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WHERE PRELIMINARY OBJECTION IS ARGUED IN THE BRIEF OF ARGUMENT

Dictum

I shall now consider the Preliminary Objection. Order 2 Rule 9 of the Supreme Court Rules provides for the filing of Preliminary Objections. It enjoins a respondent who intends to rely on a Preliminary Objection to give the appellant three clear days notice before the hearing setting out in clear terms the grounds of objection. The purpose is to give the appellant enough time to address the respondents objection. It is also accepted practice for the respondent to argue his Preliminary Objection in his brief in which case the appellant would have to respond in a reply brief. In this appeal the respondents argued their Preliminary Objection in their brief. The procedure adopted by the respondents obviates the need to file a separate notice of preliminary objection.The appellants responded by filing an amended reply brief. The Preliminary Objection and the appellants response are thus properly before this court.

— O. Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Wassah & Ors. v. Kara & Ors. (2014) – SC.309/2001

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IF FACTS ARE RAISED IN PRELIMINARY OBJECTION, AN AFFIDAVIT MUST BE FILED

In Ama v. Nwankwo [2007] 12 NWLR (Pt. 1049) 552 at 578, Rhodes-Vivour, JCA (as he then was) stated the position of the law relating to preliminary objection vis-à-vis the necessity of filing a supporting affidavit thusly: Preliminary objection strictly speaking deals with law. Consequently there is no need for supporting affidavit, but the grounds of the objection must be clearly stated. For example, objection that court process has not been complied with, suit/process is an abuse of process. When, as often happens a preliminary objection strays from law to facts of the case, the onus is on the party relying on the preliminary objection to justify the facts, and this can only be done by filing an affidavit. A preliminary objection may be supported by affidavit depending on what is being objected to. If the preliminary objection is on law, an affidavit is unnecessary, but if on facts an affidavit is mandatory (emphasis is this Court’s).

— B.B. Kanyip J. FG v. ASUU (2023) – NICN/ABJ/270/2022

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HOW TO FILE A PRELIMINARY OBJECTION

In response to the submissions of the learned counsel to the Appellant, the learned counsel to the Respondent in his brief of argument, argued at length what he termed a preliminary objection. It is noted that it was not headed as such and there was no Notice of the preliminary objection filed with the grounds upon which it was brought. It was argued as a preliminary point/preliminary objection under the background facts. When the appeal was argued the learned counsel to the Respondent did not argue the supposed preliminary objection before the main appeal was argued. No wonder then that the learned counsel to the Appellant did not respond to it but, only responded to the substantive appeal. It is taken that the supposed preliminary objection was abandoned by the learned counsel to the Respondent. The Court of Appeal Rules, 2016 outlined the mode of raising a preliminary objection on appeal in Order 10 Rule (1) thus: 10:(1) “A respondent intending to rely upon a preliminary objection to the hearing of the appeal, shall give the Appellant three clear days’ notice thereof before the hearing, setting out the grounds of objection, and shall file such notice together with twenty copies thereof with the registry within the same time.” The requirements for reliance on a preliminary objection to the hearing of an appeal as provided for by Order 10 Rule (1) are three fold. These are: (1) Three clear days’ notice must be given by the Appellant before the hearing of the appeal. (2) The grounds of the objection must be clearly set out in the preliminary objection. (3) Twenty copies of the preliminary objection shall be filed with the Registrar within the same time. The Respondent did not comply with any of the requirements. No doubt, a Notice of objection can be given in the brief of argument, it does not dispense with the need for the Respondent to move the court at the hearing for the reliefs prayed for. Where a preliminary objection to an appeal is set out in the brief of argument, the Respondent cannot merely adopt his brief of argument in respect of the preliminary objection; which is what the learned counsel to the Respondent did in this case when the appeal was argued. Learned counsel is required to proffer oral argument in support of the grounds which are incorporated in the preliminary objection. The Notice of preliminary objection can be given in the Respondent’s brief, but, learned counsel must ask the court for leave to move the Notice of objection before the oral hearing of the appeal commences, otherwise it would be deemed to have been waived and therefore abandoned. The Respondent clearly failed to comply with the Rules of this court in raising and arguing a preliminary objection challenging the competence of this appeal.

— C.N. Uwa, JCA. FRN v Ozekhome (2021) – CA/L/174/19

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PRELIMINARY OBJECTION WILL BE CONSIDERED FIRST

It is trite law now that where a Notice of Preliminary Objection is filed and moved before a court of law, the court is duty bound to consider the Preliminary Objection before venturing into the main or cross-appeal, as the case may be. See: AGBAREH and ANOR v. MIMRA and ORS, (2008) 1 SCNJ. 409, ONYEKWULUJE v. ANIMASHAUN and ANOR [1996] 3 SCNJ 24; ONYEMEH and ORS. v. EGBUCHULAM and ORS. [1996] 4 SCNJ 235 … The aim/essence of a preliminary objection is to terminate at infancy, or as it were, to nib it at the bud, without dissipating unnecessary energies in considering an unworthy or fruitless matter in a court’s proceedings. It, in other words, forecloses hearing of the matter in order to save time, See: YARO v. AREWA CONSTRUCTION LTD. and ORS. [2007] 6 SCNJ 418.

— I.T. Muhammad, JSC. EFET v INEC (SC.207/2009, 28 January 2011)

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PURPOSE OF A PRELIMINARY OBJECTION

A preliminary objection is the procedure adopted where a respondent objects to the hearing of an appeal. Its purpose is to terminate the appeal in limine.

– PER M.L. SHUAIBU, J.C.A. Cross & Star v. Government of Cross River State (2022)

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A PRELIMINARY OBJECTION WHICH IS NOT PURSUED IS ABANDONED

An issue or a preliminary objection in respect of which no argument is advanced in the brief of argument and therefore not canvassed before the court must be deemed abandoned. see Lemboye v. Ogunsiji (1990) 6 NWLR (Pt.155) 210 at 232; Ajibade v. Pedro (1992) 5 NWLR (Pt.241) 257; Are v. Ipaye (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt.29) 416 at 418.

— Iguh, JSC. Onamade v ACB (1997) – SC.199/1990

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AFFIDAVIT SHOULD BE FILED WHERE THERE ARE ISSUES OF FACTS IN PRELIMINARY OBJECTION

Grounds (v), (vi) and (vii) of the preliminary objection themselves raise issues of facts, at best issues of mixed law and facts, for which the defendant ought to have filed a supporting affidavit. The defendant did not. Grounds (v), (vi) and (vii) are respectively stated to be thus: (v) The Plaintiffs’ Suit does not disclose a reasonable cause of action against the Defendants. (vi) The Plaintiffs’ Suit is lacking in bona fide, as it was filed to harass, irritate and embarrass the Defendant, which constitutes an abuse of judicial process. (vii) The ministers (sic) Referral offends the twin pillar of Justice – nemo judex in causa sua and audi alterem partem. These are not grounds that can be resolved without the facts upon which they are based — facts that ought to come by way of an affidavit from the defendant.

— B.B. Kanyip J. FG v. ASUU (2023) – NICN/ABJ/270/2022

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