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C.G.G. (nig.) Ltd v. Asaagbara

C. G. G. (NIGERIA) LIMITED

V

LUKE ASAAGBARA

COURT OF APPEAL

( PORT HARCOURT DIVISION )

JAMES OGENYI OGEBE, JCA: (Presided)

IGNATIUS C. PAT-ACHOLONU, JCA: (Read the Lead Judgment)

ABOYI JOHN IKONGBEH, JCA:

CA/PH/365/98

22 ND JUNE,  2000

COURT - Federal High Court - Scope of jurisdiction of - Explanation of historical basis of

COURT - Jurisdiction- Need not to use judicial power to acquire jurisdiction it does not possess

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE - Court construing words used in statute - Need not to allow confusion into the meaning of  the word ‘construe’

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE - Literal Rule of Interpretation - Object of

JURISDICTION - Federal High Court as a Court of limited jurisdiction

JURISDICTION - Of State High Court - Test for determining whether ousted from civil actions relating or arising  out of mining and oil exploration - Act 60 of 1991, section 7 and Decree 107 of 1993, section 230

NEGLIGENCE - Injury to stomach and scrotum of employee of oil exploration company - Action instituted in River State High Court - Jurisdiction of Federal High Court in respect thereof confirmed by Court of Appeal

NEGLIGENCE - Injury to stomach and scrotum of employee of oil exploration company - Jurisdiction of Federal High Court in respect thereof Consideration of

STATUTE - Section 7 of Act 60 of 1991 and Section 230 of Decree 107 of 1993 Intention of - Effect on the jurisdiction of State High Court

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Procedural law - Applicability of  to Civil Actions

-  Effect when it came into force after cause of action arose

WORDS AND PHRASES - “Pertain to” - Meaning of

WORDS AND PHRASES - “To arise out of” Definition of

WORDS AND PHRASES - “To connect” - Definition of

WORDS AND PHRASES - Court of general jurisdiction - Definition of

WORDS AND PHRASES - Court of limited jurisdiction - Definition of

Issue:

Whether the State High Court has jurisdiction to try a case of negligence which arose out of the operation of mines and minerals, oil exploration and exploitation,  including its geological surveys.

Facts:

The respondent, as the plaintiff, brought before the High Court, sitting at Isiokpo, River State, a claim of N1m for personal injury. According to him, he was in the service of the appellant, a company engaged in oil exploration as a Casing Clerk and his duty involved the carrying of heavy pipes, called casing.

The respondent’s claim was also that it was the duty of the appellant to clear the bushes along the lines where the workers (including  himself) carried out their work in order to keep it safe. This duty, he alleged, the appellant failed to carry out.

When the respondent was on duty, a sharp stick was allegedly left standing dangerously on the swampy terrain, the stick tore through his penis, pierced his stomach and scrotum and he was consequently hospitalized in University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, where he was treated and subsequently certified impotent.

The respondent then commenced an action in negligence against the appellant at the Rivers State High Court, claiming N10,000,000 (Ten Million Naira) as general damages. Soon after the service of the writ of summons and statement of claim, the appellant, who entered a conditional appearance, filed a motion, objecting to the jurisdiction of the State High Court, claiming that jurisdiction in the case is exclusively vested in the Federal High Court.

After hearing argument, the trial judge ruled that he had jurisdiction to entertain the case and struck out the motion. Aggrieved, the defendant/appellant has now appealed to the Court of Appeal.

In determining the appeal, the Court of Appeal considered the provisions of Sections 2 and 7 the Federal High Court Amendment (Decree) now Act No. 60 of 1991  and Section 230(1) of Decree 107 of 1993 section 2 of Act No. 60 of  1991 provides thus:

“For Section 7 of the Principle Act, there shall be substituted the following new Section that is:

2.             “For Section 7 of the Principle Act, there shall be substituted the following new Section that is:

7(1) The Court shall, to the exclusion of any other Court, have original jurisdiction to try civil causes and matters connected with and pertaining to (P) mines and minerals, including oil fields, oil mining and geological surveys and natural gas.” Section 230(1) of Decree No. 107 of 1993 provides:

“Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this constitution and in addition to such other jurisdiction to the exclusion to any other Court in Civil cases and matters arising from (1) arms, ammunition and explosives: mines minerals (including oil, fields mining, geological surveys and natural gas.”