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MR. PETER NNAMELE & ORS v. CHIEF OLIVER NJOKU (A.K.A OPUTAOBIE) & ORS

(2018) LPELR-43987(CA)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Friday, the 23rd day of March, 2018

CA/OW/272/2011


Before Their Lordships

MASSOUD ABDULRAHMAN OREDOLA Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

ITA GEORGE MBABA Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

TUNDE OYEBANJI AWOTOYE Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria


Between

1. MR. PETER NNAMELE
2. MR. JOHN OHURUOGU
(President General
Abazu General Assembly)
3. NZE RAYMOND OSUJI
(Kingmaker and Member of Eze's Cabinet representing Umuebem/Amuzu Segment of Abazu)
4. NZE JOEL OWUNEZI
(Kingmaker and Member of Eze's Cabinet representing Nnemochie
Segment of Abazu)
5. NZE DENNIS IWUAJOKU
(Kingmaker and Member of Eze's Cabinet Representing Ekpere/Oroka Segment of Abazu)
6. CHIEF (SIR) MISHAK O. ONYENEKWE
(Chairman, Eze's Cabinet, Abazu
Autonomous Community)
(For themselves and as representing Members of the Abazu General Assembly
Except Defendants and their Cohorts) - Appellant(s)

AND

1. CHIEF OLIVER NJOKU (A.K.A OPUTAOBIE)
2. MOHAMMED CHRISTOPHER AMARIKWA
3. DAMIAN OJIJIEME
4. BENJAMIN NWOSU
5. ANTHONY OKEHI
6. HERBERT EGBUJUO
7. STANLEY NNEJI
8. IKECHUKWU EJIOFOR
9. THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF IMO STATE
10. THE GOVERNOR OF IMO STATE - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on Civil Procedure.
FACTS:
This appeal is against the judgment of Imo State High Court in Suit No. HMI/18/2007, delivered on 13/7/2011, by Hon. Justice Ngozi Opara, wherein the learned trial Court dismissed the entire Suit, following an application by the 1st Defendant for the Suit to be dismissed, for being incompetent and an abuse of the Court process.


At the High Court, the Claimants (now Appellants) were in the Suit, seeking:
(1) A declaration that 1st Defendant was not identified, selected and appointed the Eze-elect or Traditional Ruler of Abazu Autonomous Community of Imo State as provided by the Customary Laws, practices, norms and Ezeship and Chieftaincy Constitution regulating the processes of identification, selection, appointment and installation of the Eze (Traditional Ruler) of Abazu Autonomous Community.
(2) A declaration that 1st Defendant is not qualified in accordance with the Traditional Rulers and Autonomous Communities and Allied Matters Law No.3 of 1999 of Imo State to hold the office of Eze Abazu Autonomous Community or to be accorded any recognition in that behalf as Eze (Traditional Ruler) of Abazu Autonomous Community. 
(3) An Order of Court restraining 1st Defendant from parading himself, acting or carrying out acts as the Eze-Elect or Traditional Ruler of Abazu Autonomous Community.
(4) An Order of Court restraining 2nd - 8th Defendants, their agents, servants cohorts, assigns, or any person acting on their behalf from continuing to recognize or according any such recognition to 1st Defendant as the Eze-Elect or Traditional Ruler of Abazu Autonomous Community.
(5) An Order of Court restraining the 9th and 10th Defendants, their agents, servants, officers, assigns, agencies or any person acting on their behalf from recognizing the 1st Defendant as the Eze (Traditional Ruler) of Abazu Autonomous Community or continuing to recognize him as such Eze or Traditional Ruler.
???(6) A declaration that any presentation and subsequent recognition of the 1st Defendant as the Traditional Ruler of Eze of Abazu Autonomous Community by the 2nd to 10th Defendants during the pendency of Suit No. HMI/36/2006 - Peter Nnamele & Ors Vs Chief Herbert Egbujuo & Ors, is null, void, unconstitutional and of no legal effect, whatsoever. 
(7) An Order of Court setting aside the recognition of the 1st Defendant as the Traditional Ruler or Eze of Abazu Autonomous Community by the 10th Defendant during the pendency of Suit No. HMI/18/2007 aforesaid.

Parties had exchanged pleadings in the case and hearing commenced on 24/10/2010, but midway into the hearing of the evidence of PW1, the 1st Respondent filed a motion challenging the competence of the Suit, alleging lack of locus standi and saying that the Suit was an abuse of the Court process. After hearing the application, the High Court dismissed the Suit. Dissatisfied with the decision, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.

ISSUES:
The Court of Appeal determined the appeal on these two issues couched as follows:

(1) Whether the trial Court was right to hold that Appellants did not establish that they had locus standi in the case, and relied on that to dismiss the Suit, for being abuse of the Court process, and that on a motion, while the Suit was being heard?

And if the answer to the above is in the, affirmative.

(2) Whether the N200, 000.00 and N100,000.00 costs awarded to the 1st Respondent and 2nd to 8th Respondents, respectively, were justified, and not excessive?

DECISION/HELD:
On the whole, the Court of Appeal found merit in the appeal and accordingly allowed same. The decision of the High Court was therefore set aside.


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