Amana V. Igala Area Traditional Council & Ors (2022)
LAWGLOBAL HUB Lead Judgment Report
MOHAMMED LAWAL GARBA, J.S.C.
The Appellant’s late father was appointed and beaded by the Attah of Igala, (the Attah), as the Onu-Ojokogbe of Ochadamu Community and District Head of Ochadamu District made up of 20 villages including Ochadamu town, Emewe Ochadamu, Olofu-Olama, Ejule, Umomi town and Ajedime.
Later on, the Attah, through the 1st Respondent, appointed and beaded the 2nd Respondent as the Agenyi-Attah and put him in control of Ochadamu town, Emewe-Ochadamu, Okele, Ofejiji, Alame-Ejule, Ikpakejo, Umomi town, Ogbakpedo and Ajedime villages as caretaker in trust for the Attah.
On ground of alleged misconduct and disloyalty, the Onu-Ojokogbe was debeaded by the Attah and his areas of caretaker-ship were limited to Ojokogbe (Utu), Obaje-Ako, Ofakaga No. 2, Okabo and Owowolo villages.
Aggrieved by the action of the Attah, the Onu-Ojokobge initiated a legal action before the High Court of Kogi State against 1st Respondent, Alh. (Dr.) Aliyu Obaje (Attah of lgala), the 2nd and 3rd Respondents by which he sought the nullification of the action of the Attah in reducing the areas of his caretaker-ship and debeading him on ground of lack of fair hearing. He also sought injunctive reliefs against the Respondents (Defendants).
At the end of trial, the High Court found for the Appellant’s father and entered judgment in his favour on the 6th of May, 2011 against which the Respondents appeal to the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division (Court below) vide the Notice of Appeal dated 17th June, 2011.
In the judgment delivered on the 8th December, 2016, the Court below allowed the appeal and set aside the decision of the trial High Court.
Being dissatisfied with that decision by the Court below, the appellant brought this final appeal by the Notice of Appeal dated 19th but filed on 21st December, 2016 which was amended by the Amended Notice of Appeal filed on 19th November 2018, deemed on 1st April, 2019.
Briefs of argument were filed by the learned counsel for the parties in line with the Rules of the Court as follows:-
- Appellant’s Amended Brief filed on the 19th of November, 2018, deemed on 1st April, 2019;
- 1st and 3rd Respondents’ Brief filed on the 19th of July, 2021, deemed on the 18th of January, 2022;
- Amended 2nd Respondent’s Brief filed on the 22nd December, 2021 deemed 18th January, 2022 and
- Appellant’s Reply Brief to the 1st and 3rd Respondents’ Brief filed on 13th January, 2022, deemed on 18th January, 2022.
Before proceeding with the consideration of the issues submitted for determination in the Briefs of argument, I have carefully perused the thirteen (13) grounds set out on the Amended Notice of Appeal relied on by the Appellant for the prosecution of the appeal and note that like the initial Notice of Appeal mentioned above, it was filed as of right.
By the provisions of Section 233 (2)(a), an appeal shall lie from the decisions of the Court below to this Court as of right where the ground of appeal involves questions of law alone, decisions in civil or criminal proceedings before the Court below. Then, Sub-section (3) of the Section provides that subject to the provisions of Sub-section (2), and appeal shall lie from the decision of the Court below to this Court with the leave of the Court below or this Court.
Put briefly, the prescription in these simple provisions is that an appeal against the decision of the Court below to this Court shall lie and be brought as of right where the ground/s involve/s question/s of law alone otherwise prior leave of the Court below or this Court is required, as a condition precedent, to bring the appeal where the grounds do not involve/s questions of issue/s of law alone. Thus, where an appeal against the decision of the Court below is on grounds which raise questions of mixed law and facts or facts alone, prior leave of the Court below or this Court is necessary before the appeal or grounds can be validly and competently brought in this Court. In other words, such an appeal is only competent in law if the prior leave of Court was sought for and obtained by an Appellant as a condition precedent for its validity.
