Mr. Olumide Braithwaite V Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu (2016)
LAWGLOBAL HUB Lead Judgment Report
KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C.
This is an appeal against the ruling of Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, delivered on 18/11/2002 which granted the respondent’s application for extension of time to seek leave to appeal, leave to appeal and extension of time to appeal against the ruling of the High Court of Lagos State sitting at Lagos, delivered on 15/9/2000, commonly referred to as the trinity prayers. The application included a prayer for stay of execution. The 1st Appellant (then 1st respondent) had filed a notice of preliminary objection to the application on the following grounds:
- That the application for stay of execution is incompetent not having been first made and determined by the trial Court.
- That the application is an abuse of process because:
a) The Court had considered and struck out a similar application.
b) The proposed grounds of appeal are as incompetent as those struck out on 11/6/2001.
- The proposed grounds of appeal are incompetent because:
a) Grounds 1 and 3 complain of misdirection in law without giving particulars of the misdirection in law.
b) Ground 2 is vague and did not arise from
the decision sought to be appealed (sic).
- The Appellant has overreached himself by the issues raised in the further affidavit of Jimmy Ufor sworn to on 18/6/2001 which are totally false.”
He urged the Court to dismiss the application.
In its ruling delivered on 18/11/2002, the Court below held that the applicant (now respondent) had satisfied the twin requirements of Order 3 Rule 4 (2) of the Court of Appeal Rules 2002 by satisfactorily explaining the reason for the delay in bringing the application and that the proposed grounds of appeal show good cause why the appeal should be heard. The Court also held that the complaints concerning the competence or otherwise of the proposed grounds of appeal were not relevant at that stage. The preliminary objection was accordingly overruled and the application granted, hence the instant appeal.
The background facts to this appeal are as follows: Sometime in 1988, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Third parties/Appellants (hereinafter referred to as the Third Parties) instructed the 1st appellant to make a claim on their behalf against the Federal Government of Nigeria for the unlawful seizure and subsequent vandalisation of their
40,000 ton vessel, MT Izara. In compliance with the instructions the 1st appellant wrote several letters to the then Military Head of State and the Minister of External Affairs and also met with other agents of the Government to press his clients’ claims. While pursuing the claim, it came to the 1st appellant’s attention through a letter addressed to the respondent but copied to him, that the respondent had also been briefed to pursue the same claim and had indeed collected the sum of $15 million US Dollars on the Third Parties’ behalf as compensation for the seizure and vandalisation of their vessel. At the instance of Dr. Tunji Braithwaite (the 1st appellant), a meeting was held between him and the respondent. The respondent informed him that there was an outstanding balance still due from the Federal Government to the Third Parties arising from the difference in the rate of exchange. According to the 1st appellant, the respondent promised to pay him the sum of $125, 000.00 US Dollars out of the said balance, but did not keep his promise. The 1st appellant instituted an action at the High Court of Lagos State (the trial Court) to recover the sum being
“money had and withheld” by the respondent.
The respondent applied for the Third Parties to be joined in the suit, which application was duly granted. Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN represented both the original defendant and the Third parties. The 1st appellant raised an objection. Consequently, the Third parties had to brief another counsel to represent them in the person of Chief Mike Okoye. He filed a statement of defence on their behalf, which included a counter claim.
In the course of proceedings, pursuant to an application filed by the Third Parties, the trial Court ordered the respondent to render an account of the money received from the Federal Government on their behalf. The respondent accordingly rendered accounts vide an affidavit deposed to by one Kunle Uthman, a legal practitioner, on 7th February, 2000 to which were attached Exhibits KU1 and KU2 in support of his averment that the respondent had remitted the entire compensation sum to the Third Partiers and as such was not in possession of monies belonging to any of the parties to the suit.
In a ruling delivered on 15/9/2000, the trial Court per Akinsanya J., entered judgment in the sum of
$125,000.00 with interest at the rate of 4% per annum from 1st November 1993 in favour of the 1st appellant against the respondent and a further sum of $625,000.00 with interest at the rate of 4% per annum in favour of the third parties also against the respondent. The respondent was dissatisfied with the ruling and immediately filed a notice of appeal the same day at the Court below. Upon a notice of preliminary objection filed by the 1st appellant, the Court below struck out the notice of appeal for being incompetent.
