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Crime/Justice

Conflicting Decisions Of Court Of Appeal On Stamp & Seal

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Whether where there is an NBA seal on a Court process, the name of counsel whose name is in the seal as the signatory on the document/process must be ticked; effect of failure
“The said Amended Statement of Claim as it were, has the names of four counsel listed thereon with one signature appended on the right-hand side of the first-two names to wit: J. B. Ifer, Esq. and V. S. Asen, Esq. In the very recent decision of this Court inMaina vs. EFCC (2020) 2 NWLR Pt. 1708, pg. 230 at 251-252, it was no doubt held per Abundaga, J.C.A., that: “Where a Court process has affixed to it, the seal of the Legal Practitioner who prepared it in line with Rule 10(1) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007, it is otiose to tick the name of the counsel whose name is in the seal as the signatory on the document or process.”
 Consequent upon the foregoing and on a careful perusal of the seal and stamp affixed on the appellant’s Motion upon which the Amended Statement of Claim was brought in as a process of the Court, it is clear that the said Stamp bears the name of “Ian Solomon” who in turn is listed as the 3rd counsel in the line-up of counsel on the said process. The impression thereby created is that “Ian Solomon” prepared the Amended Statement of Claim. Be that as it may, this position to my mind, would still not obliterate or dispense with the need to tick or tie the signature to the particular counsel who prepared the process, and as enunciated in the earlier decision of Oyama vs. Agibe (2015) LPELR-40600(CA). The need to tick or tie the signature or contraption remains indispensable, given the fact that most law firms operate in partnership of more than one counsel. In such circumstances of multiple partners or counsel as has played out in the instant case, the processes filed in Court by such firms cannot have the Seal and Stamp of each of those counsel in the firm. Rather, the process can only accommodate one NBA Seal and Stamp which invariably may not belong to the very counsel that prepared the said process. For a firm with only one counsel, the need to tick or tie signature to name of the counsel may not arise.
However, in the case of multiple counsel in the firm, the need of specificity of the counsel who prepared such process, cannot be overemphasized. To this end, the needed identification will be met by way of ticking the name of the particular counsel that prepared the process. Furthermore, and in order to authenticate the process, the signature or contraption as it were of the said counsel must be appended on the process, in such a manner that the Court will not be left in doubt as to the owner of the signature. In order to achieve this clarity and avoid confusion, the signature of the particular counsel shall be linked to its owner.
This mode of linkage has always been achieved by the age-long practice of ticking. As it is in the instant case, the Court is still left to speculate as to who, between J. B. IFER, ESQ., V. S. ASEN, ESQ., and SOLOMON IAN, ESQ., specifically prepared and filed the process in Court, since the particular owner of the signature is not identifiable. Notwithstanding the Seal and Stamp affixed thereon, the process could have been signed by any of the first-two counsel, beside whom the signature is appended. What I have tried to say so far is that, the affixing of NBA Seal and Stamp alone, without proper identification of the particular counsel out of multiple counsel in a firm, who prepared and filed a process in Court, still leaves the Court to speculate. For proper identification therefore, and without prejudice to the affixing of the NBA Seal and Stamp, the counsel’s name ought to be ticked also.
