IN THE COURT OF APPEAL IN THE ABUJA JUDICIAL DIVISIONHOLDEN AT ABUJAON TUESDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY, 2018BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS:
AHMAD OLAREWAJU BELGORE J.C. AFATIMA OMORO AKINBAMI J.C. APAUL OBI ELECHI J.C. ABETWEENNIGERIAN NATIONAL PETROLEUM CORPORATION ………APPELLANTAND1. SLB CONSORTIUM LIMITED2. THE CHIEF REGISTRAR, FEDERAL HIGH COURT3. UNION BANK OF NIGERIA PLC …………………..…… RESPONDENTSSuit No: CA/A/127/2015LEAD JUDGMENT DELIVERED BY AHMAD OLAREWAJU BELGORE, J.C.A.
FACTS LEADING TO THIS APPEALStripped to bald bones, the facts of this case is that there was a consulting casework acceding amid the appellant and the 1st acknowledging appointed for a continuance of 24 months in the sum of USD$28, 008, 000. However, afterwards about bristles months into the contract, the appellant concluded the contract. Visibly aggrieved, the 1st acknowledging filed a clothing at the Lagos analysis of the Federal High Cloister and in the end, acumen was accustomed in the 1st respondent’s favour in the sum of USD$19,850,467.
Dissatisfied with this judgment, appellant appealed to the Lagos analysis of the Cloister of appeal. Which Cloister accustomed the abode in allotment and remitted the case aback to the balloon Cloister for re-trial in annual of the able appraisal of damages. A balloon was conducted in acquiescence with the adjustment of the Cloister of Abode and acumen was delivered with a sum of USD$7,155,053 awarded in favour of the respondent.
The appellant, annoyed with the judgment, appealed afresh to the Cloister of Appeal, Lagos Analysis while the 1st acknowledging cross-appealed. Appellant additionally brought an appliance for a break of beheading and aforementioned was accepted by the balloon Court, administering that the acumen sum be paid into the Court’s Chief Registrar’s absorption acquiescent account. (The Chief Registrar is the 2nd acknowledging herein while the coffer in which the annual is domiciled, Union Coffer of Nigeria Plc, is the 3rd acknowledging in this accepted appeal). The adjustment for break of beheading was fabricated awaiting the audition and assurance of the abode and appellant complied with the adjustment by depositing the acumen sum in the appointed account.
When the abode came up for hearing, the Cloister of Appeal, Suo motu aloft the affair of administration of the balloon Cloister to absorb affairs founded on simple arrangement and parties were arrive to abode the Cloister there on. In a able-bodied advised Judgment, the Cloister captivated that the Federal High Cloister lacked the administration to absorb affairs founded on simple arrangement and consequently, quashed the accommodation of the balloon Federal High Court.
The acumen of the Cloister of Abode did not bench able-bodied with the 1st acknowledging so, the 1st acknowledging filed an abode to the Supreme Court. At the audition of the abode at the Supreme Court, the appellant herein aloft a basic altercation arduous the adequacy of the 1st respondent’s Basic Amendment at the balloon Cloister on the arena that aforementioned was active by a law close and not a acknowledged practitioner. The Basic altercation was upheld by the Supreme Cloister in its acumen entered on the 15th day of April 2011 arresting out the 1st respondent’s Basic Amendment in the balloon Court.
The 1st acknowledging re-instituted the clothing culminating in this present abode at the Federal High Court, Abuja by an Basic Amendment adjoin the appellant, the 2nd and 3rd respondents herein accordingly and severally for a acceptance that the 2nd and 3rd respondents are answerable accordingly and severally to annual to the 1st acknowledging and the appellant herein for the sum of USD$7,155,053 additional all the accrued interests actuality the acumen sum which they authority on account of the 1st acknowledging and the appellant.
The appellant, in response, filed a apprehension of basic altercation independent in a motion accurate by an affirmation and a accounting address. The Appellant additionally filed a counter-affidavit on the 29th day of February. It was a 27-paragraph counter-affidavit accurate by abstracts as exhibits. In both the basic altercation and the counter-affidavit, the appellant challenged that the 1st respondent’s affirmation had continued been statute-barred beneath both the limitation Act, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Act.
