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Dantata & Sawoe Const. Co. Ltd v. Ibrahim

DANTATA & SAWOE CONSTRUCTION CO. LTD.

V

ANGULU IBRAHIM

COURT OF APPEAL

( ABUJA DIVISION )

IBRAHIM TANKO MUHAMMAD, JCA ( Presided )

ZAINAB ADAMU BULKACHUWA, JCA (Read the Lead Judgment)

ALBERT GBADEBO ODUYEMI, JCA

CA/A/42/98

THURSDAY, 9TH JANUARY, 2003

COURT - Trial court - Claim before court-Whether can award more than claim before it

FAIR HEARING - Breach of by a court - Effect on proceedings

FAIR HEARING - Criteria and attributes of - Whether followed in the circumstances of the instant case

NATURAL JUSTICE - Demand of

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Order 37, rule 9 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules of the Federal Capital Territory 1991 - Application of  - Effect thereof

Issues:

1.              Whether the appellant was given a fair hearing by the lower court.

2.              Whether the court can award relief(s) not claimed by the respondent

3.              Whether the respondent in all the circumstances of the suit was entitled to any damages at all.

Facts:

The respondent, a former employee of the appellant, commenced this suit before the FCT High Court Abuja against the appellant whereby in suit No. FHC/HC/CV/169/95 he claimed against the appellant the following reliefs vide the writ of summons filed on the 26th of April, 2001:

1.             A declaration that his purported dismissal or suspension (if any) from the employment of the defendant company is null, void and of no effect

2.             A declaration that the plaintiff is still in the employment of Dantata and Sawoe Nigeria Ltd.

3.             An order directing the defendant company to reinstate the plaintiff to his status as a driver without prejudice to entitlements and promotions which ought to have accrued to him during the said period and/or payment of his salary for the said period.

4.             Cost of this action. And in an amended statement of claim vide paragraph 19 thereof, the respondent further claimed against the appellant company the sum of N1,000.00,00 (One million naira only) damages for false imprisonment and wrongful termination of appointment.

Pleadings were duly filed and exchanged. The respondent adduced evidence and closed his case on the 7/5/97. After series of adjournments and on the oral application of counsel for the respondent, the appellant’s case was closed on the 1/12/97 and respondent’s counsel addressed the court thereafter and the case was adjourned to the 28/1/98 for judgment. Appellant filed a motion on notice on the 9/1/98 seeking for an order of extension of time within which the defendant can defend the suit. The motion was never moved before the court and on the 12/3/98, the lower court delivered judgment for N52,810.00 as damages against the appellant.

The appellant being aggrieved appealed to the Court of Appeal.