Besides that, the apex Court in a plethora of authorities which include SLB. Consortium vs. NNPC (2014) 3-4 MJ.S.C., 145 at 146 – 151, Ratio 1 thereof, made it clear that all processes filed in Court are to be signed as follows: “First, the signature of counsel which may be any contraption. Secondly, the name of counsel clearly written. Thirdly, who counsel represents. Fourthly, name and address of legal firm …” See further the authorities ofCitibank (Nig.) Ltd. vs. Titan Energy Ltd. (2018) LPELR-4464(CA); Nweke vs. FRN. (2018) LPELR-460033(CA); Daniel vs. INEC.&Ors. (2015) LPELR-24566(SC); Ewukoya vs. TajudeenBuari (2016) LPELR-40492(CA) at 9 – 12 (D-B); Bank of Industries Ltd. vs. Awojugbagbe Light Industries Ltd. (2018) LPELR-43812(SC); Min. of Works & Transport, Adamawa State vs. Yakubu (2013) All FWLR (Pt. 694) 23, 27-28; and Bello vs. Adamu (2013) All FWLR (Pt. 671) 1582, 1881, Ratio 1. It follows from the foregoing that either way, be it an originating process such as a Writ of Summons or any other process such as the Statement of Claim, once it is a process meant for use in Court, it is desirable that the signature of the specific Legal Practitioner who prepared same or that of the Claimant as the case may be, is appended thereon in order for such a process to attract validity.
While a document devoid of the maker’s signature would be rendered invalid and of no consequence, a process like the Amended Statement of Claim which has an unidentifiable signature appended thereon, can only be said to be irregular. This is to say that, the Amended Statement of Claim such as the one in the instant case wherein three counsel, as already enumerated above are contending for one signature or contraption, cannot but be deemed to be irregular and voidable as opposed to being void. ?
Furthermore, a Statement of Claim, unlike a Writ of Summons and a Notice of Appeal, is not an Originating Process for which its defect will go to the root of the matter. Reliance is placed on the recent case ofHeritage Bank Ltd. vs. Bentworth Fin. (Nig.) Limited (2018) 9 NWLR Pt. 1625, page 420 at 434, paras. B – C, wherein our noble Eko, J.S.C., brought home the fact that: “Whether an irregularity renders a process void and not voidable depends on the type of irregularity. An irregularity affecting an originating process is a fundamental irregularity that goes to the roots.
The Statement of Claim is not an originating proces …” (Underlining mine for emphasis). Given the foregoing pronouncement in gold of the Supreme Court, it follows that the appellant’s Amended Statement of Claim which sole defect touches on who, out of four listed counsel signed same, ought not be viewed as a fundamental defect and so capable of rendering same void. There is a signature on the process no doubt, just that the Court cannot pin-point the particular counsel out of the four that signed same.
Aside from the confusion of who out of the four counsel signed the process, there is nothing on record to suggest that any of them is not a legal practitioner as envisaged by Sections 2(1) and 4 of the Legal Practitioners Act, 1975. In other words, any of the four listed counsel is qualified to sign the process and indeed the same was signed by one of them. It is worthy of note that the accepted or adopted practice, is for the signature to sit on top of the name of the signatory and in the case of multiple or listed number of counsel as is obtainable in firms of legal practitioners, the ticking of the name of the particular signatory.” Per CORDELIA IFEOMA JOMBO-OFO, JCA (Pp 9 – 15 Paras B – C)
Anyanwu Wrote from Enugu State