The absence of the leave will constitute failure to fulfil a condition precedent to the competence of the appeal which will in turn, deprive the Court of the requisite jurisdiction to adjudicate over it. This position of the law has been repeatedly stated by this Court in several decisions that include Ojukwu v. Onyeador (1991) 7 NWLR (pt. 203) 286, Gov., Kwara State v. Gafar (1997) 7 NWLR (pt. 511) 51, Odofin v. Agu (1992) 3 NWLR (pt. 229) 350, Ikeme v. Anakwe (2000) 8 NWLR (pt. 669) 484, Ajuwa v. SPDC Nig. Ltd. (2012) 11 WRN, 1 (SC) Olisa-lmegwu v. Uche Okolocha (2013) 2-3 SC (pt. 1) 72, Akinyemi v. Odu’a Invest. co. Ltd. (2012) 17 NWLR (pt. 1329) 209 (SC).
Because the issue is one that goes to the competence of an appeal or grounds thereof and the jurisdiction of the Court to adjudicate over same, it can be raised by this Court at this stage without the need to call for address by the learned counsel for the parties, since no amount of address can change the nature of the grounds of the appeal at the final appellate Court.
see Omokuwajo v. FRN (2013) 9 NWLR (pt. 1359) 300 at 332, NNPC v. Roven Shipping Ltd. (2019)9 NWLR (pt. 1676) 67 at 92.
Though the distinction between a ground of appeal which raises and involves question of pure law or one which involves question/s of mixed law and facts and fact alone, is admittedly not easily identifiable, this Court has over the years, evolved guidelines to be used in the proper identification of the nature of the grounds of an appeal. As a general step and requirement, the Court is required to closely consider and examine the grounds of the appeal along with the specific particulars set out in support thereof together, for the purpose of identifying the real complaint or grievance contained in each of the grounds. The nature of a ground of appeal is not determined or dependent on the label tagged on it on the Notice of Appeal by counsel but is revealed from the careful examination of the complaint embedded in the body of the ground taken along with the particulars which ossify it. See Ojemen v. Momodu ll (1983) SC, 173, Nwadike v. Ibekwe (1987) 12 SC, 14, (1987) 11-12 SCNJ, 72, Min. of Petr. Mineral Resources v. Ekpo-Shipping Lint Ltd (2010) 12 NWLR (pt. 1208) 261,UBA Ltd. v. Stahlbau GMBH & Co. KG. (1989) I N WLR (pt. 110) 374. In Ehinlanwo v. Oke (2008) 6-7 SC (pt. II) 123, (2008) 16 NWLR (pt. 113) 357, Onnoghen, JSC (in the leading judgment) of the Court had stated that:-
“The Principles guiding the Court in determining whether a ground of appeal is one of law or fact or mixed law and fact have long been settled. They are however as follows:-
(i) Where the Court is being invited to investigate the existence or otherwise of certain facts upon the award of damages to the respondent was based, such a ground is of mixed law and fact.
(ii) A ground which challenges the findings of fact made by the trial Court or involves issues of law and fact can only be argued with the leave of the appellate Court.
(iii) Where the evaluation of facts established by the trial Court before the law in respect thereof is applied is under attack or question, the ground of appeal is one of mixed law and fact.
(iv) Where the evaluation of evidence tendered at the trial is exclusively a question, it is a ground of fact.
(v) A ground of law arises where the ground of appeal shows that the Court of trial or appellate Court misunderstood the law or misapplied the law to the proved or admitted facts.”
see also Obeche v. Onochie (1986) 2 NWLR (pt. 23) 484, P. N. Udoh Trading co. Ltd. v. Abere (2001) 1 NWLR (pt. 723) 111, Okwuagbala v. Ikwueme (2010) 19 N WLR (pt. 1226) 54, Metal Const. (W.A) Ltd. v. Migliore (1990) 1 NWLR (pt. 126) 299, Ononuju v. A. G. Anambra State (2009) 10 NWLR (pt. 1148) 182, Onifade v. Olayiwola (1990) 7 NWLR (pt. 161) 130, Obatoyin v. Ejidike (1996) 4 SCNJ, 249, Faith Ent. Ltd. v. B.A. S.F. Nig. Ltd. (2010) 4 NWLR (pt. 1183) 104.
