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Cookey vs. Fombo

DR. JONATHAN COOKEY

V

MRS. EVANGELINE FOMBO

RIVERS STATE HOUSING AND PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

MUHAMMADU LAWAL UWAIS CJN ( Presided )

IDRIS LEGBO KUTIGI JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

UMARU ATU KALGO JSC

DENNIS ONYEJIFE EDOZIE JSC

GEORGE ADESOLA OGUNTADE JSC

SC. 121/2000

FRIDAY, 20TH MAY, 2005 

ACTION - Cause of action - Definition of

ACTION - Cause of action - Whether there is a cause of action Document court will examine to determine - Effect of statement of claim which discloses no cause of action

COURT - Applications before the court -  Need to determine before delivering judgment

COURT - Issues before court - Duty on court to determine all - Exceptions thereto

COURT - Issues raised suo motu - Duty on court to hear parties on

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Judgment of trial court - Error therein When will lead to reversal of

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Applications before the court - Need to determine before delivering judgment


PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Issues raised suo motu - Duty on court to hear parties on

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Statement of claim - Where discloses no cause of action - Effect

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Recommendation’ - Definition of - When will have the force of law

WORDS AND PHRASES - Cause of action - Definition of

Issues:

1.              Whether the Court of Appeal was right in holding that the learned trial Judge erred to have examined the 1st respondent’s proposed amended statement of claim in concluding that no reasonable cause of action was disclosed, without formally inviting the parties to first argue the motion for amendment.

2.              Whether the Court of Appeal was right to have declined to make any determination as to whether the plaintiff’s claim disclosed a reasonable cause of action.

Facts:

The plaintiff (now 1st respondent) in the High Court of Rivers State sued the 1st and 2nd defendant now 2nd respondent and appellant jointly for a declaration that the purported sale of property situated at No. 155, Niger Street, Port Harcourt by 1st to 2nd defendant was null and void, and an injunction to restrain the 2nd defendant and his agents from tampering with the property. She alleged that she has been a tenant on the said property since 1970 which was acquired in 1973 by the Rivers State Government as abandoned property and entrusted to the management of 2nd respondent. In 1986, she applied to the 2nd respondent to buy the property in dispute following the recommendation of the Major David Mark’s Implementation Committee on Abandoned Property that in the event of sale of such property, the occupant should be given preference, but by 1991 when she went to enquire, the 2nd respondent had already sold it to the appellant. The 2nd respondent argued that it indeed sold the property to the appellant as it was not bound by the recommendation referred to above. The appellant in his counterclaim for declaration of statutory right of occupancy raised a preliminary objection that the 1st respondent’s suit did not disclose any cause of action as the recommendations relied on by her did not confer on her any enforceable right at law.

The trial court after hearing arguments dismissed the 1st respondent’s

claim stating that the statement of claim and the proposed amended statement of claim did not disclose any cause of action. On appeal, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and remitted the case for a retrial by another Judge. The appellant was dissatisfied and appealed to the Supreme Court.