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The Attorney General Of The Federation Of Nigeria V. The Attorney General Of Anambra State (2017) LLJR-SC

The Attorney General Of The Federation Of Nigeria V. The Attorney General Of Anambra State (2017)

LAWGLOBAL HUB Lead Judgment Report

OHN INYANG OKORO, J.S.C.

This is Ruling on motion on notice dated 28th February 2016 but filed on 29th February 2016 by the defendant/applicant. The said motion, which is brought, pursuant to Section 232 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Section 97 and 99 of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act, prays for the following reliefs

FOR AN ORDER pursuant to Section 232 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) striking out this suit for want of jurisdiction on the ground that the dispute does not involve Nigeria as a Federation on the one hand and Anambra State Government on the other, but rather involves a dispute between the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development over allocation of land made by the Governor of Anambra State.

IN THE ALTERNATIVE:

ii FOR AN ORDER pursuant to Section 97 and 99 Sheriff and Civil Process Act setting aside the writ of summons and all other processes served on the Defendant at the office of the Attorney General Anambra State, Awka Anambra State on the ground that

(a) The Writ

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of summons and the Statement of Claim were not marked for service outside Abuja being the seat of the Court.

(b) The Writ of Summons did not accord the Defendant the mandatory period of not less than 30 days within which to enter appearance.

IN THE FURTHER ALTERNATIVE AND IN THE EVENT OF THE COURT NOT GRANTING (1) AND (11) ABOVE:

(iii) FOR AN ORDER of extension of the time within which the Defendant may be allowed to enter appearance and file the requisite defence to this suit.

And for such orders or further Orders as the Supreme Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance.”

The grounds upon which the application is anchored are that:

“i. Based on the facts disclosed on the Statement of Claim, there is no dispute between the Federation and Anambra State Government.

ii. The Court processes served on the Defendant especially the Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim served on the Defendant’s office in Awka, Anambra State were not endorsed for service outside Abuja.

iii. The Defendant was not allowed a period of not less than 30 days to enter appearance and file the necessary papers in defence.

iv. Defendant

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is questioning the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to adjudicate over the matter and thus did not comply with the directive of the writ of summons as regards entering appearance.

In support of the motion is an eight paragraphs affidavit deposed to by Obinna Onya Esq., Legal Practitioner in the Law firm of lkpeazu Chambers handling this matter for the defendant/applicant. Exhibit AG1, AG2 and AG3 are annexed to the supporting affidavit filed on 29/2/16 along with the motion on notice. Applicant also filed further affidavit on 17/7/17. On 24/2/17, the applicant filed written address and a reply on 3/3/17. At the hearing of this motion on 26/9/17 which was moved by learned senior counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, leading others for the defendant/applicant, he urged the Court to grant the application and strike out the suit.

On behalf of the Plaintiff/Respondent Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, with other counsel with him, identified a counter affidavit of six paragraphs filed on 9/5/16 deposed to by Godwin Iyinbor Esq., counsel in the law firm of Mike Ozekhome Chambers. He also filed a written address on 24/2/17 in opposition to the motion of the

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defendant. He adopted and relied on these documents and urged the Court to refuse the application

A brief facts leading to the filing of this motion will throw more light on the application.

By an endorsement on the Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim filed on 9th November, 2015, the Plaintiff being the Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while invoking the Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, prayed as follows:

“17. (a) A Declaration that the 148.337 Hectares of land at Amansea, Awka North Local Government Area, Anambra State, comprising Federal Government sites and services scheme, Amansea/Awka was lawfully acquired by the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1992, under the Land Use Act of 1978 (as amended).

(b) A Declaration that the Federal Government of Nigeria had duly paid the required compensation that was assessed to the knowledge of and active collaboration with the Anambra State Government.

(c) A Declaration that the Federal Government of Nigeria had duly granted Statutory Rights of Occupancy to her Allotees and Development Partners’ members of the public and Original land owners to the

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knowledge of and active collaboration with the Anambra State Government.

