"The word jurisdiction means the authority which a court has to decide matters before it or to take cognisance of matters presented in a formal way for its decision. Madukolu v.Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR 341, Ndaeyo v. Ogunnaya (1977) 1 SC 11, National Bank of Nigeria Ltd. v. Shoyoye (1977) 5 SC 181, A-G., Federation v. Guardian Newspapers Ltd. (1999) 9 NWLR (Pt. 618) 187.".
"It is settled law that courts are creatures of statute based on the constitution with their jurisdiction stated or prescribed therein. That being the case, it is obvious that no court assumes jurisdiction except it is statutorily prescribed as jurisdiction cannot be implied nor can it be conferred by agreement of parties; see Ariyo v. Ogele (1968) 1 All NLR 1; Timitimi v. Amabebe (1953) 15 WACA 374; Osadebe v. A.-G., Bendel State (1991) 22 NSCC (Pt. 1) 137 at 160; (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt. 169) 525 at 572."
“The relevant thing(s) to be considered by the court in determining the issue of jurisdiction are the facts as deposed to in affidavits, writ of summons and statement of claim (where one had been filed and served). The statement of defence is not one the relevant materials for that purpose.”
“Where the issue of jurisdiction is raised in a matter, once the court determines that it has no jurisdiction in the suit, it need not proceed further to consider any other issue since there is no longer the jurisdiction for doing so. It follows therefore that it is only after that that it can proceed to consider other issues raised by the party invoking its jurisdiction.”
“The law is indeed trite that a court is only competent to exercise jurisdiction in respect of any matter where-
1. It is properly constituted as regards numbers and qualification of the members and no member is disqualified for one reason or the other.
2. 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.
3. The case comes by due process of the law and upon fulfillment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction. See Madukolu & Ors. v. Nkemdilim & Ors.(1962) 2 SCNLR 341.”
"To be borne in mind, is that issue or question of locus standi, relates to or deals with jurisdiction and the competence of the court to entertain and determine the action or petition. So, issue of jurisdiction can be raised at any stage of the proceedings and whenever raised, it is to be decided when the point or issue is raised. See Norwich v. Norwich Electric Tramway Co. (1906) 2K.B. 119; Adani v. Igwe (1956) 2 FSC 81 at 89 and recently, NDIC v. Central Bank of Nigeria & Anor. (2002) 7 NWLR (Pt. 766) 272, (2002) 3 SCNJ 75 at 89 and Afro-Continental (Nig.) Ltd. & Anor. v. Co-operative Association of Professionals Inc. (2003) 5 NWLR (Pt. 813) 303, (2003) 1 SCNJ 530 at 537,539."Per Ogbuagu, J.C.A. (P. 135, paras. C-G)
“Once the issue of jurisdiction is raised in any court the determination of that issue cannot and should not and ought not be deferred until the conclusion of the substantive suit.”
“Jurisdiction of court is very fundamental and lack of jurisdiction robs a court of the competence to hear and decide a matter. In other words, once a court has no jurisdiction to adjudicate on a matter, its adjudication of the matter will be declared a nullity by an appellate court.”
“The validity velnon of the jurisdiction of the court touches on the competence of the court to hear and determine a cause or matter before it, and is fundamental to its exercise of jurisdiction and of adjudication and determination of the cause before it. In this respect, the existence or absence of jurisdiction in the court goes to the root of the matter and sustains or nullifies the decision of the court in respect of the relevant subject matter.”
“Objection to the jurisdiction of Court can be taken at any time depending on what material are available.It could be taken in any of the following situations :
a) on the basis of the statement of claim; orb) on the basis of evidence received;c) by motion supported by affidavit setting out the facts relied on;d) on the face of Writ of Summons where appropriate as to the capacity in which the action was brought, or against who the action was brought.”
