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Nas v. Adesanya

ALHAJI WADA NAS

V

SENATOR (CHIEF) ABRAHAM ADESANYA

COURT OF APPEAL

( LAGOS DIVISION )

GEORGE ADESOLA OGUNTADE, JCA ( Presided )

PIUS OLAYIWOLA ADEREMI, JCA ( Read the Lead Judgment )

MUSA DATTIJO MUHAMMAD, JCA

CA/L/261/2000

THURSDAY, 17TH OCTOBER, 2002

COURT - Jurisdiction - Need for court to have jurisdiction before  exercising judicial power

COURT - Jurisdiction - Whether parties can confer jurisdiction on court

DEFAMATION - Libel - Publication in an action in defamation - Importance of

JURISDICTION - How determined - Whether parties can confer jurisdiction on court

JURISDICTION - Need for court to have jurisdiction before it can exercise judicial power

PUBLIC OFFICER - Public officer as agent of the government - Liability of

PUBLIC OFFICER - Public officer who has used official position to foster his personal view or plan - Consequences of personal act of - Pleading official position as cover from liability therefor - Impropriety of

Issues:

1.            Whether the learned trial Chief Judge was right in holding that

              Nas vs. Adesanya                                                              687 in an application challenging the jurisdiction of a trial court, the trial court will only look into the statement of claim to determine, its jurisdiction?

2.            Whether, in assuming jurisdiction in this suit, the learned trial Chief Judge complied with the provisions of Order 2, rule 2 and Order 2, rule 4 of the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure Rules) 1994 and has properly applied the decision of Alhaji (Chief) Aruna Agbonikena & Ors vs. Joseph Egba & Ors. (1987) 2 NWLR (Pt. 57) 494?

Facts:

This appeal is against the ruling of the High Court of Lagos State wherein the respondent herein claimed against the appellant damages for defamatory statement against the respondent made by the appellant and injunction.

After the exchange of pleadings, the appellant brought an application for an order dismissing the entire suit contending that the court below lacked jurisdiction to entertain it for reason of the fact that the appellant was a public officer and that the cause of action arose from Abuja.

In his ruling, the learned Chief Judge, in dismissing the application held inter alia:

“Nowhere in the statement of claim has it been stated that this action was brought against the defendant in his official capacity as a Federal Minister or Public Officer. He was sued in his private capacity ....

It is for the plaintiff to decide whether he wishes to sue a defendant in a personal or official capacity on the nature of the claim and when he so decides to sue a defendant in a personal capacity. It is not open to his adversary to force it upon the plaintiff to sue such a defendant in an official capacity ...

The action against the defendant is one for libel. What makes libel actionable is not mere uttering of defamatory words but the publication of the defamatory words. An action therefore does not arise until the defamatory words are published...

The application is therefore dismissed ...”

Dissatisfied with this ruling, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.