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Oba Ellijah Oladele Ayeni (Olupoti Of Ipoti) & Ors. v. Prince R.A. Ajimoti Elepo & Ors. (CA/IL/45/2003, 12 Mar 2007)

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➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Oba Ellijah Oladele Ayeni (Olupoti Of Ipoti) & Ors. v. Prince R.A. Ajimoti Elepo & Ors. (CA/IL/45/2003, 12 Mar 2007)

by Branham Chima (LL.B.)

➥ ISSUES RAISED
Res judicata;
Abuse of court process.

➥ CASE FACT/HISTORY
By a writ of summons and statement of claim dated 5th day of November, 2002 and filed the same date, the Plaintiffs/Respondents claim against the Defendants/Appellants as follows: “(a) A declaration that the Obalaaye of Ejiyan is the head chief and or Oba of Ejiyan Quarters in Ipoti Ekiti. (b) A declaration that it is the prerogative of the Ejiyan people and chiefs to select, appoint and install an Obalaaye of Ejiyan in accordance with their age-long customs and traditions. (c) A declaration that no Olupoti in history had ever appointed or installed an Obalaaye of Ejiyan. (d) A declaration that the 1st Defendant is not a prescribed authority over the Obalaaye Chieftaincy.

The Appellant through his counsel raised a preliminary objection on point of law by the motion on Notice dated 21st day of March, 2003 and filed on the same date praying the trial court for an order dismissing the suit of the Plaintiffs on the ground that the action of the Plaintiffs is res-judicata or that plaintiffs are estopped per judicatam by virtue of the judgment of the Court of Appeal therein in suit No: CA/IL/18/2001. The motion on preliminary objection on point of law was argued on 7th and 21st May, 2003 respectively and ruling reserved for 21st July, 2003. The trial court in its ruling delivered on 21st July, 2003 after holding that the subject matter, issues and Plaintiffs are the same in the previous and present suit however held at page 22 lines 1 -11 thus: “In the two of the ingredients of the plea of res judicata are missing viz (1) the parties in the previous suit are not the same as the parties in the present case (2) The decision of the Court of Appeal in appeal No. CA/IL/18/2001 has been appealed against and as such not final. The Law is that unless all the essential ingredients of the plea of res-judicata are established by the Defendants, the plea of res-judicata cannot be sustained. See Oke -vs- Atoloye (supra) Uoye -vs- Olubode (Supra). In sum since two of the essential ingredients of the plea or res-judicata are missing the doctrine of estopple per rem judicata will not apply. The Defendant/Applicant’s application fails. His preliminary objection on point of law cannot be upheld and it is hereby dismissed.” Dissatisfied with the said Ruling, the Appellant appealed to this court by filing a Notice of Appeal consisting of three grounds.

Available:  Alexander Madiebo & Ors v. Godwin Nwachukwu Nwankwo (2001)

➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION(S)
[APPEAL SUCCEEDS]

↪️ I. Having regard to the unambiguous and mandatory conditions or ingredients of res-judicata, coupled with the state of pleadings and the peculiar circumstances of the plea or res-judicata can avail the Appellant – grounds 1, 2 and 3?

RESOLUTION: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
[THE PARTIES ARE NOT THE SAME
‘Needless to say, the plaintiffs in suit No HAD/64/2000 are the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Ekiti State, the Secretary, Ijero Local Government and Oba E. O. Ayeni, the Olupoti of Ipoti Ekiti, while the defendants in Suit No. HIJ/17/2002 are Oba Elijah Oladele Ayeni, the Olupoti of Ipoti-Ekiti, the Chairman, Ijero Local Government, Ijero-Ekiti, the Secretary, Ijero Local Government Ijero Ekiti. It is instructive to note that since the actions were brought in a representative capacity it is not only the named plaintiffs who are parties but others who are unnamed but whom the plaintiffs represented are also deemed to be parites. However, the defendants are not the same as can be gleaned from the names of the Defendants contained in the two processes under consideration.’]
.
.
↪️ II. Whether suit No. HIJ/17/2002 constitutes an abuse of process of court – Grounds 4 and 5?