“The respondent raised this objection on several issues by way of motion on notice and not by stating it in the statement of defence. This procedure is allowed depending on the nature of the issue. See Shipping v. Tigris International (1999) 6 NWLR (Pt. 608) 701; Odive v. Obor (1974) NSCC 103,(1974) 2 SC 21, (1974) 1 ALL NLR (Pt.1) 436; Okafor v. Attorney General,Anambra State (2005) All FWLR (Pt.274) 252, (2005) 14 NWLR (945) 210”
The purpose of pleading and raising any point therein, as is require in Rule (2) supra is to avoid spring surprises on parties, and this elementary law of practice and procedure which does not require the interpretation of the said Rule (2) supra to understand.See George v. Domimion Flour Mills Limited (1965) 1 ALL NLR page 71,AniemekaEmegokwu v. JameOkadigbo 1973 4 SC 113 and Umoffia v. Ndem 1973 12 SC 69.If the function of pleadings is to put the other party on notice of what to expect at the trial, then a motion on notice, (as was in the instant case) to dismiss a case on point of law precludes element of surprises. The appellant cannot feign ignorance of the point of law before the motion was moved.The appellant was very much aware of what the respondents were seeking from the court, and had the opportunity to meet it headlong. The appellant cannot say that he was prejudiced, for I believe even if that point of law on statute of limitation was raised in the statement of defence, he could not have preferred more argument than he did in the course of the proceedings in respect of the motion. As I have stated earlier in the judgment in the treatment of issue (1),the Statute of Limitation is a matter of jurisdiction which can be raised at any stage of litigation, and I will add here, even in the Supreme Court”
“In the instant case, Appellants has not filed their Statement of Defence. In spite of the fact that the Appellants had chosen to raised their preliminary objection in a manner unknown to law, it must be appreciated that had it been manifest from Respondent’s Writ and claim that the action against the Appellants was fundamentally defective and untenable, it would have been proper for the Court to dismiss the action without waiting for the Appellants to file their pleadings. It has been held that where the point of law raised is founded on lack of jurisdiction, it is possible to apply for dismissal of the action even before the fulfilment of the conditions stipulated by the rules of Court for raising the objection. The Court falls back, at such moments, to its inherent jurisdiction which persists in spite of the rules of Court. This must be so because the Court could only assume jurisdiction, anyway, if same had existed. See: Adejumo v. Military Governor, Lagos State (1972) 1 All NLR (Pt.1) 159 and Enwesor v. Onyejiewe (1964) 1 All NLR14 “
It is now firmly settled that issue of jurisdiction or competence of a court to entertain or deal with a matter before it, is very fundamental. It is a point of law and therefore, a rule of court, cannot dictate when and how, such point of law, can be raised. Being fundamental and threshold issue of jurisdiction, it can be raised at any stage of the proceedings in any court including this Court. An Appellant Court can even raise it suo motu. See the case of Anya v. Iyayi (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt. 305) and Kotoye v. Saraki (1994) 7 NWLR (Pt.357) 414 at 466. I need emphasize as it is also settled that mandatory Rules of Court, are not as sacrosanct as mandatory statutory provisions and therefore, a rule of court, cannot override a statutory provision of the law,See the case of Katto v. Central Bank of Nigeria (1991) 9 NWLR (Pt.212) 126. I therefore, that the objection of the Respondents, was rightly and properly upheld by the two lower courts.”
A typical example of an abuse of court processes is where, as in the instant case, two or more processes of similar nature are filed and issued against the same parties in respect of the same subject matter, and praying the same reliefs. See Iwuagolu v. Azyka (2007) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1028) 613; Adeleke v. O.S.H.A. (2006) 16 NWLR (Pt.1006) 608;Senate President v. Nzeribe (2004) 9 NWLR (Pt.878) 251; Dapianlong v. Dariye (No.2) (2007) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1036) 332 respectively.