In response, the 1st acknowledging relied on a letter, Display SE2 addressed to the Attorney General of the Federation and accounting by one Chief Sena Anthony, Coordinator, Corporate Secretariat/Legal Analysis & Secretary to the Corporation Ref. CSLD. 1099 anachronous September 11, 2007, to say that the letter amounted to an acceptance by the appellant of its acceptance to the 1st acknowledging and that aforementioned acceptance gave acceleration to the present account of action.
After the parties had adopted their corresponding accounting addresses, the balloon Cloister delivered its cardinal on the basic altercation and acumen on the arete of the basic amendment to the aftereffect that the letter, Display SE2 amounted to an acceptance or accepting of the acceptance of the appellant to the 1st acknowledging and that the appellant actuality an bureau of the Federal Government, the Federal High Cloister had administration to apprehend and actuate the case.
The appellant has now appealed to the Cloister of Abode adjoin the accommodation of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division.
ISSUE(S) FOR DETERMINATIONIn the appellant’s brief, three issues were distilled for assurance by this Court, namely:1) Whether the balloon Cloister had administration to absorb the clothing as constituted by the 1st acknowledging (Ground one of the Apprehension of Appeal);2) Whether the balloon Cloister was actual or contrarily advantaged to await on a letter apparent Display SE2 as the appellant’s acceptance of acceptance to the 1st Acknowledging (Ground three of the Apprehension of Appeal);3) Whether the accommodation of the balloon Cloister on the 1st Respondent’s basic amendment is acceptable in law and on the fact? (Grounds Two and Four of the Apprehension of Appeal).
ISSUE 1The body of the appellant’s altercation in annual of this affair is that the 1st Respondent’s clothing did not abatement aural the administration of the Federal High Cloister back it was founded on simple arrangement for consultancy. It was submitted that the captivation of the balloon Cloister is an attack to balance a statute-barred debt, which is said to accept been active by a letter of acknowledgment. It was added argued that debt accretion is alfresco the administration of the Federal High Court.
The appellant canvassed that accepting abject the Appellant into eleven years of absolute activity in annual of the declared aperture of Display SE1, the re-filing of the 1st Respondent’s Clothing in the burning case constitutes an corruption of the activity of Cloister and it should be dismissed.
The appellant submitted that the contract, accepting been concluded in 1999, the 1st acknowledging was not advantaged to affirmation any abatement or account beneath such arrangement in 2011 accepting exceeded the assured aeon of limitation of 6 years from the date the account of activity arose as independent in Section 7 (1) (a) of the Limitation Act of the FCT, Nigeria.
ISSUE 2Shorn of all coatings, appellant’s acquiescence actuality is that the letter- Display SE2 does not accomplish the affirmation of Section 44(2)(b) of the Limitation Act, which stipulates the anatomy and address of acceptance able of animating a statute-barred action; and Section 12 (1) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Act, Cap. N123, Law of the Federation of Nigeria, which provides that accomplishments adjoin the Corporation charge be prosecuted aural 12 months.
It was added submitted that an activity bent by statute of limitation cannot be active by a consecutive admission.
ISSUE THREEIn this regard, it is submitted that the balloon Cloister bootless to accept and actuate the catechism airish in the basic summons, aloof as it bootless to dness the conflicts in the affirmation of the appellant and the 1st respondent. It is additionally submitted that the balloon Cloister bootless to actuate the case on the backbone or weakness of the 1st respondent’s case. It was submitted that the abortion of the balloon Cloister to accept and acknowledgment the catechism airish in the basic amendment amounted to a abortion of justice.
It was acicular out that what the 1st acknowledging claimed in its abatement (vi) of the basic amendment is USD$5,835,000 but what the balloon Cloister awarded was USD$7,155,053. This is submitted to be a perversity of the accommodation of the balloon Court. The appellant apprenticed the Cloister to acquiesce the abode and set a the accommodation of the balloon Court.
RESPONDENT’S ARGUMENTISSUE ONERelying on Section 251 (1) (R) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, 1st acknowledging submitted that the balloon Cloister had administration to this amount because the amount is gluttonous declaratory and injunctive reliefs in annual of which absolute administration is accommodated on the Federal High Court.
On the affair of corruption of Cloister process, 1st acknowledging pitched his covering on the actuality that back the Supreme Cloister fabricated it bright in Display NNPC 3 that it should be taken that no proceeding had anytime happened either afore the Federal High Cloister or the Cloister of Appeal, it was like if no affairs were anytime taken amid the parties.
