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R.S.G.N. vs. Specialist Konsult

RIVERS STATE GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA

THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF RIVERS STATE

V

SPECIALIST KONSULT

( SWEDISH GROUP )

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

MUHAMMADU LAWAL UWAIS CJN ( Presided )

SYLVESTER UMARU ONU JSC

AKINTOLA OLUFEMI EJIWUNMI JSC (Read the Lead Judgment)

NIKI TOBI JSC

DENNIS ONYEJIFE EDOZIE JSC

SC. 368/2001

11 TH FEBRUARY,  2005

APPEAL - Preliminary objections to an appeal - Issues relating to Impropriety of including as issues relating to the determination of an appeal

COURT - Competence of to adjudicate over a matter - Guiding factors

COURT - State High Courts - Powers of to adjudicate over a matter Determining factors

GOVERNMENT - Liaison offices of states - Functions of - Efficacy of service of court process therein

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES - Sections of legislations - Need to interprete as part of a greater whole

JURISDICTION - Competence of court to adjudicate over a matter -

Guiding factors

JURISDICTION - Issue of - When can be raised

JURISDICTION - Lack of - Court adjudicating on a matter without jurisdiction - Consequence of

JURISDICTION - State High Courts - Powers of to adjudicate over a matter - Determining factors

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Service of court processes - Essence of in procedural or adjectival law

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Service of court processes on Liaison offices of states - Efficacy of

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Undefended list procedure - Service of court processes in cases under - Onus on plaintiff to present proof of

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Liaison’ - Meaning of

Issues:

1.              Whether the Court of Appeal was right to have held that the appellants were properly served with the processes in the suit.

2.              Whether the trial court had jurisdiction to determine the case.

Facts:

The respondent as plaintiff in the High Court of Lagos State claimed from the 1st defendant the sum of $3,138,122.81 (Three million, one hundred and thirty-eight thousand, one hundred and twenty-two dollars, eighty-one cents), under the undefended list procedure, as well as interest at the rate of 21% per annum from 27th April 1995 until the total liquidation of the entire debt.

The parties had between 1974 and 1981 being in contractual agreement, whereby the respondent executed various consultancy works on behalf of the Rivers State Government.

The writ of summons, accompanied by an affidavit addressed to the Rivers State Government liaison office in Lagos were purportedly served on one Mrs. Marcus, a clerk at the liaison office. On the date fixed for hearing, the trial Judge entered judgment in favour of the respondents against the appellants for the sum claimed, together with 21% interest as claimed until judgment and thereafter at 6% per annum.

The appellants alleged that they did not participate in the proceedings as they did not have actual notice of the case and only learnt about it when they were served with a garnishee order nisi over their bank accounts. An appeal to the Court of Appeal was brought by appellants, whereby they sought a stay of action of the judgment. Their appeal was dismissed. Against this judgment, the appellants have further appealed to the Supreme Court.