Nigerian Cases on Jurisdiction
Nigerian Cases on Jurisdiction are crystal clear that the issue of jurisdiction is germane to every legal proceeding
Definition of Jurisdiction
ALHAJI BASIRU KASSIM v. ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS & ORS (2018) Legalpedia (CA) 11115
The BLACKS LAW DICTIONARY, 8th Edition page 867 by Brayan A. GERNER defines jurisdiction of a Court of law in these words Courts power to decide a case or issue a decree. The Supreme Court in the case of Oduko v. Governor, Ebonyi State (2009) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1147) P. 441 @ 452 per ADEREMI J.S.C defined jurisdiction of a Court of law thus:
Jurisdiction is the legal power or authority which a Court must have to decide matters in a formal way for its decision. The limits of this legal power or authority are circumscribed by the Statute or Act of the National Assembly under which the Court is constituted and may be extended or restricted by similar means.
Importance of Jurisdiction
BAWA & ANOR v. WUNJI & ORS (2021)LCN/15158(CA)
Jurisdiction generally is fundamental to any proceedings and any proceedings conducted without jurisdiction amounts to a nullity no matter how well conducted, see NDIC V CBN & ANOR (2002) LPELR-2000(SC) which held:
“Jurisdiction is the very basis on which any Tribunal tries a case; it is the lifeline of all trials. A trial without jurisdiction is a nullity. This importance of jurisdiction is the reason why it can be raised at any stage of a case, be it at the trial, on appeal to Court of Appeal or to this Court; a fortiori the Court can suo motu raise it. It is desirable that preliminary objection be raised early on issue of jurisdiction; but, once it is apparent to any party that, the Court may not have jurisdiction, it can be raised even viva voce as in this case. It is always in the interest of justice to raise issue of jurisdiction so as to save time and costs and to avoid a trial in nullity.” Per UWAIFO, J.S.C. PER NIMPAR, J.C.A.
Basic requirement of Jurisdiction
ALHAJI BASIRU KASSIM v. ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS & ORS (Ibid)
For a Court of law to be vested with the jurisdiction to hear and determine any suit, three (3) basic requirements must be met or satisfied as enunciated in the case of Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 All NRL P. 581, which are thus:
(a) It is properly constituted as regards numbers and qualification of the members of the bench and no member is disqualified for one reason or other.
(b) The subject matter of the case is within its jurisdiction, and there is no feature in the case which prevents the Court from exercising its jurisdiction; and
(c) The case comes before a Court initiated by due process of law, and upon fulfilment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction. (Underlining for emphasis)
Effect of Lack of Jurisdiction
SHUAIBU & ANOR v. KOLEOSHO (2021) LPELR-53435(CA)
“In law, a Court that lacks the jurisdiction to hear and determine a matter would definitely lack the power to make any pronouncements on the merit or otherwise of the matter over which it lacks the jurisdiction, in the first place to entertain since there can be no adjudication on the merits where there is no jurisdiction or competence to adjudicate.” – Per BIOBELE ABRAHAM GEORGEWILL, JCA
MR RICHARD MBA & ORS V INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE & ORS (2020) Legalpedia (CA) 04115
“Where a court is drained of the jurisdiction to entertain a matter, the proceeding germinating from it, no matter the quantum of diligence, dexterity, artistry, sophistry, transparency and objectivity injected into it, will be marooned in the intractable web of nullity, see Elugbe v. Omokhafe (2004) 18 NWLR (Pt. 905) 319; Lokpobiri v. Ogola (2016) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1499) 328; Garba v. Mohammed (supra); Isah v. INEC (supra)”.
Determination of Jurisdiction
Skypower Exp. Airways Ltd. v. U.B.A. Plc (2022) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1826) 203
It is the claimant’s case that vests jurisdiction on the court. A valid writ of summons is sine qua non to the assumption of the requisite jurisdiction by a court to entertain or adjudicate over a matter commenced by that process. The court will not look at a defendant’s processes to determine whether it has jurisdiction. The onus is on the claimant to ensure that his action at the trial court was originated by due process of law. That duty has never been that of the defendant. In the instant case, it was clear that the appeal was a non starter, the writ of summons and statement of claim, being the originating process haven not been signed by a legal practitioner as known in the Roll of Legal Practitioners, were invalid or incompetent, hence the appeal being a continuum from that originating process could not be validated as the jurisdiction of the court had been ousted with the jurisdiction of the trial court non-existent on account of that incompetence. [Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR 341; F.B.N. Plc v. Maiwada (2013) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1348) 444; S.P.D.C.N. Ltd. v. Sam Royal Hotel (Nig.) Ltd. (2016) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1514) 318; Hamzat v. Sani (2015) 5
Can the Jurisdiction of a court be waived or agreed upon by parties
Skypower Exp. Airways Ltd. v. U.B.A. Plc (2022) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1826) 203
Where a court lacks jurisdiction or competence to entertain an action, the parties to the suit cannot by acquiescence, waiver or even agreement confer jurisdiction or competence upon the court. A party cannot waive in a situation where clearly the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain a matter. In this case, the 1 st respondent was not in a position to waive the appellant’s incompetent writ of summons. The originating process was fundamentally defective and legally non-existent and the action was dead at the point of filing. The appellant’s writ of summons and statement of claim issued by “J. Odion Esezoobo & Co” did not come before the court initiated by due process of law and the trial court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate on these incompetent processes. [Ugo v. Okafor (1996) 3 NWLR (Pt. 438) 542; Ijebu-Ode L.G. v. Adedeji Balogun & Co. (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt. 166) 136 referred to.] (P. 240, paras. C-F)
Jurisdiction on Matters of Fundamental Right
INSP. GABRIEL OF THE C.O.P MONITORING UNIT, LAGOS v. UKPABIO & ORS (2022) LPELR-57032(SC)
“The rights enshrined in Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) are termed Fundamental for the simple reason that they are inalienable natural rights which stands above the ordinary laws of the land and are primary conditions to civilized existence. It is for their natural inalienability that the law prioritizes their preservation against violation. See Fawehinmi Vs. IGP (2002) 7 NWLR (Pt 767) 606. It is for this reason that Section 46(1) of the 1999 Constitution grants any person who alleges that his fundamental right provided for in Chapter IV of the Constitution has been, is being or likely to be contravened in any state to apply to any High Court in that State for redress. The Court referred to here is definitely not exclusive to High Court of a State but both Federal High Court and State High Court. See Federal University of Technology Minna, Niger State & Ors Vs Bukola Oluwaseun Olutayo (2017) LPELR- 43827 (SC). It follows therefore that in matters for enforcement of fundamental rights, both the High Court of a State and the Federal High Court have concurrent Jurisdiction.” – Per JOHN INYANG OKORO, JSC.