(d) A Declaration that the Revocation of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Right and interest over the said Federal Government Sites and Services Scheme, Amansea/Awka, measuring 148.337 Hectares of land by the Anambra State Government vide a Public Notice dated 1st September, 2014, is wrongful, unlawful, null, void and of no effect whatsoever as same is neither supported by any extant law in force in Nigeria, nor done for any justifiable reasons

(e) A PERPETUAL IN]UNCTION restraining the Anambra State Government whether by itself, its agents, servant, representatives, or privies, howsoever, from further interfering with the right and interests of the Federal Government of Nigeria and her Allotees and development partners over the said Federal Government Sites and Services Scheme, Amansea /Awka,

(f) A Declaration that the purported Revocation of the Federal Government of Nigerias Right and Interests over the said Federal Government Sites and Services Scheme Amansea/Awka, measuring 748.337 Hectares of land by the Anambra State Government, vide a Public Notice dated

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1st September, 2014, is null, void and of no effect whatsoever as the Plaintiff was never served the purported Notice of Revocation as required by the Land Use Act, 1978.

(g) A Declaration that the purported Revocation of the Federal Government of Nigeria’s Rights and Interests over the said Federal Government Sites and Services Scheme, Amansea/Awka, measuring 148.337 Hectares of land by the Anambra State Government, vide a Public Notice dated 1st September, 2014, is null, void and of no effect whatsoever, since the Defendant merely purportedly assigned same Sites and Services Scheme to profit-driven Private Developer, and not for any public purpose howsoever.

(h) 50 Billion Naira only being Exemplary and Aggravated Damages suffered by the Federal Government of Nigeria by the unconscionable actions of the Defendant resulting in disruptions of the lawful activities of the Federal Government of Nigeria and her Allotees aid Development partners over the said Federal Government Sites and Services Scheme at Amansea/Awka, Anambra State.

(i) Cost of the Suit.

According to the Defendant/Applicant, the writ of summons which was filed in Abuja, was

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served on her at the office of the Attorney General, Ministry of Justice, Awka, Anambra State. That the writ of summons gave the Defendant twenty-one (21) days within which to enter appearance and that the writ of summons was not endorsed for service on the Defendant at Awka, Anambra State.

Based on the above facts, the Defendant filed this motion on notice on 29/2/16 as I have earlier set out in this Ruling.

In the written address of the Defendant/applicant filed by Dr. Onyechi lkpeazu, SAN, based on the facts as contained in the statement of claim and the prayers in the motion on Notice, three alternative issues have been formulated for the determination of this application. The three alternative issues are as follows:

“1. Whether the suit before the Supreme Court which is essentially a dispute between the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and the Governor of Anambra State over the control of land in Amansea town, Anambra State is a dispute between the Federation of Nigeria and Anambra State so as to come within the Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

See also  Isaac Iloabuchi V. Cosmas Ebigbo & Anor (2000) LLJR-SC

In the alternative

  1. Whether Sections

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97 and 99 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act extend to endorsement and service of Writ of Summons initiated at the Supreme Court

In the further alternative:

  1. If issues 1 and 2 are resolved against the Defendant/Applicant, whether the Defendant/applicant is entitled to the indulgence of the Court to file the requisite Court processes in defence of the suit.”

Also, in the written address of the Plaintiff/Respondent filed by learned Senior Counsel, Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, three issues are also nominated for the determination of this application. The issues are as follows:

  1. Whether this suit as presently constituted, is proper before this Court in relation to the parties herein having regards to the provisions of Sections 232 (1) and 318 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 20 of the Supreme Court Act.
  2. Whether Sections 97 and 99 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act are applicable to this suit brought before the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
  3. Whether having regards to the provisions of Order 2 Rule 6 of the Supreme Court Rules, the service of the Originating process on the defendant was properly effected”

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I shall determine this application on the three issues donated by the defendant/applicant, starting with the first issue. This issue concerns and relates to the Original jurisdiction of this Court. Where the first issue succeeds, there may not be any need to consider the other two alternative issues.

It is the submission of the learned Senior Counsel for the defendant/applicant that from a calm appraisal of statement of claim, shorn of all the camouflage or customery, the dispute in this case involves the control of land in Anambra State. He argued that the contest is essentially between the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and the Governor of Anambra State. He submitted that the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court does not extend to a contest such as this. The learned Silk opines that notwithstanding its enormous and imposing powers, the Supreme Court remains a creation of statute with its powers confined within the precinct of the enabling law, in this case, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). He cited Section 232 (1) and (2) of the said Constitution (supra).

