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L.N.R.B.R.D.A vs. Olagbegi

LOWER NIGER RIVER BASIN AND

RURAL DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

V

MR. SAMUEL OLAGBEGI

COURT OF APPEAL

( ILORIN DIVISION )

ABOYI JOHN IKONGBEH JCA

W. S. NKANU ONNOGHEN JCA ( Read the Lead Judgment )

JA’AFARU MIKA’ILU JCA

CA/IL/33/2002

MONDAY 7TH, JUNE, 2004

ACTION - Federal Government - Actions in which individuals can exercise right of action against - Types of

ACTION - Federal Government - Damages for breach of contract against - Action for - Whether falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Interpretation of the constitution -  Proper approach thereto

CONTRACT - Breach of contract - Action for against the Federal Government or any of its agencies - Whether falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court

COURT - Federal High Court - Action for damages for breach of contract against Federal Government or any of its agencies Whether falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of

COURT - Federal High Court - Exclusive jurisdiction of - Matters over which can be exercised


GOVERNMENT - Federal Government - Types of action which individuals can bring against

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES - Constitution - Interpretation of Proper approach thereto

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES - Provision of a statute which is later repealed - Decision of court interpreting same - Whether can be relied upon in subsequent cases where interpretation of similar provisions to the one repealed become the issue

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES - Words of statutes - How construed

JURISDICTION - Exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court Whether an action for damages for breach of contract against the Federal Government or any of its agencies falls within same

JURISDICTION - Federal High Court - Action for damages for breach of contract against Federal Government or any of its agencies -  Whether falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of

JURISDICTION - Federal High Court - Exclusive jurisdiction of -

Matters over which can be exercised

Issues:

1.              Whether the suit is not statute barred having been filed outside the three months period allowed by the Public Officers

( Protection) Act. Cap. 379 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990  for the commencement of action against public officers executing public duty.

2.              Whether simple contracts such as the subject matter of this suit are covered by section 251(1) of 1999 Constitution.

Facts:

The appellant herein, a creation of the law charged with the duties to undertake comprehensive development of both surface and underground water resources for multipurpose irrigation infrastructure and the control of floods and erosion etc, allocated four hectares of land to the respondent along Share Road, Oke-Oyi, Kwara State for the planting of onions and Okro during the dry season irrigation exercise of the appellant. The respondent could only pay the sum of N5,500.00 for three hectares of land. The money was the total amount charged by the appellant for the dressing of the land and for watering the planted crops throughout the dry season.

According to the respondent, the appellant through its staff failed woefully to discharge its obligation, hence the institution of this action against the appellant for breach of the contractual agreement between them.

Following the service of court process on the appellant, its counsel filed a motion by which he raised a preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to hear the suit, which suit, he equally contended, is statute barred .

The trial court took arguments of counsel on the appellant’s motion and overruled the preliminary objection.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal considered section 2(a) of the Public Officers Protection Act, Cap 379, Laws of Federation of Nigeria 1990 which provides.

“2. Where any action, prosecution, or other proceeding is commenced against any person for any act done in pursuance or execution or intended execution of any Act or Law or of any public duty or authority, or in respect of any alleged neglect or default in the execution of any such Act, Law, duty or authority, the following provisions shall have effect:

(a) The action, prosecution, or proceeding shall not lie or be instituted unless it is commenced within three months next after the act, neglect or default complained of, or in case of a continuance of damage or injury, within three months next after the ceasing thereof.”

The court equally considered section 251 (1)(p)(q)(r) & (s) of the 1999  Constitution which provides

“251(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Constitution and in addition to such other jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly, the Federal High Court shall have and exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other court in civil causes and matters:

(p)           the administration or the management and control of the Federal Government or any of its agencies.

(q)           subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the operation and interpretation of this Constitution in so far as it affects the Federal Government or any of its agencies,

(r)            any action or proceeding for a declaration or injunction affecting the validity of any executive or administrative action or decision by the Federal Government or any of its agencies; and

(s)            such other jurisdiction, civil or criminal and whether to the exclusion of any other court or not as may be conferred upon it by any Act of the National Assembly.

Provided that nothing in the provisions of paragraph (p), (q) and (r) of this subsection shall prevent a person from seeking redress against the Federal Government or any of its agencies in an action for damages, injunction or specific performance where the action is based on any enactment, law or equity.”