In line with the aforenamed principles, I have calmly examined the thirteen (13) grounds contained on the Amended Notice of Appeal of the Appellant and observed, without difficulty, that only grounds one (1) and six (6); which contain a common complaint on the alleged misunderstanding and misapplication of the provisions in Section 6(6)(d) of the 1999 Constitution to the undisputed facts in the case, involve question of law alone or pure law alone that can validly be brought as of right in a competent appeal by the provisions of Section 233 (2) (a) of the Constitution. All the other grounds contained on the Amended Notice of Appeal deal with complaints which involve questions of mixed facts and law on evaluation of evidence and appraisal of facts of the Igala custom and tradition in relation to appointment of Chiefs and their areas of authority. These other grounds not being on questions of pure law alone, require prior leave of either the Court below or this Court, to be valid and competent for the purpose of vesting the Court with the requisite jurisdiction to entertain them in the appeal. The said grounds cannot therefore be validly filed and competently brought in the appeal, as of right without fulfilment of the condition precedent by way of obtaining the prior leave of Court to do so. The absence of the requisite leave renders the said grounds incompetent and liable to be struck out on ground that the Court is thereby deprived of the jurisdiction to entertain them.
In addition to the judicial authorities cited earlier on the position. See Obijuru v. Ozims (1985) 2 NWLR (pt. 6) 167 at 176, Irhabor v. Ogaiamien (1999) 8 NWLR (pt. 616)517, Ojemen v. Momodu ll (supra), Ogbechie v. Onochie (supra), Akpasubi v. Umweni (1982) 11 SC, 132 at 139, Uchendu v. Ogboni (1999) 4 SC (pt. 11) 1, (1999) 5 NWLR (pt. 603) 337, Oje v. Babalola (1987) 4 NWLR (pt. 14) 208.
In the premises, grounds “TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE, TEN, ELEVEN, TWELVE and THIRTEEN” on the Appellant’s Amended Notice of Appeal filed on 19th November, 2018, deemed on the 1st of April, 2019, are hereby struck out being incompetent on ground of want of prior leave of Court to be brought.
Issues 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 formulated from the said incompetent grounds are also incompetent and struck out. See Sadiku v. A.G. Lagos State (1994) 7 NWLR (pt. 355) 235, John Holt Ventures Ltd. v. Oputa (1996) 9 NWLR (pt. 470) 101, UBA Plc v. Akparabong C. Bank (2006) All F WLR (pt. 320) 1099, Ogundipe v. Adenuga (2006) All FWLR (pt. 336) 266.
We are now left with the balance of grounds ONE and SIX of the Amended Notice of Appeal which, as stated earlier, do not require prior leave of Court, since they involve the question of law, and are competent to sustain and maintain the appeal.
See Ojukwu v. Yar’adua (2009) 12 NWLR (pt. 1154) 122, Omidiran v. Etteh (2011) 2 NWLR (pt. 1232) 471 at 489, Kalu v. lgwe (2002) 5 NWLR (pt. 761) 678, Okem Ent. Ltd. v. NDIC (2003) 5 NWLR (pt. 814) 492.
From the competent grounds 1 and 6 of the Amended Notice of Appeal, the following issue 2 was distilled for determination in the Amended Appellant’s Brief:-
” 2. Whether the lower Court was correct in its consideration of Section 6 (6) (d) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) when it held that the trial Court has no jurisdiction to hear and determine this case. (Grounds 1 and 6 of the Notice of Appeal). “The issue is argued at paragraphs 5.1 — 5.6 on pages 18 — 21 of the Amended Appellant’s Brief and after setting out part of the holding by the Court below complained of, it is contended that the provisions of Section 6 (6)(d) of the Constitution are not apposite to the facts of the case as shown by the reliefs sought before the trial Court by the Appellant. It is submitted that there is nothing in the pleadings of the parties which shows that the Appellant’s suit was a challenge to the competence of any law made on or after the 18th January, 1966 or the competence of any authority or person to make such law. Learned counsel pointed out that the Appellant’s suit was in respect of a dispute between him and the Respondents on his debeading and ceding part of his stool lands. Citing Buhari v. INEC (2008) 19 NWLR (pt. 1120) 246 at 402, and Njikonye, Esq. v. Min. Comm. Ltd. (2008) 9 NWLR (pt. 1092) 339 at 366, he submits that jurisdiction of a Court is conferred by the Constitution or statute and that the High Court of a State is vested with jurisdiction by the Constitution, not the Rules of Court. In further argument, Leaned Counsel says by virtue of Sections 6 (6) (b) and 272 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the trial High Court has unfettered jurisdiction or power to hear and determine the claims of the Appellant and that the Court below wrongly interpreted and applied the provision of Section 6(6) (d) to the facts of the case. The provision of Section 272 (1) was set out and it is maintained that the trial Court has the power and jurisdiction to hear the Appellant’s case and the Court is urged to resolve the issue in favour of the Appellant.