The learned Senior

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Counsel further submitted that in determining whether this Court has jurisdiction to entertain the suit as constituted, the totality of averments in the statement of claim has to be considered. He also submitted that this Court can also consider all the documents availed the Court by the plaintiff/respondent in various affidavits evidence supplied in the file of the Court relying on the case of Agbaisi v Ebikorefe (1997) 4 NWLR (pt 502) 630 at 648 paragraphs D-E.

It is a further submission of the learned Senior Advocate that for the dispute in the instant case to come within the Original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the subject matter of the dispute must be a matter in which the interest of the Federation as a unit consisting of the interest of the thirty five other States and the Federal Capital Territory is an issue which is not the case here. He argued that there is a clear difference between the “Federation” and the Government of the Federation or Federal Government. It is his view that all references to the Plaintiff in the statement of claim are indeed references to the Federal Government.

Referring to paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 of the

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statement of claim, the learned Silk submitted that no matter how the case has been presented or shrouded, the pith of the case is the existence of a dispute over the proposed Site and Services Scheme of the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development which is an agency of the Federal Government. That acts of agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria are not covered by Section 232 (1) of the 1999 Constitution [as amended). According to him, Section 251 of the Constitution has made ample provisions for the ventilation of such grievances, relying on the cases of A.G. Kano State v A.G. Federation (2007) 6 NWLR (pt 1029) 164 at 184 – 185 paragraphs H – B, A.G. Abia State v A.G. Federation (2007) 6 NWLR (pt 1029) 200 –

Referring to Exhibits A, B, C, D, E, F and G annexed to the affidavit in support of the plaintiff’s motion for interlocutory injunction which same exhibits are annexed to the further affidavit of the defendant/applicant in support of the instant motion, he submitted that these exhibits have obliterated all doubts as to the parties to the dispute which does not include the Federation of Nigeria. He urged this Court to grant this

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application and hold that the Supreme Court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain this suit as presently constituted.

Responding to the above argument, the learned senior counsel for the Plaintiff/Respondent Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN submitted that this suit as presently constituted is proper before this Court with respect to the parties herein and that this Court has the jurisdiction to entertain same. He however agrees with learned counsel for the applicant that for any party to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, under Section 232 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution (supra), such matter must be between the Federation and a State or between two States. In paragraphs 5.4 of their written address, learned Silk submitted that “a dispute arose on the 1st day of September, 2014, when the Defendant purportedly revoked the Federal Government’s land measuring approximately 148.337 hectares, situated at Amansea, Awka North Local Government Area, Anambra State. As to the meaning of dispute, he referred to the case of A.G. Anambra State v A.G. Federation (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt 1047) Page 4.

Learned senior counsel submitted that it is statement of

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claim of the plaintiff that determines the jurisdiction of the Court and in this case paragraphs 8 and 9 thereof. He relies on the case of Omnia Nig. Ltd. v Dyktrade Ltd. (No 2) (2007) 7 SC 44 at 79 – 80. On conditions which must exist before the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can be ignited, he refers to the case of A.G. Anambra State v A.G. Federation (supra), A.G. Lagos v A.G. Federation (2014) LPELR -22701 (SC).

The learned Silk invites the Court to take a look at exhibits A, B, C, K, Q and R in paragraphs 16 (a), (b), (c), (k), (q) and (r) in the plaintiff/respondent’s statement of claim because they form the fulcrum upon which the legal rights in issue in this matter arose.

On whether the dispute in this suit is between the Federation and a State, learned Senior Advocate referred to Sections 5, 148, 318 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Section 18 of Interpretation Act and submitted that the Minister of the Federation who was appointed in line with Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution cannot be said to be acting for the Federal Government but for the Federation or Government of the

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Federation and consequently all such actions taken by the Hon. Minister of Lands, Housing and urban Development cannot be interpreted otherwise. He relies on the case of A.G. Kano State v A.G. Federation (2007) 6 NWLR (pt 1029) 164. On the principle of interpretation of statutes, the learned Silk relies on the cases of B. M. Ltd. v Woermann – Line (2009) 13 NWLR (pt 1157) 149, A.G. Lagos v A.G. Federation (supra).