By: King Onunwor with Reports from C.K. Anyanwu Esq.

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Crime/Justice

On Issues Of Counter-Claim

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although a counter claim is a distinct action, and a separate decision would be given in respect of the counter-claim, it must be directly related to the principal claim and not outside and independent of the subject-matter of the principal claim. See Oyegbola vs. Esso West Africa (1966) 1 all NLR 170.
Awosanya vs. Federal Ministry of Environment, Housing & Urban Development and ORS.(2021) LCN/14971(ca).
Issue: counter-claim-Whether a court with subject-matter jurisdiction to hear a main claim can lack same to hear a counter-claim(Issue is mine)
Principle:
“I think the Appellant’s Counsel was only grandstanding, when he tried to fault the jurisdiction of the trial Court, on appeal, to entertain the counter-claim, on the allegation that the 4th Respondent was seeking “declaration of title to land and possession”, which is outside the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court. Appellant did not raise any such issue of lack of absence of jurisdiction at the trial Court, because, I believe, he knew the truth that the real issue in the case was the sale of the property to 4th Respondent by the 1st to 3rd Respondents, rather than to him, Appellant!
The case was never one for title to land, despite the inelegant couching of the reliefs by the 4th defendant at the trial Court. It could not have been issue of title and possession to land, because both Appellant and the 4th Respondent had acknowledged the Government (represented by 1st to 3rd Respondents) as the owner of property, No. 9 Mekunwen Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, and that the same was sold to the 4th Respondent, even when he (Appellant) was still on the property and wanted same to be sold to him (Appellant)! See the reliefs 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 by the Appellant in this case (earlier produced).
And so all the legal gymnastics/arguments and cases cited as to whether the trial Court (Federal High Court) had jurisdiction to hear and entertain a case seeking title to land and possession of land, were, in my opinion, completely unnecessary, and a distraction in this case, as the case of the 4th Respondent, was obviously, a counter-claim, to affirm the sale of the property to him by the 1st to 3rd Respondent and for the consequential orders for Appellant to vacate the property!
It is however conceded, that the couching of the reliefs sought by 4th Defendant’s Counsel in the counter-claim were quite inelegant, talking about declaration that 4th Respondent was the lawful owner and title holder of the property; and for possession of the said piece or parcel of land.”
I do not think the Appellant or any of the parties failed to understand the real issues before the trial Court, by the two sides, for determination, as earlier stated in this judgment, and so none can claim to have been misled by the said in-elegance in the drafting and presenting the claims (reliefs) in the counter-claim, nor by the findings and decision of the trial Court thereon. Courts are expected to pursue substantial justice, not technicalities.
It is also quite glaring, that the substance of the two cases questioned or sought, to justify the power of the 1st to 3rd Respondents to deal with the property, No. 9 Mekunwen Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, by selling same to 4th Respondent, and how the sale was made. While Appellant questioned the sale, the 4th Respondent justified it and sought an order for Appellant to vacate the property, and because the 1st to 3rd Respondents are Federal Government Agencies, which controlled and administered the property by virtue of Section 49 of the Land Use Act, 1978. The Section concedes to the Federal Government or its agency to hold title to land. The provision says:
“49(1) Nothing in this Act shall affect any title to land whether developed or undeveloped held by the Federal Government or any agency of the Federal Government at the commencement of this Act and accordingly, any such land and shall continue to rest in the Federal Government or the agency concerned.
49(2) In this section, ‘agency’ includes any statutory corporation or any other statutory body (whether corporate or unincorporate) or any company wholly owned by the Federal Government.”
Of course, Section 251(1)(r) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended, says: “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this Constitution and in addition to such other jurisdiction as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly, the Federal High Court shall have and exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other Court in civil causes and matters;
(r) any action or proceeding for a declaration or injunction affecting the validity of any executive or administrative action or decision by the Federal Government or any of its agency and…”
There is no doubt that the action or decision of the 1st to 3rd Respondents (Federal Agencies) to sell the property owned by the Government, to the 4th Respondent is at the root of this case of the Appellant and the 4th Respondent. The trial Court (Federal High Court) is therefore the appropriate Court with requisite jurisdiction to determine the dispute(s), in my opinion. See the views of my Lord Okoro, JCA, (as he then was) in the case of Minister, Federal Housing Authority & Urban Development & Anor. Vs. Bello (2009) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1155) 345 at 364-365.
Certainly, this was not a land case, or one for declaration of title, since the parties had agreed that title was vested in the Federal Government, and which transferred the title to the 4th Respondent. Appellant only disputed the sale, saying it ought to have been to him! The trial Court was therefore properly located to pronounce on the sale, whether it was valid or not, and whether the Appellant was entitled to it or not.
I think that, even if the trial Judge/Court were not to have jurisdiction to entertain the 4th Respondent’s counter-claim because of the inelegance or wrongs in the drafting of the reliefs sought, that the striking out of the counter-claim would not affect the value passed to the 4th Respondent by the 1st to 3rd Respondents in the property, upon the dismissal of the Appellant’s case by the lower Court. The challenge of jurisdiction, in the circumstances, was not well thought out, in my opinion.” Per MBABA, JCA.
Astor wrote from N.Ngbea & Co Chambers, Makurdi, Benue State.