The issue was not considered and argued in the 1st and 3rd Respondents’ Brief.
In the Amended 2nd Respondent Brief, all the issues formulated in the Amended Appellant’s Brief are adopted and argued.
Issue 2 of the Appellant was argued at paragraphs 5.2 — 5.7 on pages 9 -11 of the brief to the effect that the Court below was right in the interpretation of the provision of Section 6 (6) (d) in accordance with the rules of statutory interpretation and does not occasion a miscarriage of justice. According to learned counsel for the 2nd Respondent, the provision of Section 6 (6) (d) “is exactly in respect of the instant case …as well as the cause of action.” He argues that Appellant’s cause of action was based on the completed acts of the Respondents ceding chieftaincy stool areas and debeading of him and so the case of Buhari v. INEC (supra) is not relevant to the case. Counsel maintains that the trial High Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the Appellant’s case by virtue of the provision of Section 6 (6) (d) which ousted its jurisdiction and that the Appellant has not shown that Section 272 (1) has repealed it. According to him, the Court below was right to have held that the trial Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the Appellant’s action by the combined provisions of Section 6 (6) (d) and 193 of the Constitution as well as the authority Olagbenro v. Olayiwola (2014) 17 NWLR (pt. 1436) 313 at 331.
The issue revolves around the jurisdiction of the trial High Court to entertain the Appellant’s Claims, as can easily be observed from the arguments of learned counsel.
Due to its crucial and fundamental nature, the question of jurisdiction in judicial proceedings of a Court of law; on ground of being both extrinsic and intrinsic thereto, is one which this Court has made countless pronouncements on to make it elementary in our judicial jurisprudence. Jurisdiction of a Court of law to entertain and adjudicate over a legal action brought before it has been defined and described various as:-
“blood that gives life to the survival of an action in the Court of law. ”
“Radical and crucial in adjudication. ”
“Foundation and cornerstone in adjudication” “a threshold issue and a lifeline for judicial proceedings” “radical and fundamental pre-requisite for adjudication ” e.t.c.
See Adeigbe v. Kusimo (1985) 1 NWLR, 248, Chacharos v. Ekimpex Ltd (1988) NWLR (pt. 68) 88, Bakare v. A.G. Federation (1990) 5 NWLR (pt. 152) 516, Garba v. Dangaladima (1993) 4 NWLR (pt. 285) 1, Kotoye v. Saraki (1993) 5 NWLR (pt. 296) 710, Shitta-Bey v. A. G. Federation (1998) 7 SC, (pt. 11) 121, (1998) 10 NWLR (pt. 570) 392, Utih v. Onoyivwe (1991) 1 NWLR (pt. 166) 166, Gaji v. Paye (2003) 8 NWLR (pt. 823) 583, Olatunde v. Abidogun (2001) 18 NWLR (pt. 746) 712, Olaboni v. Oyewinle (2013) LPELR- 20969 – (SC). In simple terms, the jurisdiction of a Court of law to entertain a case or matter brought before it is the legal power and judicial authority vested in it by the statute, including the constitution, under which it was created or established, or by which it was specifically conferred, to adjudicate; by way of judicial proceedings, and resolve disputes on the legal rights and/or obligations by parties.
Jurisdiction is therefore specifically and expressly conferred on and/or vested in a Court of law by the relevant statute or the Constitution and it is never presumed nor otherwise conferred or acquired over a case or matter.
A Court of law is said to have and possess the requisite jurisdiction to entertain and adjudicate over a UJcase or matter when:-
(a) It is properly constituted as to the number and qualifications of its members.
(b) Any condition precedent for the exercise of jurisdiction must have been fulfilled or satisfied,
(c) The subject matter and parties to the action must be within its jurisdiction; and
(d) The case or matter must have been brought to the Court by due processes of the law as provided for in the Constitution or the relevant statute.
Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR, 341, (1962) 1 All NLR, 587 stands as the Locus Classicus on the question or issue of jurisdiction in the Nigerian Courts from which general principles were laid over the years. It suffices for our purpose here.
In its judgment on the issue the Court below, at pages 465 and 467 — 468 of the Record of Appeal held that:-
“Section 6(6)(d) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) is to the effect that the High Court shall not as from the time when this Section comes into force, extend to any action or proceedings for determining any issue or question as to the competence of any authority or person.
