. (b) the subject-matter of the case is within the jurisdiction and there is no feature in the case which prevents the court from exercising its jurisdiction and (c) The case comes by clue process of law and upon fulfillment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction.

— O.O. Adekeye, JSC. Mini Lodge v. Ngei (2009) – SC.231/2006

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ISSUES BETWEEN CUSTOMER AND BANKER FALLS WITHIN A STATE HIGH COURT JURISDICTION

So, where any dispute relates to breach of or non-compliance with certain formalities required by law for the lawful operation of banking business, the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court. See: Merchants Bank Ltd. v. Federal Minister of Finance (1961) All NLR 598. It is to be noted as well, where what is involved is only a dispute between a Bank and its customer in the ordinary cause of banking business, like an action by a bank to recover overdrafts granted to the customer, the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction. It is the State High Court that has jurisdiction in such a case. See: Jammal Steel Structures Ltd. v. African Continental Bank Ltd (1973) 1 All NLR (Pt.11)208; Bronik Motors Ltd & Anor v. Wema Bank Ltd (1983) 1 SCLR 296; FMBN v. NDIC (1999) 2 SCNJ 57 at 82.

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

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COURT EXERCISES JURISDICTION ONLY OVER THOSE WHO ARE WITHIN ITS TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION

Courts exercise jurisdiction over persons who are within its territorial jurisdiction: Nwabueze vs. Obi-Okoye (1988) 10-11 SCNJ 60 at 73; Onyema vs. Oputa (1987) 18 NSCC (Pt. 2) 900; Ndaeyo vs. Ogunnaya (1977) 1 SC 11. Since the respondent was fully aware that before the issuance of the writ the appellant’s abode or residence for the past one year was no longer at No.189, Off R.B. Dikko Road, Asokoro, Abuja within jurisdiction, substituted service of the processes should not have been ordered by the learned trial Judge.

— J.T. Tur, JCA. Abdulkardir Abacha v Kurastic [2014] – CA/A/406/2010

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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 CAN BE RAISED AT ANYTIME NOT APPLICABLE TO ARBITRATION

For instance, the general position of the law that the issue of jurisdiction of a Court can be raised at any stage of the proceedings of a case, even for the first time at the appellate stage, is not applicable to arbitral proceedings before an arbitral Tribunal because the Act, in Section 12(3) has provided the stage at which a challenge to the jurisdiction of the arbitral Tribunal is to or may be raised by a party.

– Garba, JCA. Dunlop v. Gaslink (2018)

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COURT HAS JURISDICTION TO DETERMINE IF IT HAS JURISDICTION

Before a court finally determines a case pending, it is seised with jurisdiction to determine whether or not it has jurisdiction, but once the court has declined jurisdiction it is functus officio – such a decision can only be referred to an appellate court.

— O.O. Adekeye, JCA. Omotunde v. Omotunde (2000) – CA/I/M.57/2000

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