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Deacon J.K. Oshatoba & Anor v. Chief Johnson Olujitan & Anor (2000)

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⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:

Deacon J.K. Oshatoba & Anor v. Chief Johnson Olujitan & Anor (2000) – SC

by PipAr Chima

⦿ COURT:

Supreme Court

⦿ NOTABLE DICTA

* NULLITY FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION
Without doubt, where a case is heard and judgment is delivered by a court without jurisdiction, the proceedings will be a nullity. – Iguh, JSC. Oshatoba v. Olujitan (2000)

* JURISDICTION MAY BE RAISED AT ANYTIME
Equally, true is the fact that the issue of jurisdiction may be raised at any stage of a proceeding up to the final determination of an appeal even by the highest court of the land. A trial court and, indeed, an appellate court may raise it suo motu at any stage of a proceeding, but must invite the parties to address it on the issue before it takes its decision thereupon. – Iguh, JSC. Oshatoba v. Olujitan (2000)

* JUDGEMENT MUST BE CONFINED TO PARTIES ISSUES
This is because it is a fundamental principle of the determination of disputes between parties that judgment must be confined to the issues raised by the parties and it is not competent for the court to make a case for either or both of the parties and then proceed to give judgment on the case so formulated contrary to the case of the parties. – Iguh, JSC. Oshatoba v. Olujitan (2000)

* ISSUE MUST ARISE FROM GROUNDS OF APPEAL
It suffices to state, firstly, that an appellate court can only hear and decide on issues raised on the grounds of appeal filed before it and an issue not covered by any ground of appeal is incompetent and will be struck out. – Iguh, JSC. Oshatoba v. Olujitan (2000)

* ISSUES ARE ARGUED NOT GROUNDS OF APPEAL
I think I ought to stress in the first place that it is the issues distilled from all appellant’s grounds of appeal that may be argued in the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court and not the grounds of appeal. – Iguh, JSC. Oshatoba v. Olujitan (2000)

* WHERE APPELLATE COURT WILL SET ASIDE FINDINGS OF TRIAL COURT
It is trite law that an appellate court will not ordinarily interfere with the findings of fact of a trial court except in circumstances such as where the trial court has not made a proper use of the opportunity of seeing and hearing the witnesses or where it has drawn wrong conclusions from accepted credible evidence or has taken an erroneous view of the evidence adduced before it or its findings of fact are perverse and do not flow from the evidence accepted by it. – Iguh, JSC. Oshatoba v. Olujitan (2000)

⦿ PARTIES

APPELLANT
Deacon J.K. Oshatoba & Anor.

v.

RESPONDENT
Chief Johnson Olujitan & Anor.

⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:

Iguh, J.S.C.

⦿ APPEARANCES

* FOR THE APPELLANT

– Mudiaga Odje Esq.

* FOR THE RESPONDENT

– J. O. Ijaodola Esq.

⦿ CASE HISTORY

The plaintiffs and the defendants, the Iffe and Ekinrin people, respectively, are two different communities in the Ijumu Local Government Area of the then Kwara State. The defendants are the representatives of the Ekinrin Community whilst the plaintiffs prosecuted this action for and on behalf of the Iffe Community. Both communities laid claim to ownership of the land in dispute. Each side claimed that the land in dispute was founded by its ancestors and led copious evidence in this regard. The plaintiffs, in particular, claimed that they are the landlords of the defendants and that the defendants had encroached and trespassed on the other lands of the plaintiffs not granted to the said defendants. This piece of evidence was denied by the defendants.

At the close of evidence, the trial Upper Area Court inspected the locus in quo and made copious notes in respect thereof. Thereafter, it proceeded to evaluate all the evidence adduced before the court and preferred the testimony of the plaintiffs to that of the defendants.

Dissatisfied with the said judgment, the defendants lodged an appeal against the same to the appellate division of the High Court of Justice, Kwara State, holden at Okene. That court, in a unanimous judgment, allowed the appeal, set aside the decision and orders of the trial court

Dissatisfied with the said judgment, the defendants lodged an appeal against the same to the appellate division of the High Court of Justice, Kwara State, holden at Okene. That court, in a unanimous judgment, allowed the appeal, set aside the decision and orders of the trial court and concluded as follows: “For this and other reasons canvassed in this judgment, we think that the investigation of the claims of the parties by the trial court including the ascertainment of the rights of other prospective interested persons who are likely to be affected by the outcome of this case was perfunctory as it ignored some material aspects of the adjudication of the matter in dispute. Consequently this appeal is bound to succeed and it is allowed. We set aside the judgment of the Upper Area Court in suit No. UAC/CVL/30/84 given on 10/6/85 in the dispute between the parties before us….. We feel that the proper order to make in the peculiar circumstances of this case is one of a non-suit and we order accordingly.”

Aggrieved by this decision of the appellate High Court, both parties lodged appeals’ to the Court of Appeal, Kaduna division, which court, in a unanimous decision, allowed the appeal of the plaintiffs in full and that of the defendants in part.

This is a further appeal by the defendant.

⦿ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION

[APPEAL: DISMISSED, WITH N10,000 COST]

1. Whether or not the appellants can now raise the issue of want of jurisdiction on the part of the trial Upper Area Court to entertain the respondents’ action as contended by the appellants.

RULING:
i. In the present case, it is evident that the issue of jurisdiction now sought to be argued by the appellants was neither raised nor covered by any of the three grounds of appeal filed before this court. In the second place, the same issue of jurisdiction not having been raised by the appellants in the court below, it is plain that it cannot now be canvassed in this court without leave, I think that learned counsel for the appellants was quite right when he conceded that the issue of jurisdiction could not now be raised before this court in this appeal without leave. This leave was neither sought nor obtained by the appellants.

ii. In the present appeal, the issue of jurisdiction sought to be argued is neither covered by any of the three grounds of appeal filed in these proceedings nor was the leave of court obtained to raise it. In my view, therefore, the issue is incompetent and must be struck out.

2. Whether on the totality of the evidence adduced before the Upper Area Court, the court below was right in reversing the decision of the Appellate High Court and restoring that of the Upper Area Court.

RULING:
i. As I have already observed, both parties laid claim to ownership of the land in dispute and tendered evidence in support thereof. The respondents in particular claimed that they are the landlords of the appellants and that the said appellants had exceeded the area of land they were given and trespassed on other lands of the respondents not granted to them hence this action. The respondents’ evidence was accepted as established by the trial Upper Area Court, and that of the appellants was rejected as unreliable. These findings of fact of the trial Upper Area Court were not established to be perverse or otherwise faulty.

⦿ ENDING NOTE BY LEAD JUSTICE – Per

⦿ REFERENCED (STATUTE)

⦿ REFERENCED (CASE)

⦿ REFERENCED (OTHERS)

Available:  Sunmonu Olohunde V. Professor S.K. Adeyoju (2000) - SC
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