In the instant case the trial Judge by the provision of Section 6(6)(d) of the Constitution, it is not his business declaring the respondent as the traditional owner of Ochadamu town and nullifying the decision of the Traditional Council under the Chairmanship of the Attah of lgala as null and void. It is also not his business to make an order restoring the allocated villages controlled by the 3rd appellant to the respondent when the decision taken, was by the Igala Area Traditional Council under the Chairmanship of the Attah of lgala, a Constituted Authority. It is a traditional council affair and the Court has no power to challenge its competence.
In the instant case, the Trial Court relied on the evidence of the respondent to nullify the decisions of the 1st and 2nd appellants in disregard to the ouster clause, the provision of Section 6(6)(d) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended).
The reason for so holding is that the 2nd appellant’s letter dated 12/01/2007 debeading the respondent as the beaded Onu Ojokogbe is unreasonable, unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect and a violation of the respondent’s right to fair hearing. The declarations by the trial Judge are reflected at pages 331 — 334 of the record.
The question is whether the trial Court was right in its finding. The answer is in the negative.
This is because, even though the respondent did not place before the Court the customary law of lgala land, the Ruling of the Ofu Local Government Traditional Council approved by the Attah of Igala is deemed applicable.
The Ofu Local Government Traditional Council under the Department of Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs, Deputy Governor’s office, Lokoja, an executive arm of government has the duty, function and responsibility of making Chieftaincy declarations on behalf of the government. Section 6(6)(d) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) precludes the High Court from inquiring into proceedings which seek to determine issues or questions as to the competence of any authority or person. Ouster clauses oust the jurisdiction of the Court — Olagbenro vs. Olayiwola (2014) 17 NWLR (part 1436) 313 at 331.
It follows therefore that the Court’s jurisdiction could be limited as in the instant case by the ouster clause in Section 6(6)(d) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended).
By virtue of Section 193(1) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) the Governor could and did rightly assign part of his duties to the office of Deputy Governor on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs who signed exhibit “D”.”
In effect, the above decision by the Court below is that the jurisdiction of the Appellant on the challenge of the Appellant to the decision of the 1st Respondent and the Attah on the ceding of lands under his control as the Onu-Ojokogbe and debeading him, was/is ousted by the provision of Section 6 (6) (d) of the Constitution, read along with Section 193.
In order to determine whether the decision is right or correct in law, it is necessary to invite Sections 6 (6) (d) and 193 of the Constitution to speak for themselves. Here they are:-
“6 (6) (d) Shall not, as from the date when this Section comes into force, extend to any action or proceedings relating to any existing law made on or after 15th January, 1966 for determining any issue or question as to the competence of any authority or person to make any such law. ”
These provisions are very clear, plain and unambiguous to be entitled to the ascription of their ordinary grammatical meanings by the literal and golden rules of interpretation of the Constitution/statute. See Agua Ltd. v. Ondo State Sports Council (1988) 4 N WLR (pt. 91) 622, NNPC v. Lutin Invests. Ltd. (2006) 1 SC (pt. Ill) 49, (2006) 2 N WLR (pt. 965) 506, Unipetrol Nig. Ltd. v. Edo State Board of Internal Revenue (2006) 4 SC (pt. l) 41, (2006) 8 NWLR (pt. 983) 624, Ogunlaji v. A.G. Federation (2005) 12 N WLR (pt. 940) 452, Togun v. Oputa (No.1), (2001) 16 NWLR (pt. 740) 577, Dangana v. Usman (2012) All FWLR (pt. 627) 612.
In their plain and simple grammatical meaning, the provisions of Section 6 (6) (d) say that the judicial powers vested in the Courts established by the Constitution or pursuant to the Constitution in the Section, shall not from the 29th of May, 1999, when the Constitution and the Section came into force, extend to any issue or question on the competence of any person or authority to make any existing law s made on or after the 15th of January, 1966. In brief, the judicial powers vested in Courts under this Section did not extend to entertaining actions which question the competence of any authority or person to make law made on 5th January 1966, from the date the Constitution came into force on 29th May, 1999. By the provisions, no Court established by or pursuant to the Constitution had/has the requisite judicial power to entertain and adjudicate over actions which question the competence to make any existing law made on or after 15th January, 1966, from the 29th of May, 1999. The judicial powers vested in the Courts by the Constitution do not include the power to entertain and conduct proceedings in actions which attack, challenge or question the legislative competence to make an existing or extant law which was made on or after the 15th of January, 1966; a date which marked the first interference, or intervention of the Nigerian Military into the then infant, Nigerian Political and Administrative History. The real purport of the provisions is to oust the judicial powers and jurisdiction of the Nigerian Courts, from the date the Constitution came into force on 29th May, 1999; which marked an end to the Military interference or incursion into the political and administrative development of Nigeria, to entertain actions that challenged the authority or competence of the Military to make any existing or extant law made on 15th January, 1966 or thereafter.
