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Jack vs. University of Agriculture, Makurdi

GRACE  JACK

V

UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE MAKURDI

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

IDRIS LEGBO KUTIGI, JSC ( Presided )

A. IYORGYER KATSINA-ALU, JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

UMARU ATU KALGO, JSC

SAMSON ODEMWINGIE UWAIFO, JSC

DENNIS ONYEJIFE EDOZIE, JSC

SC. 262/2000

FRIDAY, 30TH JANUARY, 2004

ACTION - Action in which main or principal claim not for enforcement or protection of a fundamental right - Inappropriateness of fundamental rights procedure rules

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Action in which main or principal claim not for enforcement or protection of a fundamental right Inappropriateness of fundamental rights procedure rules

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Constitution 1979, section 42(1) as a special provision - Scope, construction and application of

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Fundamental rights - Action for contravention or threatened contravention of a fundamental right as a constitutional class of actions - Special constitutional provision therefor

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Fundamental rights - Enforcement of against Federal Government or its agencies - Whether may be embarked upon in the State High Court - Judicial construction of section 42, Constitution 1979 and section 230(1)(s) of the 1979 Constitution as amended

CONTRACT - Breach of contract of employment - Remedies brought under fundamental rights enforcement procedure rules -Impropriety of -

Need to commence by writ of summons

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS - Enforcement of - Appropriate court for adjudication - Concurrent jurisdiction of States and Federal High Court - Effect of Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree 107  of 1993 on section 42 of 1979 Constitution considered

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS - Enforcement of - Fundamental Rights ( Enforcement Procedure) Rules 1979 considered

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS - Fundamental rights - Action for contravention or threatened contravention of a fundamental right as a constitutional class of actions - Special constitutional provision therefor

JURISDICTION - Fundamental right enforcement - Federal High Court’s powers to adjudicate on - Appropriate judicial division - Constitution, 1979 , section 42 considered

JURISDICTION - Fundamental rights enforcement - Concurrent jurisdiction of State and Federal High Courts - Section 42 1979 Constitution and Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree 107  of 1993 considered

MASTER AND SERVANT - Wrongful dismissal as a common law class of actions

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE -Fundamental Rights - Enforcement of Appropriate steps under the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 1979

STATUTE - Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979, section 42 and Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree 107 of 1993 -  Effect on jurisdiction of Federal High Court to adjudicate on cases related to breach of fundamental rights

STATUTE - Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 1979 Provision of

Issues:

1.             Whether the High Court of Benue State was competent to adjudicate on the suit

2.             Whether the plaintiff’s case being founded on breach of a contract of employment was appropriately initiated under the Fundamental  Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 1979.

Facts:

The appellant was employed in the Bursary department of the respondent. On the 17th of February, 1994, she was dismissed from service having been found guilty of misconduct by a panel of inquiry set up to investigate cases of irregular collection and issuance of receipts for fees and other dues from students. Aggrieved, she instituted a suit at the Benue State High Court. The suit was commenced under the Fundamental Rights ( Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 1979. The trial court entered judgment in her favour. The respondent herein being dissatisfied appealed to the Court of Appeal, which court allowed the appeal and set aside the decision of the trial court on the premise that the State High Court was not competent to adjudicate on the suit, its jurisdiction having been ousted by the Constitution ( Suspension and Modification) Decree 107 of 1993. The plaintiff appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court considered the interrelationship of the provisions of section 42 of the 1979 Constitution and Constitution (Suspension and Modification) Decree 1993 as they affect the jurisdiction of State High Courts to adjudicate on cases brought pursuant to the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules. The court also suo motu raised the issue as to the appropriateness of the suit being so commenced.