In furtherance of his argument, the learned Silk submitted that from the provisions of Sections of the 1999 Constitution, although executive powers of the Federation are conferred on the President, such powers can either be exercised by him directly or through the Vice President or Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He contends that the President in exercising the powers conferred on him either by himself or through the Vice President or any Minister of the Federation is exercising such powers therein for the entire federation.

See also  P.N. Udoh Trading Co. Ltd. V. Sunday Abere & Anor (2001) LLJR-SC

Learned senior counsel submitted that the case of A.G. Kano State v A.G. Federation (supra) relied upon by the defendant/applicant is distinguishable from this case, in the sense that the issues in that

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matter had nothing to do with land. He urged this Court to disregard this authority.

Referring to the preamble to the Land Use Act and Sections 1, 49 and 51 (2) thereof, the learned Silk submitted that title to Federal and State lands are vested in the Federal and State governments for the President and State Governor, to hold same in trust for the Federation and the people of the State respectively. It is his final submission on this issue that the dispute in this case which borders on the defendant’s interference with the land under the management and control of the plaintiff, is a dispute between the Federation and the State which warrants the invocation of the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, relying on the case of A.G. Federation v A.G. Lagos State (unreported) Appeal No. SC 50/11 decided on 27/1/17. He urged this Court to resolve this issue in favour of the Plaintiff/Respondent.

On pages 2 to 4 of the written address of the plaintiff/respondent, the learned Senior counsel for the plaintiff submitted that the defendant/applicant ought to have filed statement of defence before bringing this application. That all the issues being

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canvassed by the applicant are clearly issues of law and cannot arise before or without statement of defence, relying on the case of Alhaji Silifat Ajilowura v Taofik Disu & 13 Ors SC 288/2000 (Nigeria – Law Org.); Lasisi Fadare & Ors v A.G. of Oyo State (1982) ANLR. It is his view that the applicant having failed to file statement of defence, the preliminary objection is fundamentally flawed and liable to be struck out and he so urged the Court.

In his written address, the learned Senior counsel for the applicant contended that the issue of jurisdiction is not necessarily controlled by the Rules of Court which are procedural legislation. That issue of jurisdiction is substantive and proceeds to the foundation or exercise of the case itself. It is his submission that this application is not a procedure in lieu of demurrer or like procedure dictated by the rules of Court; rather, it is a substantive application challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain any aspect of the Plaintiffs/Respondent’s case as constituted.

He cited and relied on many authorities including Elabanjo v Dawodu (2006) 15 NWLR (pt 1001) 76 at 115 paras 13 – 11,

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Arjay Ltd v Airline Management Support Ltd (2003) 7 NWLR (pt 820) 577 at 601. Petrojessica Enterprises Ltd v Leventis Technical Co. Ltd (1992) 5 NWLR (pt 244) 675 at 693 etc.

In a plethora of authorities, this Court has held that jurisdiction is a threshold issue and live-wire that determines the authority of a Court of law or tribunal to entertain a case before it. It is only when a Court is imbued or conferred with the necessary jurisdiction by the Constitution and/or law that it will have the judicial power and authority to entertain or adjudicate upon any cause or matter brought before it. The absence of such requisite jurisdiction would render any proceedings conducted by such a Court an exercise in futility, null, void and of no effect whatsoever, no matter how well conducted. See Musaconi Ltd v Mr. Aspinall (2013) LPELR 2074 5 (SC), NDIC v CBN (2002) LPELR 2000(SC), 2002 7 NWLR (Pt 766) 273, B.A. Shitta Bey v A.G. of Federation & Anor (1998) LPELR 3055 (SC), (1998) 10 NWLR (pt 570) 392, Salisu & Anor v Mobolaji & Ors (2013) LPELR – 22019 (SC).

The importance of jurisdiction is the very reason why it

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can be raised at any stage of the proceedings, be it at the trial, on appeal to the Court of Appeal or even in this Court. It must be noted that the Court can suo motu raise issue of jurisdiction. Once it is apparent to any party that the Court may not have jurisdiction, it can be raised even viva voce. It is in the interest of justice to do so. See Petrojessica Enterprises Ltd v Leventis Technical Co. Ltd (supra) Popoola Elabanjo & Anor v Chief (Mrs.) Ganiat Dawodu (2006) 15 NWLR (pt 1001) 76, Kotoye v Saraki (1994) 7 NWLR (pt 357) 414 at 466.