From the 29th of May, 1999 when the Constitution came into force, the validity of the authority and competence of the Military Government in Nigeria to have made, on or after 1966, any extant or existing law, could not and cannot be challenged in a legal action before any of the Courts established under or pursuant to the Constitution; the Supreme and Organic Law, the Grund Norm and fountain of all laws in Nigeria.
The ousting of the Court’s jurisdiction over legal actions challenging or questioning the legislative power and authority of the Military to have made any existing or extant law on and after the 15th of January, 1966 when they forcefully took over the political and administrative control of the country, constitutes and amounts to a restriction, limitation and circumscription on the judicial powers vested in them by the same Constitution under which or pursuant to which they are established or created. It is an established and known principle of law that being creatures of the Constitution or statute, as the case may be, the Courts only exercise judicial powers specifically vested by the Constitution or relevant statute which they cannot validly expand or extend. They are legally bound by the defined and specified boundaries of the jurisdiction prescribed by the Constitution or relevant statute and lack the competence to venture outside or beyond the jurisdiction vested therein. Nigeria Re-insurance Corp. v. Cudjoe (2008) All FWLR (pt. 414)1455, Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (supra), Obaro v. Hassan (2013) LPELR – 20089 (SC), Egbue v. Araka (1988) 7 SC (pt. 111) 98, (1988) 1 NWLR (pt. 82) 598, SLB Consortium Ltd. v. NNPC (2011) 9 NWLR 317, (2011) 5 SCM, 187, Adesina v. Kola (1993) 7 SCNJ, 79 (1993) 1 NWLR (pt. 298) 182, Egharevba v. Eribo (2010) 9 NWLR (pt. 1199) 411, Adetayo v. Ademola (2010) 15 NWLR (pt. 1215) 169, Ndaeyo v. Ogunaya (1977) 1 SC, 7, (1977) All NLR, 169. However, it must be pointed out and emphasized that the judicial powers of the Court was only ousted in actions which sought or seek to challenge the legislative competence of the authority or person (the military) to have made any extant or existing law made on or after 1966, but not in actions questioning or challenging the validity of the laws themselves. This Court, in the case of Nangibo v. Okafor (2003) 6 SC (pt. Il) 76, (2003) 14 NWLR (pt. 839) 78, interpreted the provisions of Section 6 (6) (d) of the 1979 Constitution, which are the same with the provisions of Section 6 (6) (d) of the 1999 Constitution (above) and stated, inter alia, that:-
“It ought to be emphasized here, that what Section 6 (6) (d) of the 1979 Constitution was meant to do or achieve was to oust the jurisdiction of the Courts, in determining any issue or question as to the legislative competence of any authority or person to promulgate any law. The Section had not the effect of prohibiting any Court from determining any issue or question as to the validity of any such law. Indeed, nowhere in Section 6 (6) (d) ibid was the prohibition extended to the question of determining the validity of any law. The prohibition was only as to issue or question of the competence of the law-maker to make the law in question. See University of Ibadan v. Ademolekun (1967) 1 All NLR 213. See also the decision of Nnamani, JSC in the Peenok’s case (supra) in (1982) 8 NSCC 477 at page 521; (1982) 12 SC 1 at 137, (1983) 4 NCLR 122, where His Lordship said: “This Court has held that the Courts are merely precluded from inquiring as to the legislative capacity to make a Decree or an Edict, but can inquire into whether an Edict is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federation. See University of Ibadan v. Ademolekun (1967) 1 ALL NLR, 213 at 234.”
