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Mailantarki v. Tongo (2017) – SC

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➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Mailantarki v. Tongo (2017) – SC

by PipAr Chima

➥ COURT:
Supreme Court – SC.792/2015

➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, 2nd June, 2017

➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Forum shopping;
Territorial jurisdiction;

➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ THE FCT HIGH COURT IS NOT A COURT FOR ALL PURPOSE
Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution, be it noted, regards the FCT, Abuja “as if it were one of the States of the Federation”. Accordingly, for all intents and purposes, FCT High Court, under the Constitution, is no more than a State High Court. The Constitution has never intended it to be a High Court at large with Jurisdiction over matters outside its territory. – E. Eko JSC.

⦿ STARE DECISIS MAKES THE LAW CERTAIN
It is a policy of Courts to stand by established precedent for the certainty of the law. Agreed, no two cases have identical facts. Where, however, the facts of the decided case are substantially the same with the case at hand, the principle of stare decisis enjoins a Court to follow the earlier judicial decisions when the same points arose again in litigation. It is also a rule of law that ensures certainty in the state of the law and its application. – E. Eko JSC.

⦿ JURISDICTION OF COURT CANNOT BE GIVEN BY RULES OF COURT
The law is settled that the jurisdiction of a Court of record, in its broad and substantive sense, cannot be conferred by the Rules of Court. The Rules of Court are only made, pursuant to the powers conferred on the heads of Courts by the Constitution to make Rules, to regulate practice and procedure in their respective Courts. The Rules they make are only to regulate the practice and procedure in their respective Courts. The Rules do not confer jurisdiction on the Court to entertain causes or matters. Rather, the jurisdiction of Courts in Nigeria is either conferred or vested by the Constitution or the enabling statute establishing the Court. – E. Eko JSC.

Available:  Diamond Bank Limited v. Prince Alfred Amobi Ugochukwu (2016)

⦿ WHAT IS FORUM SHOPPING
It is a specie of abuse of judicial process. Forum shopping denotes a rather reprehensible practice of choosing the most favourable territorial jurisdiction or Court in which a matter or cause may be entertained and adjudicated upon. A typical example of forum shopping according to Black’s Law Dictionary, is where the plaintiff institutes a suit in the jurisdiction with a reputation for awarding high damages, disdain for political gimmicks or filing several similar suits and keeping the one with the preferred Judge. – E. Eko JSC.

⦿ TYPES OF JURISDICTION
There is both subject matter jurisdiction and territorial jurisdiction. – Kekere-Ekun JSC.

➥ PARTIES
Hon. Khamisu Ahmed Mailantarki

v.

Hon. Yaya Baychi Tongo
All Progressives Congress
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Ejembi Eko, JSC

➥ APPEARANCES
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
Mr. Maikyau, SAN

⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT

➥ CASE HISTORY
The suit instituted by the appellant before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja arose from the appellant’s complaint against the emergence of the 1st respondent as the 2nd respondent’s (All Progressives Congress) flag bearer representing Gombe/Kwami/Funakaye Federal constituency in the Gombe State House of Assembly in the primary election conducted on 8th December, 2014. The 1st respondent eventually won the seat at the General Election.

The appellant’s contention was that at the time the primaries were held, the 1st respondent was not a member of the APC. He petitioned the 2nd Respondent’s National Assemblies Primaries Appeal Committee for Gombe State, which recommended in its report that the ticket of the party be withdrawn from the 1st respondent and that the appellant be allowed to re-contest his seat.

Available:  The State v. Moshood Oladimeji (2003)

The Originating Summons filed at the trial Court was to compel the 2nd respondent to comply with the decision of the Appeal Committee.

The lower court (Court of Appeal) held that the Trial Court (High Court at FCT) had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit in the first place. This is an appeal by the Plaintiff/Appellant.

➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
[APPEAL: DISMISSED]

I. Whether the Court of Appeal was correct when it held that the trial Court lacked territorial jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit?

RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
I.A. My answer therefore to the submission of the Appellant’s Senior Counsel on this, is that the FCT High Court does not derive any jurisdiction from its Rules of practice and procedure to entertain any cause or matter, the dispute in respect of which arose in Gombe State or any other place outside the Federal Capital Territory. Abuja. lt is my considered view that the jurisdiction vested in the FCT High Court by Section 257(1) of the 1999 Constitution to hear and determine any civil proceedings in which the existence or extent of a legal right, power, duty, liability, privilege, interest, obligation or claim is in issue is only to the extent of the disputes that arise within the territory of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

I.B. In RIVERS STATE GOVERNMENT & ANOR. v. KONSULT (SWEDISH GROUP) (supra) the poignant statement of the law, relevant and very material to our Federal structure, is that a Court in one State of the Federation does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine a matter either exclusively within the jurisdiction of another State or which arose within the territory of another State. No Court in any State, including the FCT High Court, has extra territorial jurisdiction.

Available:  Chief Obasi Lawson v. Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo & Ors (2018)

I.C. Gombe State and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja are distinct and independent of each other. It follows therefore, that this matter which arose in Gombe State and has to do with the parties in Gombe State should have been commenced in the High Court of Gombe State, and not in the FCT High Court. The FCT High Court has in the circumstance acted ultra vires in assuming jurisdiction over a cause of action that arose in Gombe State and outside its jurisdictional territory.

I.D. In the instant case, the cause of action, which is the primary election of the 2nd respondent, took place in Gombe State. The appeal committee also sat in Gombe State. There is therefore no justification for the institution of the suit before the High Court of the FCT in Abuja. The filing of the suit before that Court is a clear example of “forum shopping” in the hope of securing a favourable outcome. This practice has been seriously deprecated in numerous decisions of this Court; the practice does not augur well for the administration of justice. It is also unethical practice on the part of the legal practitioner who filed the suit.

➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS

➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)

➥ REFERENCED (CASE)

➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)

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