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Home » Nigerian Cases » Supreme Court » Henry O. Awoniyi & Ors V. The Reg. Trustees Of The Rosicrucian Order, Amorc (Nig) (2000) LLJR-SC

Henry O. Awoniyi & Ors V. The Reg. Trustees Of The Rosicrucian Order, Amorc (Nig) (2000) LLJR-SC

Henry O. Awoniyi & Ors V. The Reg. Trustees Of The Rosicrucian Order, Amorc (Nig) (2000)

LAWGLOBAL HUB Lead Judgment Report

MOHAMMED, J.S.C.

Mr. Wole Olufon, learned counsel for the applicants, filed a motion and prayed for the following orders:

“1. An order directing the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission to withdraw and cancel the certificate of registration of the respondent No. 1415 dated 7th July, 1982 or any subsequent certificate issued to the respondent.

  1. An order directing the Inspector-General of Police to seal up all the offices of the respondent nationwide and to prosecute any persons carrying on activities in the name of the respondent”.

The motion was supported by an affidavit of 7 paragraphs. It was sworn to by one David Okoh. The facts disclosed in paragraphs 3 – 7 explain the grounds for this application. Paragraphs 3 – 7 read:

“3. That the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered judgment in Suit No. SC.23/1991, the Registered Trustees of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC (Nigeria) v. Henry O. Awoniyi & Ors., on the 15th of July, 1994 holding that the respondent is a secret society. Copies of the judgment are hereto attached and marked Exhibits JO 1-10.5.

  1. That subsequent to this judgment, the respondent which is a registered corporation in Nigeria under the Land (Perpetual Succession) Act (Cap 98) Laws of the Federation, 1958 which Law has been repealed and replaced by the Companies and Allied Matters Decree 1990 has been carrying on its activities as a secret society.
  2. That the respondent is still recognised as a registered corporation by the Corporate Affairs Commission under the Companies and Allied Matters Decree, 1990.
  3. That the respondent has been carrying on its activities in contempt of the judgment of this Honourable Court, through various publications in the news media”.

Before Mr. Olufon opened his submission in support of the motion, Akpamgbo, SAN, appearing for the respondent was permitted to move a motion which he filed by way of a preliminary objection. In the motion Akpamgbo, SAN, prayed the court to strike out or dismiss the applicants’ motion on the grounds of incompetence. The grounds of objection are as follows:

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“(1) That Suit SC.23/1991, the Registered Trustees of the Rosicrucian Order Amorc (Nigeria) v. Henry O. Awoniyi & Ors., in which the appeal and cross-appeal was dismissed on 15/7/94 did not declare any right in the applicant capable of enforcement;

(ii) That the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, and the Inspector-General of Police, being necessary parties in this application who are not joined cannot be bound by any order the Supreme Court will make;

(iii) That relief Nos. 1 and 2 on the body of the applicant’s application dated 6th December, 1999 are Executive action on which the Supreme Court cannot afford to exercise jurisdiction”.

Akpamgbo SAN made a convincing submission against the motion filed by the applicants. He gave his reasons why the motion was incompetent. Learned counsel referred to an appeal No. SC.23/1991 in which the parties to this present application were involved. The appeal is reported in (1994) 7 NWLR (Pt. 355) 154. The history of the dispute between the parties started in the High Court of Cross River State, sitting at Calabar. The Registered Trustees of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC (Nigeria) as plaintiff sued (1) Henry O. Awoniyi, (2) Gabriel Abikoye and (3) ECWA Production Limited and Caxton Press (W.A) Limited for libel. The 1st to 3rd defendants are the applicants in this motion. The action arose from three articles published in three issues of a magazine called Today’s challenge of March/April, May/June and July/August editions in 1984. In the March/April issue, AMORC (hereinafter referred to, in this ruling as the respondent) was referred to, inter alia, as a secret and sinister organisation.

In the May/June issue of the magazine, the respondent was projected as satanic and in July/August issue, the source of the teaching of the respondent, one H.Spencer Lewis, was viled as a liar, a hypocrite, a swindler, an egoistical charlatan and a man without humour or integrity. The respondent sued the applicants for libel and claimed 10 Million Naira for damages. The High Court gave judgment in favour of the respondent and awarded N1 Million as damages for the libel. On appeal to the Court of Appeal, the court below allowed the appeal and dismissed the action of the respondent.

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Dissatisfied with the decision, the respondent appealed to this court. The applicants also cross-appealed. In a unanimous decision, in which I took part, this court dismissed both the appeal and the cross-appeal. In the lead judgment delivered by Wali JSC., the learned Justice referred to Exhibits 26 and 38 which were tendered during trial and opined that some quotations in those exhibits justified the description of the respondent as a secret and satanic organisation. My Lord Iguh, JSC, in his contribution to the lead judgment held:

“Clearly to assert, as the plaintiff unequivocally said, that Jesus Christ was a member of secret societies and that he was an advocate of occult teaching is, speaking for myself, satanic, sinister, blasphemous and entirely unacceptable”.

It is because of these remarks which were not the subject-matter of that appeal that the applicants came before this court with the motion disclosed earlier in this judgment, praying for an order:- (i) directing the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission to withdraw and cancel the certificate of registration of the respondent No. 1415 dated 7th July, 1982 or any subsequent certificate issued to the respondent; and (ii) directing the Inspector-General of Police to seal the offices of the respondent nationwide and to prosecute any person carrying on activities in the name of the respondent.

I do not hesitate to say that the ground upon which the applicant’s motion is filed is unsustainable due to procedural wrongs. The first error is the failure of the applicant to make both the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Inspector-General of Police parties to the applicant’s motion. It is trite that parties against whom complaints are made in an action must be made parties to such action. See: Uzor v. Nigerian Stores Workers Union (1973) 9 – 10 SC 35. It is an elementary procedure in prosecuting civil claims that all parties necessary for the invocation of the judicial powers of the court must come before it so as to give the court jurisdiction to grant the reliefs sought – see: Oloriode v. Oyebi (1984) 1 SCNLR 390 and Okafor v. Nnaife (1973) 3 S.C. 85. The failure of the applicants to make the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Inspector-General of Police as necessary parties has rendered the applicant’s motion incompetent.

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Secondly, when this court dismissed both the appeal and the cross-appeal in the suit filed by the respondent in Calabar High Court, it did not make any order in favour of any of the parties. I have mentioned before in this ruling, that the observations made by my Lords, Justices Wali and Iguh which the applicants want to cash on were mere passing remarks. I agree with Akpamgbo, SAN, that the judgment of this court is not a declaratory judgment. There is therefore no order to enforce. If Mr. Olufon says what he has prayed for is a consequential order, he is wrong. A consequential order must be one giving effect to the judgment from which it flows. The issue which was determined in the High Court at Calabar was libel. The decision of the High Court was set aside by the Court of Appeal. On appeal to this court the judgment of the Court of Appeal was affirmed. That was the end of the matter. We did not declare anything warranting enforcement of our judgment.

I therefore agree with Mr. Akpamgbo, SAN, that the motion filed by the applicants is incompetent. It is accordingly struck out. I award the respondent N1,000 as costs of this application.

SC.182/1999

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