See also Agip Nig. Ltd. v. A.G. Lagos State (1977) 11 – 12 SC, 24, (1977) ALL NLR, 297, (1977) LPELR – 249 (SC) Although it is known that Courts generally guard and protect their jurisdiction jealously and that provisions of statutes purporting to oust the jurisdiction over specific causes or matters are very strictly construed; Sofekun v. Adeyemi (1980) 5 – 7 SC 1 at 18-19, Adeogun v. Fashogbon (2008) 5 – 6 SC (pt. 1), Sapara v. U.C.H.B.M. (1988) 7 SC (pt. 1) 82, 1, Katto v. CBN (1991) 1 NWLR (pt. 214) 126, Ogaga v. Umukoro (2011) LPELR-8229 (SC), however, being creatures of the statutes from which the jurisdiction is derived, where the statutes expressly and in clear and unambiguous words and terms oust the jurisdiction of the Courts from inquiring into or determination of any issue or question, then the Courts have the legal duty to and are bound to give effect to the ouster provisions. See A.G. Lagos State v. Dosunmu (1989) 6 SC (pt. Il) 1, (1989) ALL NLR, 504, (1989) 3 NWLR (pt. 111) 614, Alade v. Alemuloke (1988) 2 SC, 1, (1988) 1 NWLR (pt. 69) 207, A.G. Federation v. Sode (1990) 1 NWLR (pt. 128) 500.
We now turn to the Appellant’s Claims in order to see and determine whether the ouster provisions of Section 6 (6) (d) apply or are applicable thereto, as stated by the Court below.
The claims as contained in paragraph 53 of the Further Amended Statement of Claim dated 11th November, 2010, are set out in the judgment of the trial Court, which appears at pages 140-142 and 280-282 of the Record of Appeal respectively. They are thus:-
“Whereof the Claimant’s reliefs or claim against the defendants jointly and severally is as follows:-
a. A DECLARATION that by Igala custom and tradition, the claimant by virtue of his positions as the Chief or Onu Ojokogbe or as the District Head of Ochadamu community and its environs is the one entitled to traditional ownership, control and administration of the following villages namely: Ochadamu town, Emewe-Ochadamu, Olofu-Ochadamu, Ofejiji, Okeke, Ikopheju, Alome Ejule, Umomi town and Ajedime.
b. A DECLARATION that the following villages namely: Ochadamu town Emewe Ochadamu, Olufu Ochadamu, Ofejiji, Okele, Ikpokeju, Alome Ejule, Umomi town and Ajedime Villages are within the areas of control and ownership of ona-Ojokogbe Chieftaincy stool and district head of Ochadamu District.
c. A DECLARATION that the acts of the 2nd defendants ceding part of Ojokogbe Chieftaincy stool areas or villages such a Ochadamu town, Emewo Ochadamu, Olofu Ochadamu, Ofejiji, Okele, Ikpokeju, Alonze Ejule, Umomi town and Ajedime to Agenyi Attah, the 3rd defendant herein is uncustomary, unwarranted, unreasonable, illegal, unconstitutional hence null and void.
d. A DECLARATION that the acts of the 1st and 2nd Defendants ceding part of Ojokogbe Chieftaincy stool areas of jurisdiction to the 3rd defendant (Agenyi Attall) without given the claimant fair hearing is against the rule of natural justice and unconstitutional hence null and void.
e. AN ORDER nullifying all the decisions and acts of the 1st and 2nd defendants ceding any part of Ojokogbe stool areas of jurisdiction and ownership to the 3rd defendant.
f. AN ORDER restoring all the villages namely: Ochadarnu town, Emewo Ochadamu, Olofu Oclladamu, Ofejiji, Okele, Ikpokeju, Alonw Ejule, Umomi town and Ajedime to the claimant as villages whing Ojokogbe chieftaincy stool areas of jurisdiction and control.
g. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the 1st and 2nd defendants, their agents, servants and or privies or whosoever claims through them or howsoever from recognizing the 3rd defendant as the person in charge and control of Ochadamu town, Emewo Ochadamu, Olofu Ochadamu, Ofejiji, Okele, Ikpolceju, Alome Ejule, Umonii town and Ajedime villages traditionally.
h. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the 3rd defendant his agents, servants and or privies or whosoever claims through him or howsoever from parading himself as the Agenyi Attah having traditional ownership, administration and control of Ochadamu town, Emewo Ochadamu, Olofu Ochadamu, Ofejiji, Okele, Ikpokeju, Alome Ejule, Umomi town and Ajedime villages.
i. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the 3rd defendant from collecting tributes of any kind from the Gagos, Madakis and any other person residing in Ochadamu town, Emewo Ochadamu, Olofu Ochadamu, Ofejiji, Okele, Ilcpokeju, Alome Ejule, Umomi town and Ajedime villages.
j. A DECLARATION that the 2nd defendant’s letter dated 12/01/07 with reference No. IA/TC/PEW98/13 titled “Debeading as the Beaded Onu Ojokogbe” is unreasonable, unwarranted, unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever being a patent violation of the claimant’s right to fair hearing on the allegations contained therein.”