By: King Onunwor with
reports from James Astor

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Crime/Justice

Monarch Hails Wike For Peace In Rivers Community

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The Eze Risi Ohia Mbam Abali/Rebisi in the Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of Rivers State, Eze Christopher Wonodi, has attributed the prevailing peace in Rebisi Kingdom to an act of God and the magnanimity of Governor Nyesom Wike to the kingdom.
Eze Wonodi, who said this in an interview with newsmen in his palace in Port Harcourt said all nooks and crannies of the kingdom are experiencing peace, adding that God has been so gracious to the people.
The second class traditional ruler also thanked Governor Wike for siting projects in all parts of the kingdom.
He said the numerous road, bridge and other infrastructural projects constructed by the present administration has opened up the kingdom for more investments.
Eze Wonodi also said the on-going dualisation of the eastern by pass/Ogbunabali road has opened up the community for more investments.
He, however, called on the people to ensure that all government projects sited in the area are not vandalised.
The traditional ruler commended the mayor of Port Harcourt City, Sir Allwell Ihunda for his numerous programmes to improve the lives of the people.
According to him, “mayor is a man of the people. He is a humble fellow He takes advice. He is close to the people,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Community Development Committee (CDC), Oro Abali, Port Harcourt City Local Government Area has lauded the mayor of Port Harcourt City local government area, Sir Allwell Ihunda for initiating several empowerment schemes for the people.
Chairman of the committee, Mr Manuchim Lammy Wopara said this during a courtesy call on the council chairman in his office in Port Harcourt.
He said his community, Oro Abali benefitted from the scheme, adding that several women and youths of the community also benefitted from the empowerment scheme.
The CDC chairman said the visit to the mayor was to show appreciation for his support to the community as well as to show solidarity and support to the administration.

By: John Bibor

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Crime/Justice

Community Leader Cries Out Over Alleged Murder Of Relation, Others

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A community leader and elite in Kono Boue Community in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State, Dr. Promise Abanee, is definitely not a happy man today, following the alleged gruesome murder of his only surviving uncle, Mr. Nubari Ifaah, said to be a 77-year-old retired teacher; his friend and neighbour, Mr. Ideebom Monday Beteh, and a host of other indigenes of his community, by gunmen suspected to be cultists on a genocide mission, to apparently exterminate his people.
Consequent upon this, Dr. Abanee, who lamented what is currently playing out in the community, said in a chat with The Tide that the place is now a ghost town, as the inhabitants have fled their homes, with some of them scattered around Bori, the local government headquarters.
According to him, his uncle met his untimely death on Monday, August 23, 2021, when he visited the community from Bori, to see Mr. Ideebom Monday Beteh, whom he learnt had been at home for over two days, with a promise to return on Tuesday.
He said Mr. Ifaah as planned, could, however, not return to Bori, where he was living at the younger brother’s place, because over 20 gunmen had allegedly invaded the community that Monday, shot and killed three other persons before abducting the retired teacher and his friend. He also alleged that the invaders destroyed windows and doors of buildings in the community before leaving.
Dr. Abanee further alleged that the mangled bodies of the two victims, Ifaah and Beteh, were located in a bush far away from the community on Thursday, August 26, 2021, with a unit of the police in Bori providing security, contending that the remains of the victims were buried same day.
He listed the names of those who had earlier been allegedly killed by the gunmen to include Barikui Yor-ho, Torne Bari Bakpo; Emmanuel Atangsi Deele; Samuel Agbokara; and Lekara Stephen Bira.
Others are Bariya Kaanagbara; Baridakara Sorkue; Blessing George; Baridoolenu Dike Baesor; and Gbara-Akpo Imanyie; among others.
With this revelation, Dr Abanee said Kono Boue Community is today facing a humanitarian crisis, and pleaded for the urgent intervention of the Rivers State Government and the international community, to stem the spate of killings in the area.
When contacted, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Bori, SP Bako Angwashim denied allegations that people were being killed in Kono Boue Community, insisting that residents were deserting the town out of fear and suspicion.
He said the police were fully prepared to maintain law and order in any troubled community in Ogoniland, and appealed to the people of Kono Boue to return to their community.
According to him, “nothing is happening in Kono Boue Comunity”.
It would, however, be recalled that the Chairman of Khana Local Government Area, Dr. Thomas Bariere had reportedly visited the community recently as a result of the unfolding unfortunate incidents, and appealed to all communities of Boue to abide by a subsisting peace agreement.

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