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THE RULE OF ESTOPPEL PREVENTS ONE BLOWING HOT & COLD

Dictum

By operation of the rule of estoppel a man is not allowed to blow hot and cold, to affirm at one time and deny at the other, or, as it is said, to approbate and reprobate. He cannot be allowed to mislead another person into believing in a state of affairs and then turning round to say to that person’s disadvantage that the state of affairs which he had represented does not exist at all or as represented by him.

– Nnaemeka-agu, JSC. Ude v. Nwara (1993)

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WHERE BY WORDS OR CONDUCT A PARTY HAS MADE THE OTHER PARTY CHANGE HIS STANCE

The position of the law still remains the same. It is that where by words or conduct, a party to a transaction freely makes to the other an unambiguous promise or assurance which is intended to affect the legal relations between them and the former acts upon it by altering his position to his detriment, the party making the promise of assurance will not be permitted to act inconsistently with it. This is as pronounced in Central London Property Trust Ltd. v. High Trees House Ltd. (1947) K.B. 130. It has remained good law for a long time now. I approve same without any reservation.

— J.A. Fabiyi, JSC. BFI v. Bureau PE (2012) – SC.12/2008

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WHEN A COURT DECIDES AN ISSUE, IT CREATES AN ISSUE ESTOPPEL

Para. 12: “On 27th October 2009, the court issued a ruling in an application for preliminary objection raised by the defence. These issues about the court’s jurisdiction in this matter as well as the exhaustion of local remedies were decided in that ruling. It is thus inappropriate for Counsel to raise the same issues again. The principle of law is clear that when a court has decided on some issues in the case, the decision creates issue estoppel as between the parties and/or their privies in the present and any subsequent proceedings in which same issue’s is/are raised. Besides, the decision of this court is final and can only be altered through a revision if the correct procedure is followed. In view of the foregoing, the court cannot re-open these two issues about its jurisdiction and exhaustion of local remedies.”

— SERAP v FRN (2010) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/07/10

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FIVE CONDITIONS FOR ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM TO SUCCEED

I would first refer to the case of Oshodi & 2 ors v. Eyifunmi (2000) 3 NSCQR 320 at 338 – 340, 339 wherein Iguh JSC had proffered five conditions which must be present for the plea of Estoppel per rem judicatam to succeed. These are:- 1. That the parties or their privies are the same that is to say that the parties involved in both the previous and the present proceedings are the same. 2. That the claims or the issues in dispute in both the previous and present actions are the same. 3. The res, that is to say the subject matter of the litigation in the two cases is the same. 4. The decision relied upon to support the plea of Estoppel per rem judicatam must be valid subsisting and final. 5. The court that gave the previous decision relied upon to sustain the plea must be a court of competent jurisdiction.

— M.U. Peter-Odili, JSC. Ugo v. Ugo (2007) – CA/A/110/2007

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REQUIREMENTS FOR ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATA

Before a judgment of a court can qualify as an estoppel per rem judicata and in order to bind a party; the following conditions must be satisfied: a) The judgment must be valid and subsisting; b) the parties in that judgment must be the same as the parties (either by themselves or their privies) in the subsequent proceedings; c) the subject-matter must be the same; and d) the issue or cause (in issue estoppel or cause of action estoppel as the case may be decided in the earlier proceedings must have arisen again in the later proceedings.

— Adeyemo v. Ida & Ors. (1998) – CA/1/6/92

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ESTOPPEL: ISSUE & CAUSE OF ACTION ESTOPPEL

Two types of Estoppel by record are:- (a) Cause of Action Estoppel – which precludes a party to an action or his agents and privies from disputing as against the other party in any subsequent proceedings, matters which had been adjudicated upon previously by a court of competent jurisdiction between him and his adversary and involving same issue. (b) Issue Estoppel which precludes a party his servant, agent or privy from re-opening or relitigating as against the other party or his agents and privies in any subsequent proceedings, issues which were distinctly raised in a cause of action and appropriately resolved or determined in any suit between the parties in a court of competent jurisdiction.

– ADEKEYE, JCA. NOGA v. NICON (2007)

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NATURE OF ISSUE ESTOPPEL

Issue estoppel applies when parties or their privies are prevented in a subsequent suit from relitigating an issue which had earlier on been adjudicated upon by a court of competent jurisdiction and which same issue comes incidentally in question in any subsequent proceedings. In other words issue estoppel applies to preclude a party from contending the contrary or opposite of any specific point which having once been distinctly put in issue has with certainty and solemnity been determined against him.

– Mohammed JCA. Rufukka v. Kurfi (1996)

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