CAN A DEFAULT JUDGEMENT BE GRANTED WHEN THERE IS A BREACH OF A STATUTORY PROVISION?
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CASE TITLE: UNITY BANK v. ONUMINYA (2019) LPELR-47507(CA)
JUDGMENT DATE: 15TH MAY, 2019
PRACTICE AREA: CIVIL PROCEDURE
LEAD JUDGMENT: UGOCHUKWU ANTHONY OGAKWU, J.C.A.
SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:
This appeal borders on Civil Procedure.
This appeal is against the decision of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, Coram Judice: Shakarho, J. in SUIT NO. FHC/L/CS/315/2007: PETER ONUMINYA vs. UNITY BANK PLC delivered on 12th December 2007.
The Respondent, who was the Plaintiff at the High Court claimed the following relief against the Appellant, the Defendant at the High Court:
“WHEREOF the plaintiff claims against the defendant as follows:
(i) The sum of N57.7 Million (Fifty-Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand Naira Only) being the amount agreed upon by the Centre-Point Merchant Bank Plc (one of the Banks that meagre [sic] to become the defendant) to be paid to the plaintiff in consideration of the meritorious service of turning the Bank into profitability.
(ii) AND the plaintiff claims as per the writ of summons and statement of claim hereof.”
The relief claimed in the Writ of Summons was incorporated by reference in the Statement of Claim and it is therefore an integral part of the relief claimed in the action. The relief as endorsed in the Writ of Summons is as follows:
“The plaintiff’s claim is for the sum N57.7 million being the amount agreed to be paid to the plaintiff for his meritorious service of turning the bank into profitability and also as part of his severance allowance by the then Centre-Point Bank Plc, which is one of the banks that merged to form the defendant bank.”
Dissatisfied with the decision of the Federal High Court, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
The Court of Appeal determined the appeal based on the issues formulated by the appellant which are:
I. “Whether considering the facts and circumstances of this case and the provisions of Section 251(1) 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (‘1999 Constitution’), the Federal High Court is seised of the requisite jurisdiction to entertain and adjudicate upon this Suit?”
II. Whether the Respondent is howsoever entitled to the 12/12/07 Default Judgment when his claim was solely predicated on a contract purportedly entered into between the Appellant and the Respondent, which contract is contrary to Section 271 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, Cap C20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004?”
In conclusion, the Court of Appeal found the appeal meritorious and it was allowed.
JUDGMENT AND ORDER- SUBSISTING JUDGMENT: Whether a judgment not set aside by a Higher Court will be deemed valid and subsisting
JUDGMENT AND ORDER- DEFAULT JUDGMENT: Whether a default judgment can be granted where there is a breach of a statutory provision.
JURISDICTION- JURISDICTION OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT: What determines the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to entertain a matter.
JURISDICTION- JURISDICTION OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT: Whether the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court pertains to cases of simple contracts.
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE- ISSUE OF JURISDICTION: Whether leave of Court is required to raise the issue of jurisdiction on appeal.