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REV. FR. ALEXANDER ANAGOR & ORS v. LAWRENCE ILOKA

(2019) LPELR-47985(CA)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Wednesday, the 3rd day of July, 2019

CA/E/153/2017


Before Their Lordships

MONICA BOLNA'AN DONGBAN-MENSEM Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

JOSEPH OLUBUNMI KAYODE OYEWOLE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

ABUBAKAR SADIQ UMAR Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria


Between

1. REV. FR. ALEXANDER ANAGOR
(The Parish Priest of Christ the King Catholic Parish, Akpo)
2. STEPHEN OKPALAONWUKA
3. CYRIL IBEH
(For themselves and on behalf of Christ the King Parish, Akpo Town Local Government Area) - Appellant(s)

AND

LAWRENCE ILOKA
(for himself and on behalf of
Chukwubuike Iloka family,
Umuokpalanu Kindred, Uhuala
Village, Akpo Town, Aguata Local
Government Area) - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on joinder of parties.
FACTS:
This appeal is against the ruling of the Anambra State High Court, Aguata Judicial Division, delivered by C.N Mbonu Nwenyi J. on the 18th day of November, 2016. In the said ruling, the Court below dismissed the Appellant's preliminary objection in motion No.AG/161m/15 filed by the Appellants challenging its jurisdictions to hear the matter.

At the High Court by a Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim dated the 15th day of May, 2015, the Respondent (for himself and on behalf of Chukwubuike Iloka Family, Umuokpalanu Kindred, Uhuala Village, Akpo Town, Aguata Local Government Area) as Plaintiff in the High Court instituted an action against the Appellants as Defendants, jointly and severally claiming against them the following reliefs to wit:

a. "A Declaration by the Honourable Court that the Plaintiff's family is the owner of Iheohaju land in Uhuala village, Akpo town, Aguata Local Government Area.

b. One Million Naira (N1, 000, 000.00) general damages.

c. Perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants, their agents, servants, privies and workmen from further trespassing on said land or doing anything inconsistent with the Plaintiff's family interest on the said land."

Upon being served with the originating processes, the Appellants on the 1st day of July, 2015, filed their Joint Statement of Defence dated the 22nd day of June, 2015. The Appellants also filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection dated the 16th day of June, 2015 and filed on the 1st day of July, 2015 challenging the jurisdiction of the High Court to entertain the suit on the ground that the Respondent failed to sue the necessary parties in the suit. Attached to the said Notice of Preliminary Objection was an Affidavit and an address as argument in support.

The Respondent on the other hand, in opposition to the Notice of Preliminary Objection filed a Counter Affidavit and a Written Address as argument in support, both dated the 8th day of January, 2015 and the 31st day of July, 2015 respectively. 

The Appellants in turn filed a Further Affidavit dated the 27th day of Jan, 2016 and an undated Reply Brief filed on the 27th day of January, 2016.

The crux of the Appellants' preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Court below to entertain the matter was that the Respondent left out the Registered Trustee of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, a necessary party and sued the wrong parties. It is the case of the Appellants that the said Registered Trustee of the Catholic Diocese of Awka is in possession of the said land. 

The Respondent on the other hand, contends that the persons or people that committed the act of trespass on his land are the Appellants and not the said Registered Trustee of the Catholic Diocese of Awka. The Respondents contend further that it is not enough for the Appellants to state viva voce that the land belongs to the said Registered Trustee of the Catholic Diocese of Awka without credible evidence establishing that the land which belongs to the Christ the King Church, Akpo Catholic Community now belongs to the Registered Trustee of the Catholic Diocese of Awka, rather that the Agreements and Survey Plans filed by the Appellants in the High Court clearly showed that the land belongs to Christ the King Church, Akpo Catholic Community. 

After hearing the addresses of counsel to parties on their different postures in respect of the said Application, the learned trial judge on the 28th day of November, 2016 dismissed the Appellants Notice of Preliminary Objection and assumed jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

Aggrieved by the ruling of the High Court, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.


ISSUES:
The Court determined the appeal on a sole issue stated thus:
"Whether the trial Court was right to have dismissed the Appellants' Preliminary Objection challenging its jurisdiction to hear the suit on the ground that the necessary parties were not before it?"

DECISION/HELD:
In conclusion, the Court allowed the appeal in part. The part of the decision of the High Court holding that the Registered Trustees of the Catholic Diocese of Awka is a necessary party was affirmed, and in addition, it was ordered that the Registered Trustees of the Catholic Diocese of Awka be joined by the Respondent in the suit.


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