Nigerian Cases on Abuse of Court/Judicial Process
Abuse of Court Process is the improper or malicious use of the judicial process by one party to intimidate or harass the other and interfere with the administration of justice. It is the same thing as Abuse of Judicial Process. Below are some rationes decidendi on Abuse of Court Process in Nigerian Cases.
Meaning of Abuse of Court Process
CUSTOMARY COURT OF APPEAL BENUE STATE v. TSEGBA & ORS (2017) LPELR-44027(CA)
“Abuse of judicial process is an imprecise concept as it involves circumstances and situations of infinite variety and conditions. Its one common feature is the improper use of the judicial process by a party in litigation to harass, irritate and annoy the adversary and interfere with the administration of justice such as instituting different actions between the same parties simultaneously in different Courts even though on different grounds.
“The abuse consists in the intention, purpose and aim of irritation of the opponent and interference with administration of justice. The concept applies only to proceedings that are wanting in good faith. See Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) 9 NWLR (Pt. 264) 156, Ogoejeofo v. Ogoejeofo (2006) 3 NWLR (Pt. 966) 205 and Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Dairo (2015) 6 NWLR (Pt. 454) 141.” – Per JOSEPH EYO EKANEM, JCA
C.A. BANJO & ORS VS ETERNAL SACRED ORDER OF CHERUBIM AND SERAPHIM (1975) Legalpedia (SC) 01111
The term “abuse of the process of the court” connotes that the process of the court must be used only bona fide and not improperly as a means of vexation and oppression.-Per George B. A. Coker, JSC
What constitute an Abuse of Court Process
Sheriff v. PDP (2017) 14 NWLR (Pt. 1585) 212
Abuse of court process may lie in both a proper or improper use of the judicial process in litigation. But the employment of judicial process is only regarded generally as an abuse when a party improperly uses the issue of the judicial process to the irritation and annoyance of his opponent, and the efficient and effective administration of justice.
The terms “abuse of court process” and “abuse of judicial process” are one and the same thing. Abuse of court process simply means that the process of the court has not been used bona fide and properly. It also connotes the employment of judicial process by a party in improper use to the irritation and annoyance of his opponent and the efficient and effective administration of justice. It is a multiplicity of same action in same court or even before another court of courts being pursued simultaneously by the plaintiff as the case may be.
The claim(s) reliefs(s) may be worded differently but it still amounts to an abuse of process where the substance or the end result of the two or more actions is the same. Thus, where by the grant of one relief or claim in favour of the plaintiff the aim of the plaintiff would have been achieved, it will amount to an abuse of process if same question is placed before the same or another court. Therefore, where two courts are faced with substantially the same question, it is always desirable to be sure that the question is litigated before only one of the courts.
AJAOKUTA STEEL COMPANY LIMITED v GREENBAY INVESTMENT & SECURITIES LIMITED & ORS (2019) Legalpedia (SC) 11661
The common feature of abuse of Court process is the improper use of judicial process by a party in litigation the most common one being multiplicity of actions on the same issues between the same parties and instituting different actions between the same parties in different Courts.
Abuse of the process of the Court may also occur where two similar processes are deployed in the exercise of the same right as in the instant case. Abuse of the process of the Court, where it occurs, constitutes a fundamental defect the effect of which results in the dismissal of the abusive process. See Adesanoye V. Adewole (2000) 9 NWLR (PT 127) 671 and Umeh & Anor V. Iwu & Ors (2008) LPELR-3363 (SC).
Effect of Abuse of Court/Judicial Process
Nwosu v. P.D.P. (2018) 14 NWLR (Pt. 1640) 532
An abuse of court process constitutes a fundamental defect, the effect of which will lead to a dismissal of the process, which is abusive. In other words, once the court is satisfied that a proceeding before it amounts to an abuse of court process, it has the right to invoke its coercive powers to punish the party in abuse of its process, and quite often, that power is exercised by a dismissal of the action, which constitutes the abuse.
The court reserves the prerogative and the inherent jurisdiction to protect itself from an abuse of its process and any case which is an abuse must go under the hammer so as to halt the drift created by the abuse.
CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA v. SAIDU H. AHMED & ORS (2001) JELR 44242 (SC) or C.B.N. v. Ahmed (2001) 11 NWLR (Pt. 724) 369
Bearing in mind that a Court has a duty to intervene to stop an abuse of its process, it is in my humble view pertinent to refer to the observation of Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC in Arubo v. Aiyeleru (1993) 3 NWLR(Pt. 280) 126 at 142, where his Lordship said:
“Now inherent jurisdiction or power is a necessary adjunct of the powers conferred by the rules and is invoked by a Court of law to ensure that the machinery of justice is duly applied and properly lubricated and not abused.
“One most important head of such inherent powers is abuse of process, which simply means that the process of the courts must be used bona fide and properly and must not be abused. Once a court is satisfied that any proceeding before it is an abuse of process it has the power, indeed the duty, to dismiss it.
“See on this, Willis v. Earl of Beauchamp (1886) 11 probate 59. p. 63. It has been held in numerous cases that it is an abuse of process of the Court for a suitor to litigate again over an identical question which has already been decided against him even if the matter is not strictly res judicata. See Stephenson v. Gamett (1898) 1 QB 67, CA; also Spring Grove Services Limited v. Deane (1972) 116 S.J. 844.” – PER. EJIWUNMI, J.S.C