As can easily be discerned, the claims of the Appellant arose from and relate to the decision of the 1st Respondent and the Attah to:
(a) appoint the 2nd Respondent to the chieftaincy title of Agenyi Attah;
(b) cede some chieftaincy lands/areas under the chieftaincy control of the Appellant to the 2nd Respondent;
(c) debeading the Appellant as the Onu-Ojokogbe.
The claims are predicated on the grounds that the decision of the 1st Respondent and the Attah was illegal, unreasonable, uncustomary, unwarranted and in breach of the Appellant’s right to fair hearing. The claims are founded on allegations of breach of Igala customary law and the constitutionally guaranteed right of fair hearing by the 1st Respondent and the Attah in the aforenamed decision. Apparently, the claims and the facts set out in the pleadings of the Appellant sought to question or challenge the validity of the decision by the 1st Respondent and the Attah under the Igala customary law and tradition as well as the right to fair hearing. There is no claim or fact in the Appellant’s case, as presented in the pleadings, which suggests, let alone indicates that the case sought to question or challenge the competence of authority of any person to have made any existing or extant law, made on or after the 15th January, 1966, as envisaged and provided for in the provision of Section 6 (6) (d) in order to make it applicable to the case. The Appellant’s case did not seek to question or challenge the legislative competence of any authority or person to make any existing or extant law, at all or even the validity of any such law. All that the facts of the Appellant’s case sought to do, once more, was to challenge and question the validity of the action of the 1st Respondent and the Attah under the Igala customary law and the principle of fair hearing and have nothing to do with the challenge to the competence of any person or authority to have made an existing or extant law, on and after the 15th January, 1966.
In these premises, the learned counsel for the Appellant is right, and I agree with him, when he said that the provision Section 6 (6) (d) is not applicable to the facts of the Appellant’s case to oust the jurisdiction of the trial High Court from adjudicating on the claims therein and so the Court below was wrong in law to have held that the provision applied to the case.
From the judgment by the Court below, Section 193 of the Constitution is completely irrelevant to the provisions of Section 6 (6) (d) as they relate to the facts presented by the Appellant in the case before the trial High Court. It is not worthy of further consideration in that regard.
In the result, the issue is resolved in favour of the Appellant.
However, the resolution of the issue in favour of the Appellant does not translate, automatically, to the success of the entire appeal since the judgment by the Court below to allow the Respondents’ appeal was not completely and entirely predicated and based on the application of the provision of Section 6 (6) (d) of the Constitution. That was why the Court below did not strike out the Appellant’s case on the ground of lack or absence of jurisdiction on the part of the trial High Court on the basis of the ouster provision of Section 6 (6) (d). Apart from and in addition to the wrong finding that the jurisdiction of the trial High Court was ousted by the provision in Section 6 (6) (d), the Court below considered and dealt with the appeal on the merit after a review and evaluation of the evidence adduced by the parties at the trial, before coming to the conclusion that the Appellant did not prove his claims as required by the law and to allow the Respondents’ appeal.
As has been demonstrated earlier, the grounds of the appeal challenging the decision by the Court below to allow the Respondents’ appeal on the merit, are incompetent for lack of requisite prior leave of Court for their validity. The consequence of absence of valid grounds of appeal challenging the findings and decision of the Court below on the merit in the judgment appealed against, is that the decision/judgment on the merit remains valid, effective and binding. See Buhari v. Obasanjo (2005) 13 NWLR (pt. 941) 1 at 138, Ukachukwu v. PDP (2014) LPELR – 22115 (SC), Alakija v. Abdullahi (1998) 6 NWLR (pt. 552) 1, Okotie-Eboh v. Manager (2004) 18 NWLR (pt. 905) 242.
On the whole, the appeal is dismissed for want of merit and the judgment of the Court below affirmed except for the finding on the application of Section 6(6)(d) of the Constitution to the Appellant’s case which is hereby set aside.
Parties to bear their respective costs of prosecuting the appeal.