On 12th June 2001, the respondent filed a fresh application for the trinity prayers to appeal against the decision of the trial Court. Neither the 1st appellant nor the Third parties filed a counter affidavit in opposition to the application. However, the 1st appellant filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the competence of the proposed grounds of appeal. The preliminary objection was overruled and the application was granted on 18/11/2002. It is this ruling that has given rise to the instant appeal.
In compliance with the Rules of this Court the parties filed and exchanged their respective briefs of argument. At the hearing of the
appeal on 25th January 2016, O.O. AJOSE-ADEOGUN ESQ, for the appellants, adopted and relied on the appellants’ brief filed on 24/3/2004 and the reply brief deemed filed on 25/1/2016. The appellants’ brief was settled by Dr. Tunji Braithwaite (the 1st appellant) while the reply brief was settled by OLAOTAN AJOSE-ADEOGUN ESQ. Judgment was thereafter reserved till today, 22/4/2016.
Unfortunately the 1st appellant, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, was reported to have died on 28th March 2016. By a motion on notice dated 31/3/2016 and filed on 5/4/2016, one Mr. OLUMIDE BRAITHWAITE, a son of the deceased sought leave to be substituted for him as the 1st appellant in this appeal. Upon being satisfied that the respondents had been duly served with the application through their counsel, STRACHAN PARTNERS, on 7th April 2016, the application was granted in chambers on Wednesday, 13th April 2016 with an Order that the processes in the appeal be amended accordingly. MR. OLUMDE BRAITHWAITE is now substituted for Dr. Tunji Braithwaite as the 1st appellant in this appeal.
In the appellants’ brief two issues were distilled for the determination of the appeal as follows:
- Whether the
Court of Appeal was right when it held that the matters raised in the Notice of preliminary objection are not relevant at this stage.
- Whether the respondent satisfied the requirements for the success of his application as contained in Order 3 Rules 4 (2), 2 (3) and 2 (a) of the Court of Appeal Rules having regard to the incompetence of the defendant’s/respondent’s proposed Grounds of Appeal.
AARON ONYEBUCHI ESQ., leading OLADIRAN FALORE ESQ. for the respondent, adopted and relied on the respondent’s brief settled by C.A. CANDIDE-JOHNSON, SAN, which was deemed properly filed on 25/1/2016. The respondent formulated a single issue thus:
”Whether the Court of Appeal was right in granting the Respondent’s application for an Order for extension of time to appeal, leave to appeal and extension of time within which to seek leave to appeal dated 12th June 2001.”
The single issue formulated by the respondent appears to me to be concise and to the point and would adequately resolve the issues in controversy between the parties. I therefore adopt it as the sole issue for the determination of this appeal.
It was submitted on behalf of the appellants that it is the
responsibility of counsel who has spotted any anomaly in a process of proceeding that might result in an exercise in futility in the process of adjudication, to raise it at the earliest opportunity. It was submitted that once such an issue is raised, it is incumbent upon the Court to determine it immediately and that the Court below was wrong when it held that the issue of the competence of the proposed grounds of appeal was not relevant at the stage of determining whether or not to grant the application for the trinity prayers. He relied on the case of:Bwai v. U.B.A. Plc. (2002) FWLR (pt.119) 1538 @ 1557 E – F.
It was further contended that the respondent did not satisfy the minimum requirements for the grant of an application for the trinity prayers, viz: a satisfactory explanation for the failure to appeal within the prescribed period and grounds of appeal, which prima facie, show good cause why the appeal should be heard. The provisions of Order 3 Rules 3 (6) & (7) and Rule 4 (2) of the Court of Appeal Rules, 2002 were reproduced and reliance was placed on the authorities of University of Lagos v.Olaniyan (2001) FWLR (pt.56) 778 @ 806 – 807 and Iroegbu
Okwordu (1990) 6 NWLR (pt.159) 643 @ 658 659 H-D. It was submitted that the task of the Court called upon to exercise discretion to grant leave to appeal is to determine the efficacy and substantiality of the grounds of appeal. The case of: Ibodo v.Enarofia (1980) 5 – 7 SC 42 was cited for the materials which the applicant should place before the Court for the exercise of its discretion.It is to be noted that Learned counsel’s submissions are mainly in respect of the competence of the grounds of appeal. The complaints are as follows:
- There is inconsistency in the reliefs sought in the Notice of Appeal because while Paragraph 1 refers to the decision of 15th September 2000, Paragraph 5 thereof seeks to set aside a decision of 25th December 2000. The alleged inconsistency in his view is a violation of the provision of Order 3 Rule 2 (1) of the Court of Appeal Rules.
