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WHEN ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM CAN SUCCEED

Dictum

Judicial authorities have enunciated the principles which are well pronounced in the case of Makun V. F.U.T. Minna (supra) wherein this court re-iterated that, for a plea of estoppel per rem judicatam to succeed, the party relying thereon must establish the following requirements or pre-conditions namely:- (a) That the parties or their privies are the same in both the previous and the present proceeding. (b) That the claim or issues in dispute in both actions are the same. (c) That the res or the subject matter of litigation in the two cases is the same. (d) That the decision relied upon to support the plea of estoppel per rem judicatam is valid, subsisting and final. (e) That the court that gave the previous decision relied upon to sustain the plea is a court of competent jurisdiction. It has also been held severally by this court that, unless all the above constitutional elements or requirements of the doctrine are fully established, the plea of estoppel per rem judicatam cannot sustain. See also the decisions in Yoye V. Olalode (1974) 10 SC 209; Alase V. Olori-Ilu (1965) NMLR 66; Fadiora V. Gbadebo (1978) 3 SC 219 and Udo V. Obot (1989) 1 SC (Pt. 1) 64.

— C.B. Ogunbiyi, JSC. Ogbolosingha v. B.S.I.E.C. (2015) – SC.165/2013

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WHAT IS AN ESTOPPEL

An estoppel is part of the law of evidence. It is no other than a bar to testimony. It’s sole function is to place an obstacle in the way of a case which might otherwise succeed or to remove an impediment out of the way of a case which might otherwise fail.

– Oputa JSC. Gbadamosi v. Bello (1985)

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DEFENCE OF ESTOPPEL MUST BE PLEADED

It is trite law in Nigeria on the authorities I have earlier cited in this judgment that the defence of estoppel, whether founded on admissions or not, must be pleaded and, if it has not been pleaded, any evidence tending to establish it goes to no issue and the evidence ought to be rejected: Ogboda v. Adulugha (1971) 1 All N.L.R. 86. This is a general statement of the law. Let us see if the High Court of Lagos (Civil Procedure) Rules, 1972, which is the applicable law, make provision for an exception.

— M. Bello, JSC. Salawu Ajide V. Kadiri Kelani (SC.76/1984, 29 Nov 1985)

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ESTOPPEL IS A SHIELD AND NOT A SWORD – NOTHING LIKE TITLE BY ESTOPPEL

The estoppel put an impediment on its way, Estoppel is thus a shield not a sword; it’s role is defensive not offensive. To use the language of naval warfare, an estoppel must always be either a mine layer or a mine sweeper; it can never be a capital unit. There is nothing like title by estoppel as an estoppel gives no title to that which is the subject matter of the estoppel.

– Nnamani JSC. Gbadamosi v. Bello (1985)

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REQUIREMENT FOR ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATA

Now, for a judgment to constitute issue estoppel the following conditions must be satisfied: – 1. the same question must be for decision in both proceedings (i.e. the same question for decision in the current suit must have been decided in the previous suit); 2. the decision relied upon to support the plea of issue estoppel must be final; 3. the parties or their privies must be the same. The three elements must be present and co-exist for a plea of estoppel per rem judicata to apply. See Ito v. Ekpe & Ors (2000) 3 NWLR (pt. 650) 678; Oshoboja v. Amida & Ors (2009) LPELR-2803 (SC) and Oleksandr & Ors v. Lonestar Drilling Co. Ltd & Anor (2015) LPELR – 24614 (SC).

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. APM v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/04/2023

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THE RULE OF ESTOPPEL PREVENTS ONE BLOWING HOT & COLD

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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PRINCIPLE OF ESTOPPEL BY CONDUCT – WAIVER OF RIGHT

The principle of estoppel by conduct is based on the public policy that says that there must be an end to litigation. Its aim is, not only to hold a party to his undertaking that he will no longer insist on either his right to appeal or the accrued right or obligation from the judgment, but also not to allow a person benefit from his prevarication. Equity, generally abhors subterfuge, deception and some other unconscienable conduct. Equity acts in personam … It operates thus: if a person with full knowledge of the rights, interest, profits or benefits conferred upon or accruing to him by and under the law, intentionally decides to give up all these, or some of them, he cannot be heard to complain afterwards that he has not been permitted the exercise of his right, or that he has suffered by his not having exercised his rights. In the circumstance, just like in the instant case, he should be held to have waived his rights and consequently estopped from raising the issue subsequently.

— Ejembi Eko, JSC. County Dev. Co. v Hon. Min. Env. Housing Urban Dev. (2019) – SC.239/2011

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