‘It seems to me therefore that cases to the effect that jurisdiction can be raised before service of statement of defence are those in which it is ex facie apparent from the writ of summons and statement of claim that there is no jurisdiction in the Court. Where it is still necessary to call evidence in proof of matters which may lead the court to decline its jurisdiction, it is inevitable that the fact be clearly pleaded”
“I agree with the appellants to the effect that the preliminary objection in question challenged the jurisdiction of the trial court to entertain the action. This is not a demurrer application in which case there should be a statement of claim in place, the facts of which the appellants would be required to admit before bringing their objection. I agree with the appellants' submission that there is a difference between an objection to the jurisdiction and a demurrer. I also agree with them that an objection to the jurisdiction of the court can be raised at any time, even when there are no pleadings filed and that a party raising such an objection need not bring the application under any rule of court and that it can be brought under the inherent jurisdiction of the court. Thus, for this reason, once the objection to the jurisdiction of the court is raised, the court has inherent power to consider the application even if the only process of court that has been filed is the writ of summons and affidavits in support of an interlocutory application, as in the case in hand.”
“The tendency to equate demurer with objection to jurisdiction could be misleading. It is a standing principle that in demurer, the plaintiff must plead and it is upon that pleading that the defendant will contend that accepting all the facts pleaded, to be true, the plaintiff has no cause of action, or where appropriate, no locus standi: see' Federal Capital Development Authority V. Naibi (1990) 3 NWLR (pt. 138) 270; WilllamsV Williams (I995) 2 NWLR (pt. 375) 1; Akpan V. Utin (1996) 7 NWLR (pt. 463) 634; Brawal Shipping (Nig.) Ltd. V. F. I. Onwadike Co. Ltd. (2000) 11 NWLR (pt. 678) 387.But as already shown the issue of jurisdiction is not a matter for demurer proceedings. It is much more fundamental than that and does not entirely depend as such on what a plaintiff may plead as facts to prove the relief he seeks. What it involves is what will enable the plaintiff to seek a hearing' in court over this grievance, and get it resolved because he is able to show that the court is empowered to entertain the subject matter; It does not always follow that he must plead first in order to raise the issue of jurisdiction.”
“The filing of a preliminary objection by the respondent at the lower court challenging the court’s jurisdiction without filing a defence does not amount to a demurrer”
“I must stress here that the duty to raise absence of jurisdiction in a court to hear a case is not placed upon a particular party, or defendants in a proceeding. It is of course from experience that it is always the defendant who raises it. The court itself can and often raises the question. See Adesanya V. President (1981) 1NCLR 388. Indeed it is settled law that the issue of jurisdiction could be raised at any stage of the proceedings up to the Supreme Court. See Federal Republic of Nigeria V. Ifeagwu (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt. 842) 113: Pan Asian Co. Ltd V. NICON (1982) 9 S.C.: Tukur V. Gongola State (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 117) 57. When it is successfully raised the suit is terminated by a striking out order. An order striking out a case effectively brings the proceedings to an end unless and until an appellate court rules otherwise. Therefore it is erroneous to think or argue as the respondent has done by his preliminary objection that the 4th defendant could not contest before this court correctness of the decision of the court below on jurisdiction just because it was the 1st to 3rd defendants alone that had raised the issue before the court below. If the court below had struck out the suit on the ground that the court has no jurisdiction to hear it by virtue of Decrees 1 and 13 of 1984, the order would have enured to the benefit or advantage of the 4th defendant notwithstanding that the issue was raised by the 1st to 3rd defendants. It seems to me that the 4th defendant by the same parity of reason is clearly entitled to contest on appeal before this court the correctness of the decision of the court below on the point.The court below heard the objection as raised by the 1st to 3rd defendants. The Court took the view that the objection was not properly raised. It therefore discountenanced it. The question of jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit therefore legitimately becomes a point decided by the court below which could be challenged on appeal before this court irrespective of the party that had first raised the objection before the court below. I therefore overrule the objection by the respondent on the point.”
“The issue of jurisdiction cannot be waived by the parties or by the court. The competence of a court to adjudicate on matter is a legal and constitutional prerequisite. See Odofin v. Agu (1992) 3 NWLR (Pt. 229) 350. Once the court is held for any reason to lack jurisdiction, no matter how well the proceedings are conducted, they are void.”