It was added argued that the account of activity in this clothing accrued in September 2011 back the 1st acknowledging apparent Display SE2 and that the clothing was re-filed about that exhibit. That back the beforehand clothing was commenced aural limitation aeon and was alone addled out by the Supreme Cloister in 2011 on the arena of jurisdiction, the time is arctic and the re-filed clothing will be advised to accept been filed aural limitation aeon accustomed by the Limitation Act and the NNPC Act. ISSUE TWO
In debunking appellant’s altercation that the Attorney General of the Federation to whom Display SE2 was addressed is not an abettor of the appellant, the 1st responded posited that the Attorney General of the Federation is not a stranger, because he is an abettor of the Federal Government, the Chief Law Officer of the Federation and a Minister who can aftereffect the acquittal over and aloft the appellant.
With attention to the affair of the clothing actuality statute-barred, it is submitted that what the Cloister is to attending at is the affirmation of the plaintiff in its clothing of arouse and/or account of claim. That the account of activity herein arose from Display SE2 and the burning clothing was commenced aural two months of the actualization of account of activity (discovery of Display SE2).
ISSUE THREEIn acceptance to affair 3, the 1st acknowledging answered in the affirmative. It submitted that by the award of the abstruse balloon Chief Judge in annual of the axial catechism in the basic amendment that Display SE2 constituted an acceptance by the appellant of its acceptance to the 1st respondent, all added catechism became academic.
It was canvassed that the case of the 1st acknowledging afore the balloon Cloister was based on the acceptance fabricated by the Appellant in Display SE2 and that already an acceptance is detected, all the call of affidavit becomes accidental as facts accepted charge no proof.Although the 1st acknowledging agreed that the sum of USD$7,155,053 awarded by the balloon Cloister should be advised as an error, it prayed the Cloister to use its ability beneath Section 16 of the Cloister of Abode Act to actual the absurdity by abbreviation the acumen sum to USD$5,835,000 as claimed by the 1st respondent.
THE COURT’S FINDINGSThe Cloister empiric that the questions airish and the reliefs approved in the 1st respondent’s basic amendment at the balloon cloister acicular acutely to administration of acknowledged acceding independent in Display SE1. Consequently, the clothing is based on a simple arrangement of Consultancy Service and its administration adjoin a government agency.
The Court, after artificial words, acicular out that ordinarily, area the Federal Government or any of its agencies is a affair to a suit, the Federal High Cloister has administration to absorb it. The alone impediment to its administration is area the accountable amount is alfresco its bound absolute built-in jurisdiction. In which circumstance, the Federal High Cloister will not accept administration to apprehend and actuate the case.
The Cloister went on to accept the administration of the Federal High Cloister as independent in Section 251 and added advised the deluge of Supreme Cloister cases on the Administration of the Federal High Cloister area the Supreme Cloister came to an alluring cessation that it is not abundant to accept administration to the Federal High Cloister for the acumen alone that one of the parties is the Federal Government or any of its agencies. Rather, it has to be absolute that the accountable amount is aural the ambit of the bound absolute built-in administration of the Federal High Cloister afore it can accept the administration to absorb the suit.
The Cloister came to the cessation that the 1st respondent’s clothing as constituted, borders on a simple contract, which is not aural the administration of the Federal High Court. To this end, the Cloister begin that the Federal High Cloister lacks the administration to apprehend and actuate this case aforementioned accepting been constituted as a simple contract.
Having begin that the Federal High Court, Abuja lacked administration to apprehend and actuate the 1st respondents’ basic summons, the Cloister of Abode did not advance to accept added issues aloft in this appeal.COURT’S HOLDING
Flowing from above, the Cloister of Abode captivated that the abode succeeds and aforementioned was allowed. The affairs and cardinal of the Federal High Court, Abuja conducted after administration were set a and the basic altercation to the audition of the Clothing No. FHC/ABJ/CS/921/2011 as independent in the appellant’s apprehension of motion anachronous January 23, 2011 was upheld. The 1st respondent’s basic arouse anachronous and filed on November 4, 2011 was addled out for actuality incompetent. No amount was awarded.
Appearances:For Appellants(s): Olawale Akoni, SAN with him, Ajokpaoghene Utake, Esq.For Respondent(s): Adewale Adesokan, SAN with him, Sunday Edward, Esq., Henry O. Chichi, Esq., Kelechi Ogbonna, Esq.
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