RESOLUTION: IN APPELLANT’S FAVOUR.
[THE PLAINTIFF HAS ALREADY FILED AN APPEAL IN THE PREVIOUS CASE THUS THIS PRESENT SUIT IS AN ABUSE
‘It is appropriate at this juncture to state that it is not in dispute that the Respondents had filed an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal in suit No. CA/IL/18.2001. The said appeal, needless to say is an appeal against the decision of Aladejana J of the Ekiti State High Court, sitting at Ado-Ekiti dated 15th day of February, 2001. in suit No. HAD/64/2000. That being the case, I am of the considered opinion that since the present plaintiffs have appealed to the apex court in that case, it is an abuse of court process to have filed case No. HIJ/17/2002 with identical reliefs. I am of the considered view that instead of filing the present case, the plaintiffs should have persued their appeal vigorously in the apex court. In the case of Onyeabuchi -vs- INEC, (Supra) the apex court further held as follows: “Once a court is satisfied that any proceeding before it is an abuse of court process it has the power, indeed the duty, to dismiss it: That is to say that once a court is satisfied that the proceedings before it amount to abuse of process, it has the right, in fact the duty, to invoke its coercive powers to punish the party which is in abuse of its process. Such power quite often is exercisable ‘by “‘a dismissal of the action which constitutes the abuse. (Arubo -vs- Aiyelem (1993) 3 NWLR (Pt. 280) 126 referred to) (Pp. 441-442, Paras G – A; 444, para. F).”’]
.
.
.
✓ DECISION:
‘In the light of all that I have said this issue must be resolved against the Respondents in favour of the Appellant. For avoidance of doubt, I hold with ease that suit No. HID/17/2002 constitutes an abuse of process of court. The appeal under consideration is pregnant with a lot of merit and it is hereby allowed. Suit No. HIJ/17/2002 must be and it is hereby dismissed. The Appellant is entitled to the costs of this appeal assessed and fixed at N10,000.00.’

Available:  JIMOH ABDULLAHI & Ors. v THE STATE (1995) - CA

➥ FURTHER DICTA:
⦿ ISSUES SHOULD NOT HAVE SUB-ISSUES
In the case of Omozeghian -vs- Adjarho (supra), this Court per Augie JCA, held thus; “I agree with the Respondent that issues as formulated by the appellant are more wide-ranging than are necessary in the determination of this appeal. In addition, the appellant split his issue 2 into (i), (ii) and (iii) which is absolutely unacceptable. Authorities abound which state that it is clearly unacceptable for an issue to raise in it, other issues. It is well settled that most appeals are won on a few cogent and substantial issues, well framed, researched and presented than on numerous trifling slips.” See Iloabuchi -vs- Ebigbo (2000) 8 NWLR (Pt. 668); and Ehikhamwen -vs- Iluobe (2002) 2 NWLR (Pt. 750) 151 where the court also held that the practice of splitting issues is likely to confuse consideration of principal issues with subsidiary issues”. — T. Abdullahi JCA.

Available:  Mbosowo A. Ekpo v Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (2018) - CA

⦿ REPLY BRIEF SHOULD CONTAIN ONLY NEW POINTS
On the reply brief filed by the Learned Counsel for the Appellants, its appropriate from the onset to say with due respect to the Learned Counsel that he misconceived the import and purpose of filing a reply brief. In the case of Cameroon Airlines -vs- Otutuizu (supra) this court held that: ‘A reply brief should be limited in answering only new points. A cursory look at the reply brief filed by the Appellant would leave no one in any doubt that it contains what a reply brief should and ought not to contain. It does not answer any new issue/s but rather, it re-urges the whole case of the appellant that is not what a reply brief should contain’. — T. Abdullahi JCA.

⦿ INGREDIENTS FOR RES JUDICATA
Now, it is settled by a plethora of decided authorities that for the defence of Res-Judicata to be successfully invoked the following ingredients must be present: 1. That the parties or their privies involved in both the previous and present cases are the same. 2. That the claim or issues in dispute in both cases are the same, 3. That the res or subject-matter of the litigation in both cases are the same. 4. That the decision relied upon to support the plea is valid, subsisting and final; and 5. That the court gave the previous decision relied upon to sustain the plea is a court of competent jurisdiction. — T. Abdullahi JCA.

➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Tijjani Abdullahi, J.C.A.

➥ APPEARANCES
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT(S)
Mr. Disu.

⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT(S)
Mr. Omotunde.

➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS

➥ REFERENCED (LEGISLATION)

➥ REFERENCED (CASE)

➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)

End

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