There is therefore no need to file statement of defence before issue of jurisdiction can be raised as argued by the learned Senior counsel for the Plaintiff/Respondent. I hold that this motion filed by the defendant/applicant was rightly done even as it is yet to file its statement of defence. I shall now proceed to resolve the first issue in this application.

The main thrust of the defendant/applicant’s motion before this Court is that the suit of the plaintiff/respondent as presently constituted does not qualify as one of such matters which the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court may be activated

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and/ or invoked. As I stated earlier at the preliminary stage of this ruling, the issue of jurisdiction of a Court to try a suit is a fundamental and threshold one. This is so because if a Court has no jurisdiction to determine a subject matter of the suit or that the parties are not subject to the jurisdiction of that Court, the proceedings thereof are and remain a nullity however well conducted and the judgment brilliantly written and eloquently delivered. It behoves every Court, including the Apex Court to carefully examine the issues in the statement of claim to determine whether the issues sought to be ventilated before it are within its jurisdictional competence. In essence, jurisdiction is a radical and fundamental prerequisite for adjudication. See Alhaji Hashimu Garba Matari & Ors v Ahmadu Dangaladima & Anor (1993) LPELR 25714 (SC), (1993) 3 NWLR (Pt 281) 266, Madukolu v Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR, 34, Francis Nwanezie v Nuhu Idris & Anor (1993) LPELR 2104 (SC), (1993) 3 NWLR (Pt 279) page 1.

I shall now examine the law under which the Supreme Court derives its Original jurisdiction. This is provided for in Section 232

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(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] which provides:-

232 (1) The Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other Court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute between the Federation and a State or between States if and in so far as that dispute involves any question (whether) of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends.

(2) In addition to the jurisdiction conferred upon it by Subsection (1) of this section, the Supreme Court shall have such original jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by any Act of the National Assembly

Provided that no original jurisdiction shall be conferred upon the Supreme Court with respect to any criminal matter.

The above constitutional provision on the Original Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Nigeria appears clear and unambiguous. Thus, for this Court to exercise its original jurisdiction in a civil case under Section 232 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the following must exist. That is to say: [1) there must be a dispute between the Federation and a State or

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States or between States; (2) the dispute must involve a question of law or fact or both and (3) the dispute must pertain to the existence or extent of a legal right. See A.G. of the Federation v A.G. of Abia State (2001) LPELR 24862 (SC).

As was pointed out by the learned senior counsel for the defendant/applicant, Section 232 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (supra), while creating in personam jurisdiction over the Federation and the State or States, limits substantially the subject matter jurisdiction to only disputes between the Federation and a State or between States. It is therefore, not just any dispute that this Court can exercise its original jurisdiction. The subject matter of the dispute must involve the interest of the Federation as a unit and a State or States.

See also  Udo Akpan V. The State (1972) LLJR-SC

The question may be asked: what is the meaning of Federation By Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), “Federation” is defined as “the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” The word Federation or Federal Republic of Nigeria is further explained in the said Constitution for the avoidance of doubt. Section 2 (1) and (2) of the said Constitution provide:<br< p=””

</br<

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“2 (1) Nigeria is an indivisible and indissoluble sovereign State to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(2) Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory.”

Simply put, the word Federation means Federal Republic of Nigeria which presently consists of 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory called Abuja. It follows that for a dispute to come within the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, the subject matter of the dispute must be a matter in which the interest of the Federation as a unit consisting of the interest of the thirty six (36) States and the Federal Capital Territory is in issue. In the instant case, the interest of the thirty five other States (excluding Anambra State) and the Federal Capital Territory in the control over and development of the Amansea land in Anambra State must be paramount and clearly seen in the statement of claim. This is so because in determining the jurisdiction of the Court it is the statement of claim which the Court has to look into where the action is commenced by the filing of statement of claim. See Omnia Nig. Ltd v Dyktrade Ltd (2007) LPELR

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– 2641 (SC), (2007) 15 NWLR (pt 1058) 576, Akauve Moses Osoh & Ors v Unity Bank PLC (2013) LPELR – 19968 (SC), (2013) 9 NWLR (pt 1358) P. 1, Felix Onuorah v Kaduna Refining & Petrochemical Co. Ltd (2005) LPELR – 2707 (SC), (2005) 6 NWLR (pt 921) P.393.