“Jurisdiction being the forerunner of judicial process, cannot by acquiescence, collusion , compromise, or as in this case, waiver, confer jurisdiction on a court that lacks it. Parties do not have the legal right to donate jurisdiction on a court that lacks it.Non - compliance with the rules which affect the very foundation, or props of the case, cannot be treated by the court as an irregularity but as a nullifying the entire proceedings. Once the non-compliance affects the substance of the matter to the extent that the merits of the case are ruined, then it is impossible to salvage the proceedings in favour of the party in blunder, who in this appeal are the respondents, no amount of waiver by the party can be of any assistance to the adverse party. The defence of waiver lacks merit and so I do hold.”
“In reply to the above submissions learned counsel for the respondent, quite correctly, pointed out that there is difference between jurisdiction over subject matter which is unlimited and covered by the 1997 Constitution and procedural jurisdiction. The former cannot be expanded or compromised. But procedural jurisdiction could be waived or acquiesced in by the affected party Thus where wrong procedure was adopted in commencing a suit or an action, and no objection was raised by the adverse party, then the proceedings based on such wrong procedure is valid”
That an irregularity in the exercise of jurisdiction should not be confused with a total lack of jurisdiction takes cognizance of the general meaning of the word "jurisdiction" as "the authority which a court has to decide matters that are litigated before it or take cognizance of matters presented in a formal way for its decision". (See Halsbury's (op cit) paragraph 715) Procedure for invoking the jurisdiction of the court should not be confused with the authority of the court to decide matters which on the face of the proceedings have been properly presented in the formal way for its decision and which are within its jurisdiction.
Service of a pre-action notice on the party intended to be sued pursuant. to a statute is, at best, a procedural requirement and not an issue of substantive law on which the rights of the plaintiff depend. It is not an integral part of the process for initiating proceedings. A party who has served a pre-action notice is not obliged to commence proceedings at all or, barring any limitation period, to commence one within any time after the time prescribe for pre-action notices. That is why in section 29(2) of the Act he is referred to as an "intended plaintiff'. The argument that a pre-action notice forms part of the cause of action of the plaintiff is misconceived and untenable as it ignores the distinction between matters of substance and matters of procedure. Notwithstanding that, sometimes, the distinction between substance and procedure is blurred, it is generally accepted that matters (including facts) which define the rights and obligations of the parties in controversy are matters of substance defined by substantive law; whereas matters which are mere vehicles which assist the court or tribunal in going into matters in controversy or litigated before it are matters of procedure regulated by procedural law. Facts which constitute the cause of action are matters of substance and should be pleaded, whereas facts which relate to how a party is to invoke the jurisdiction of the court for a remedy pursuant to his cause of action is a matter of procedure outside the realms of pleadings. The distinction was stated thus in Halsbury's Law of England, Volume 8( 1), 4th Edition, paragraph 1066: " ... generally speaking, it may be said that substantive rules give or define the right which it is sought to enforce and procedural rules govern the mode or machinery by which the right is enforced."
“A preliminary objection on point of law challenging the validity of the institution of a suit or petition as in the instant case leading to the appeals, it is now firmly settled, could only be determined at the initial stage by reference to the pleadings, particularly, the statement of claim or the petition as in the instant case. So, once the issue, cannot be determined on the pleadings or petition or in respect of the exhibit attached to the petition, the trial court or tribunal, is entitled to and indeed ought to proceed with/to full trial of the case and decide the point after evidence have been proffered at the trial. See Akinbi v.The Military Governor, Ondo State & Anor.(1990) 3 NWLR (Pt.140) 525 at 531 - 532 C.A”
He is the Managing Partner at Ase Olodumare Chambers, a Lagos based online Law Firm engaged in the provision of consultancy services on commercial, corporate, property, employment matters and disputes to local and international clients.