- In Ground 1, the appellant failed to furnish the particulars of the alleged misdirection in law by failing to state the law that was misapplied. On what constitutes a misdirection in law, he referred to: Nwadike v. Ibekwe (1987) 4 NWLR (Pt.67) 718 @ 774 – 775.
- Ground 1 does not
challenge the validity of the ratio of the decision appealed against. He relied on: Egbe v. Alhaji (1990) l NWLR (pt.128) 546 @ 590.
- Grounds 1 and 3 are neither substantial nor arguable, Furthermore the grounds are vague and argumentative and therefore violate the provisions of Order 3 Rule 2 (3) and (4) of the Court of Appeal Rules.
- Ground 2 does not challenge the ratio of the decision and does not arise from the decision appealed against. In his view it is not an arguable ground. He referred to: Babalola v. The State (1980) 4 NWLR (Pt. 115) 264.
- The Court below erred in not being guided by the provisions of Order 14 Rule 22 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules and failing to hold that the respondents complaint is not substantial. He relied on: Provost, Alvan Ikoku College of Education v. Amuneke (1991) 9 NWLR (pt. 213) 49 @ 58 59.
He maintained that the lower Court was not painstaking in its consideration of the efficacy and substantiality of the proposed grounds of appeal. He urged this Court to hold that the Court below wrongly exercised its discretion in the respondent’s favour and ought not to have granted the
Learned counsel for the respondent, in reaction to the above submissions referred to the case of: Okafor v. Bendel Newspapers Corporation & Anor. (1991) 9 – 10 SCNJ 107 @ 114 – 115, where this Court interpreted the provisions of Order 3 Rule 4 (2) of the Old Court of Appeal Rules, which are in pari materia with Order 7 Rules 7 and 10 of the 2011 Court of Appeal Rules and submitted that in the absence of any challenge to the averments in the affidavit in support of the application, the lower Court was right to have accepted the respondent’s explanation for his failure to file the application within the prescribed period as being good, substantial and sufficient for the exercise of its discretion. He submitted further that the Court gave proper consideration to the proposed grounds of appeal before concluding that they show good cause why the appeal should be heard. He observed that learned counsel for the appellants appeared to have confused the requirements for the grant of a stay of execution with the requirements for seeking the trinity prayers. He agreed with the Court below that the issues raised in the preliminary objection were not
relevant at the stage of seeking the trinity prayers. He submitted that having failed to join issues with the respondent on the averments in the supporting affidavit, the appellants were deemed to have admitted them.
He submitted that the appellants’ notice of preliminary objection would only have become ripe for hearing after the respondent had been given leave to file his notice of appeal and not before. He submitted further that it is trite that a Court must be cautious when deciding interlocutory applications in order to avoid making a decision that touches on the substantive issue in the appeal. He referred to: Obikoya v. Wema Bank Ltd. (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 96) 157.
Learned counsel contended that the exercise of discretion by the Court must be done judicially and judiciously and must be based on what is just and fair in the circumstances of the case. He referred to: Akin Akinyemi v. Odua Investments Co. Ltd. (2012) 1 SC (Pt. IV) 1; Minister, P.M.R. v. EL (Nig.) Ltd. (2010) 12 NWLR (Pt.1208) 261. He submitted that the lower Court gave due consideration to the reasons given for not filing the application within the prescribed period and rightly, in his view,
concluded that the respondent ought not to be made to suffer for the mistakes of his counsel. He submitted that the case of Iroegbu v. Okwordu (supra) relied upon by learned counsel for the appellants, in fact supports the respondent’s case. With regard to the proposed grounds of appeal, he submitted that the Court of Appeal is not required to determine the merits of the grounds of appeal but to decide whether they are arguable. He referred to: E.F.P. Co. Ltd. v. NDIC (2007) ALL FWLR (Pt.367) 793 @ 812 D F. He submitted that the lower Court properly exercised its discretion in this regard and that the grant of the application was proper in the circumstances.
