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MTN NIGERIA COMMUNICATIONS LIMITED v. RAINBOWNET LIMITED & ANOR

(2019) LPELR-47988(CA)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Wednesday, the 3rd day of July, 2019

CA/E/374/2013


Before Their Lordships

IGNATIUS IGWE AGUBE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

CHINWE EUGENIA IYIZOBA Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

ABUBAKAR SADIQ UMAR Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria


Between

MTN NIGERIA COMMUNICATIONS LTD. - Appellant(s)

AND

1. RAINBOWNET LIMITED
2. ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL CRIMES COMMISSION - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on Civil Procedure.
FACTS:
This appeal is against the Ruling of the Federal High Court, Enugu Judicial Division, delivered by D.V Agishi J. on the 1st day of February, 2013 wherein the Court below granted the Respondent's motion dated the 20th day of September, 2011 praying it to strike out the suit of the Appellant on want of jurisdiction.

The Appellant as Plaintiff in the Court below initiated the action which is the subject matter of the instant appeal against the Respondents under the undefended list procedure before the said suit was transferred to the general cause list. The Appellant vide his statement of claim dated the 10th day of July, 2009 claimed against the Respondents as follows:
a. "The sum of N72, 663, 075. 24 (Seventy Two Million Six Hundred and Sixty Three Thousand, Seventy Five Naira, Twenty Four Kobo) only being the balance unpaid by the Defendant for telecommunications interconnectivity services granted by the Plaintiff to it between the period 1/1/08 to 30/4/09.
b. 21 percent interest or the going banks interest rate from the 1st day of May, 2009 till judgment is given in this suit.
c. 5 percent interest on the judgment debt from date of judgment until final liquidation of judgment debt."

Pleadings were filed and exchanged by the parties to the suit and the matter was set down for hearing. However, by a motion dated the 20th day of September, 2011, the Respondents raised a preliminary objection to the effect that the Court below lacks the requisite jurisdiction to entertain the suit on the following grounds:
i. "The writ of summons in this suit is not properly commenced. 
ii. The cause of Action in this suit is an alleged breach of a simple contract between the Plaintiff and the 1st Defendant.
iii. The Statement of Claim did not disclose any reasonable cause of action against the 2nd Defendant. 
iv. The Federal High Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the suit as the cause of action in the suit is outside the provisions of Section 251 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended especially Section 251 (1) (p), (q) and (r) thereof." 

After hearing the address of counsel in respect of their various postures in the said Application, the lower Court in its ruling delivered on the 1st day of February at pages 150 of the record held thus:
"From the above case laws and statute so far examined, it is abundantly clear that this Court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain the action brought by the Plaintiff. Proceeding from that point of view, it is also my opinion here that the 2nd Defendant cannot be held liable simply on the ground that they overtook the management of the 1st Defendant. The objection of the Defendant succeeds and application is accordingly struck out."

The Appellant aggrieved by the decision of the Court below appealed to the Court of Appeal.

ISSUES:
The Court of Appeal resolved the appeal by adopting the issue formulated by the Appellant which is:
"Whether the learned trial judge was right in law when it ruled that the Federal High Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the suit?" 

DECISION/HELD:
In conclusion, the Court of Appeal held that the appeal succeeded in part.


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