It must be noted that there is a clear difference between the “Federation” or “Federal Republic of Nigeria” on the one hand and “Government of the Federation” or “Federal Government.” Whereas the Federation refers to the federating units comprising of all the States and the Federal Capital Territory, the Federal Government or Government of the Federation refers to the Executive arm of the Government which contrasts with the Legislative powers and judicial powers domiciled in the National Assembly and the judiciary respectively. See Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended, A.G. Kano State v A.G. Federation (2007) 6 NWLR (pt 1029) 164 at 184 – 185 paras H B.

A cursory perusal of the statement of claim in the suit giving birth to this application will disclose that the subject matter of the dispute is the right of control over land in

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Amansea in Anambra State. By paragraphs 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 of the statement of claim, it is very clear that this land was granted by the Government of Anambra State to the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in collaboration with the incorporated Trustees of Association of Allotees of Federal Sites and Services, Amansea to whom parcels of the land had been allocated to erect their own homes.” Has the plaintiff/respondent, in his statement of claim, shown the interest of the Federation so as to entitle her to invoke the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in the dispute over this parcel of land I do not think so. What is the interest of the other 35 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory in respect of this Amansea land in Anambra State It has not been shown. Rather, what is clearly demonstrated is that the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development acquired this land and partitioned same to individuals to build their houses. These individuals have formed themselves into an association called “Incorporated Trustees of Association of Allotees of Federal Sites and Services Scheme, Amansea,

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Anambra State.”

As was rightly held by this Court in A.G. Kano v A.G. Federation (supra), the venue for the settlement of any dispute arising between the Federal Government or any of its agencies lies elsewhere with various Courts of first instance whose original jurisdiction are clearly outlined in the same 1999 Constitution. Care must be taken so as not to confuse the original jurisdiction donated to the Supreme Court in Section 232 of the 1999 Constitution with the original jurisdiction of the Federal High Court under Section 251 (1) (p) (q) and (r) dealing with actions against the Federal Government or any of its agencies. Exhibit A referred to in paragraphs 16 (a) of the Statement of Claim as the letter by the Anambra State Government dated 30th October, 1992 informing the Federal Government through the controller, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing Awka that the then Military Administrator of Anambra State had approved the acquisition . of the subject matter in dispute …….” is the same as exhibit A annexed to the affidavit in support of this motion. A careful perusal of the said document which created the right which

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the plaintiff seeks to enforce discloses that the Federation, as defined in this judgment, was not a party to the same.

Furthermore, exhibit G, which is the lease agreement shows that “the large expanse of land at Awka/Amansea, Anambra State measuring approximately 114.360 Hectares was acquired by the Ministry for Site and Services Scheme.” (Italics mine for emphasis). Paragraph 4 of Exhibit G states further that:

“4 The Ministry and the Association having considered all that the infrastructural development will involve have agreed to work together as parties for the mutual benefit of Government and all the Allotees of the Scheme in accordance with the terms and conditions hereinafter set forth.”

Clearly, the parties named in the above paragraph i.e. “the Ministry” “the Association” and “Allotees” are the real beneficiaries of the land in dispute. The venue to ventilate their grievance is certainly not the Supreme Court in its original jurisdiction. Maybe, Section 251 of the Constitution, 1999 could be explored. All the documents alluded to by the Plaintiff/Respondent in the statement of claim bear testimony to the fact that it is not the

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Federation but an agency of the Federal Government that transacted with Anambra State Government over the disputed land. In circumstance therefore, Section 232 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) does not contemplate such a dispute.

The summary of all I have endeavoured to say above is that by Section 232 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the suit of the Plaintiff/Respondent as is presently constituted does not qualify for the invocation of the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The application of the defendant/applicant to strike out the suit is hereby granted. The suit is accordingly struck out.

Having granted the first relief in the motion paper and the suit struck out, it becomes unnecessary to consider the two alternative reliefs as that would amount to an academic exercise. I shall make no order as to costs.


SC.876/2015(R)

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