In the appellants’ reply brief, it is contended that the issue raised in the notice of preliminary objection on the competence of the proposed grounds of appeal is an issue of jurisdiction, which must be determined at the earliest opportunity and thus ought to have been resolved by the Court below at the time it was raised. Learned counsel relied on the case of N.D.I.C. v. C.B.N. (2002) 7 NWLR (PT. 766) 272. Citing the case of Ikenta Best Nig. Ltd. v. A.G. Rivers State (2008) 6 NWLR (Pt.1084) 612,
he submitted that the requirements for the grant of the trinity prayers are conjunctive and not disjunctive. He contended that the lower Court determined the application disjunctively and therefore reached a wrong decision. Responding to the respondent’s contention that the Court below was entitled to deem unchallenged averments as having been admitted, he submitted that there was no need to file a counter affidavit as the issues raised in the preliminary objection related to the jurisdiction of the Court to grant the application where the proposed grounds of appeal are incompetent or invalid, in which case there would be nothing upon which to anchor the relief sought. He relied on: UAC v. McFoy (1962) AC 152.
I deem it appropriate to start with the relevant provisions of the Court of Appeal Rules governing an application for enlargement of time to seek leave to appeal, leave to appeal and extension of time within which to appeal against the decision of a lower Court, otherwise known as the trinity prayers. The application in question was brought, inter alia pursuant to Order 3 Rule 3 (3) and Rule 4 (1) and (2) of the Court of Appeal Rules 1981 (as amended) and
under the inherent jurisdiction of the Court. The relevant provisions for the purpose of this appeal are contained in Order 3 Rule 4 (1) and (2) which provide as follows:
”4 (1) The Court may enlarge the time provided by these Rules for the doing of anything to which these Rules apply.
(2) Every application for an enlargement of time in which to appeal shall be supported by an affidavit setting forth good and substantial reasons for failure to appeal within the prescribed period, and by grounds of appeal which prima facie show good cause why the appeal should be heard. When time is so enlarged a copy of the order granting such enlargement shall be annexed to the notice of appeal.”
As rightly submitted by both learned counsel, an application of this nature calls for the exercise of discretion by the Court. As with all discretionary reliefs the Court must act judicially and judiciously taking into account all the circumstances of the case and in accordance with the prescribed rules of law. In the case of University of Lagos v. Olaniyan (1985) 1 NWLR (pt. 1) 156 @ 175 A-E cited by learned counsel for the appellants, this Court held that in exercising its discretion in
an application for the trinity prayers, the Court must be satisfied on two grounds:
a) with the plaintiff’s/applicant’s explanation of their failure to appeal within the prescribed period; and
b) whether the grounds of appeal prima facie show good cause why the appeal should be heard.
Learned counsel was also correct when he submitted that the two conditions must be satisfied conjunctively. See: Ikenta Best (Nig.) Ltd. v. A.G. Rivers State (2008) 6 NWLR (Pt.1084) 612: Williams v. Hope Rising Voluntary Funds Society (1982) 1- 2 SC (Reprint) 70. The only exception being where the grounds of appeal raise the issue of lack of jurisdiction and it prima facie appears to be so. Since jurisdiction is the live wire of any adjudication and the authorities are settled that an issue of jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of the proceedings or even for the first time on appeal to the Supreme Court, it might not be necessary to inquire into the reason for delay in bringing the application, as a challenge to the Court’s jurisdiction is a good ground for hearing the appeal. See: Ukwu v. Bunge (1997) 8 NWLR (Pt.518) 527 @ 541-542 H-A & 543: In Re Adewumi & Ors. v.
Osibanjo & Ors, (1988) 3 NWLR (Pt.83) 483 @ 497 A – D & 506 C: Co-Operative and Commerce Bank v. Ogwuru (1993) 3 NWLR (Pt.284) 630.
In considering the reasons for the delay in bringing the application, the lower Court reproduced and considered Paragraph 3 (i) – (ix) of the supporting affidavit wherein it was averred that the respondent initially filed a notice of appeal against the judgment of the trial Court delivered on 15/9/2000 within time but that the said notice of appeal was struck out by the lower Court for containing incompetent grounds of appeal. This was sequel to a preliminary objection raised by Dr. Tunji Braithwaite. The Court below per Oguntade, JCA (as he then was) at pages 107 – 108 of the record held thus:
“The above depositions were unchallenged as the respondent did not file any counter affidavit.I accept the explanation given for the failure to appeal within time as true. When taken in its correct perspective, applicant’s reasons for failure to appeal within time arose from a failure of counsel to bring the right application earlier. The one earlier brought was struck out. A Court should not visit the mistake of counsel on the
litigant… I accordingly accept that the appellant has shown good and substantial reasons for the failure to appeal within the prescribed period.”
In the instant appeal, the appellants have not challenged the above finding of the Court. They are deemed to have accepted it. It follows that the first requirement has been satisfied. Their complaint, essentially, is in respect of the second requirement, that is, whether the grounds of appeal show good cause why the appeal should be heard. I think it is appropriate to reproduce in extenso the finding of the Court below on this issue. The Court held thus at pages 108 110 of the record:
“With respect to the second limb of Order 3 Rule 4 (2) of the Rules of this Court, the applicant in his proposed Notice of Appeal has raised three grounds of appeal. The grounds without (sic) their particulars read:
“3. GROUND ONE:
The Learned Trial Judge misdirected herself in the law when she held that “… the letter referred to (i.e. Exhibit B2) also charged the Defendant with the responsibility of paying the Plaintiff what was considered to be due to him.”
i. After finding that there was a commitment on the part
of the 3rd Party/Respondents to pay the Plaintiff/Respondent the sum of $125,000.00 USD the Honourable Judge did not show how the Defendant/Appellant thereby became liable to pay the said (sic) to the Plaintiff/ Respondent.
ii. Exhibit B2 relied upon by the Honourable Judge to fix liability on the Defendant/Appellant to pay the Plaintiff/Respondent is not a valid assignment of the debt (if any) due the 3rd Party/Respondents from the Defendant/Appellant to grant the Plaintiff/Respondent a right of action against the Defendant/Appellant.
iii. There was neither a contractual relationship between the Plaintiff/Respondent and the Defendant/Appellant nor was any duty of care owed the Plaintiff/Respondent by the Defendant/Appellant.
The Learned Trial Judge erred in law in holding that by virtue of Order 14 Rule 22 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules, 1994 the Defendant/Appellant was also accountable to the Plaintiff/Respondent in the Third Party Proceedings and that as there was no proper account made the Defendant/Appellant was thereby liable to the Plaintiff/Respondent.
i. The Third Party Proceedings were not between the
Plaintiff/Respondent and the 3rd Party/Respondents, but between the 3rd Party/Respondents vis-a-vis the party at whose instance they had been joined (i.e. the Defendant/Appellant).
ii. There was no evidence to show that the Defendant/Appellant was an accounting party to the Plaintiff/Respondent.
iii. The Learned Trial Judge wrongly assumed in the absence of positive evidence that simply by bringing the Third party proceedings there was “a very strong nexus between the Plaintiff, the Defendant and the 3rd Party.”
The Learned Trial Judge misdirected herself in the law when she held that the 3rd Party/Respondents were entitled to receive the sum of $625,000.00 USD from the Defendant/Appellant.
i. A failure to properly account by the Defendant/Appellant did not entitle the 3rd Party/Respondents to judgment in the absence of evidence to establish the alleged indebtedness.
ii. There was no credible evidence led to establish that the Defendant/Appellant was indebted to the 3rd Party/Respondents in the sum of $700,000.00 USD.
iii. Exhibit C relied upon by the Learned Trial Judge to grant the 3rd Party/Respondents claims was not conclusive proof of
the Defendant/Appellant’s alleged indebtedness to the 3rd Party/Respondents.
iv. The Learned Trial Judge wrongly held that Exhibits KU1 and KU2 which were written by the 3rd Party/Respondents did not constitute proper account by the Defendant/Appellant to the 3rd Party/Respondents simply for the reason that same were made during the pendency of this Proceedings.
Now, do these grounds show good cause why the appeal should be heard I think they do. The applicant does not need to show that the grounds of appeal will succeed. It is sufficient if the grounds are arguable: See Obikoya v. Wema Bank (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 96) 157.”
I had noted earlier in this judgment that the appellants’ complaints relate to: alleged inconsistency in the reliefs sought in the notice of appeal, vague or argumentative grounds of appeal, grounds of appeal lacking in particulars and grounds that fail to attack the ratio of the decision of the trial Court. Contrary to Dr. Tunji Braithwaite’s contention, none of these complaints have a bearing on the Court’s jurisdiction to entertain the appeal. Rather they are issues which, if found to be valid, might affect the prospects of the success of the
appeal or of particular issues raised therein. In other words, the lower Court was right when it held that the objections were not relevant to the Court’s determination of whether to exercise its discretion in favour of granting the application or not.
On what an appellate Court should consider in determining whether the grounds of appeal show good cause why the appeal should be heard, the decision of this Court in E.F.P. Co. Ltd. v. NDIC (2007) ALL FWLR (pt.367) 793 @ 812 D-E also found in (2002) 9 NWLR (Pt.1039) 216 @ 239 E -G, per Onnoghen, JSC seems to provide a complete answer. His Lordship held thus:
“It is settled that the duty of the appellate Court in the consideration of the grounds of appeal proposed by the applicant and filed in support of the application for leave to appeal is limited to whether the grounds of appeal are substantial and reveal arguable grounds. It is therefore not the duty of the Court at that stage to decide the merit of such grounds as filed in support of the application for to do so would amount to deciding the substantive matter in an interlocutory application which the law frowns upon.”
The following cases were cited with
approval: Ibodo v. Enarofia (1980) 5 – 7 SC 42; University of Lagos v. Olaniyan (supra): Obikoya v. Wema Bank Ltd, (supra); Holman Bros, (Nig.) Ltd. v. Kigo (Nig.) Ltd. (1980) 8 – 11 SC 43; Egbe v. Onogun (1972) 1 All NLR (Pt. 1) 95; Ojukwu v. Governor of Lagos State (No. 1) (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.10) 806.
In Obikoya v. Wema Bank Ltd, (supra) at 178 F – H, Oputa, JSC held thus:
“The grounds of appeal required to be exhibited are only to show good cause why the appeal should be heard. The Rule does not require the grounds to show good cause why the appeal should be allowed. Although in both cases, the grounds of appeal should be substantial, the certainty required in the latter case does not necessarily need to be present in the former case. A ground showing good cause why an appeal should be heard is a ground which raises substantial issues of fact or law for the consideration of the Court. It is a ground which cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand or totally lacking in substance. It is a ground which evokes serious debate about the correctness of the decision of the Court below. It is a ground which taxes the intellect and reasoning faculties of the appeal
judges. It is a ground which is not frivolous.”
In light of facts that gave rise to the dispute between the parties summarised earlier in this judgment, it is my considered view that the Court below was correct when it held that the grounds of appeal show good cause why the appeal should be heard.
On the attitude of appellate Courts to the exercise of discretion by lower Courts, this Court held further in E.F.P. Co Ltd v. NDIC (supra) at pages 239 – 240 H – A of the NWLR report:
“… There is another very important principle that guides an appellate Court when called upon to review, by way of appeal, the discretion exercised by the lower Court in granting or refusing to grant an application of that nature. The principle is that the attitude of appellate Courts to the exercise of discretion by lower Courts is not dissimilar to that adopted over the issue of findings of fact, which is that unless the exercise of discretion by a Court of first instance or by a lower Court is manifestly wrong, arbitrary, reckless or injudicious, an appellate Court would not interfere merely because faced with similar circumstances it would have reacted differently.”
University of Lagos v. Olaniyan (supra) at 175C: University of Lagos v. Aigoro (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt.1) 143 @ 148 G. I agree with the Court below that the respondent satisfied the two conditions for the grant of the Application. The grounds are arguable. Whether they will succeed is a matter for the hearing of the substantive appeal. The appellants have failed to show that the exercise of discretion by the lower Court was arbitrary, perverse, reckless or injudicious. I therefore resolve the sole issue for determination in this appeal against the appellants.
Before concluding this judgment it is necessary to once again point out the needless delay in the determination of the substantive appeal before the Court below by this appeal. Had the respondent filed his notice of appeal when granted leave to do so, the objections to the competence of the grounds of appeal would have been heard along with the substantive appeal. By now the appeal would have been determined and any party dissatisfied with the final decision would have been able to appeal to this Court on all the issues in controversy between the parties. Even that appeal would probably have been determined by
now and the parties would know, once and for all, where they stand. 14 years have been wasted on the current exercise! Whatever the merits or otherwise of the appeal, it is a disservice to both parties and to the administration of justice for learned counsel to engage in the type of delay tactics evident in the filing of this appeal. As an officer in the temple of justice it is the duty of learned counsel to aid and not hinder the smooth administration of justice.
In conclusion I hold that the appeal is devoid of merit. It is accordingly dismissed. The ruling of the lower Court delivered on 18th November, 2002 granting the respondent an enlargement of time to seek leave to appeal, leave to appeal and an enlargement of time to appeal against the decision of the High Court of Lagos State sitting at Lagos delivered on 15th September, 2000, is hereby affirmed.
There shall be N200,000,00 costs in favour of the respondent against the appellant.