Nigerian Coat of Arms
Min., Works & Housing v. Shittu. (2007)
 
  
ISSUE
 
JURISDICTION: When court lacks jurisdiction though competent to adjudicate over a matter
   
PRINCIPLE
 
"A court may by statute lack jurisdiction to deal with a particular matter, though the claim ordinarily appears to be within its competence. Thus, as between Federal and State High Courts, a particular feature may rob the State High Court of competence to adjudicate on a matter notwithstanding the nature of the claim or subject matter in the action. In the instant case, a section 251(1)(r) of the 1999 Constitution vests exclusive jurisdiction over matters in which the Federal Government or any of its agencies is a party, in the Federal High Court. It follows therefore that a State High Court, notwithstanding the nature of the claim or subject matter in the action, no longer have jurisdiction in such matters. In the circumstance the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the respondent's suit against the appellant, who is an agent of the Federal Government. See NEPA v. Edegbero (2002) 18 NWLR (Pt. 798) 79.

It must be taken as settled therefore that by virtue of section 251(1) of the 1999 Constitution, where the Federal Government is a party to a suit, it is not the nature of the claim as endorsed on the writ of summons or averred in the statement of claim that determines whether or not the State High Court has jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter. The only court vested with jurisdiction on such matters as listed in the Constitution is the Federal High Court of Nigeria.

In NEPA v. Edegbero (supra) the Supreme Court per Ogundare, JSC at page 18 on section 230(1)(q), (r) and (s) of 1979 Constitution which is in pari materia with section 251(q), (r) and (s) of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria, states thus:

'.... the aim of paragraphs (q), (r) and (s) of sub-section (1) of section 230 was to vest exclusive jurisdiction in the Federal High Court in matters in which the Federal Government or any of its agents was a party. A State High Court would no longer have jurisdiction in such matters notwithstanding the nature of the claim in the action.'

In the result, we are satisfied that this appeal is meritorious and it succeeds. The trial Kaduna State High Court lacked the required competence to adjudicate on the matter as it did.

With the recent Supreme Court decision in National Electric Power Authority v. Edegbero (2002) 18 NWLR (Pt. 798) 79, it may no longer be necessary to look at the claim of the parties in determining jurisdiction but the parties in the case. It is clear that in the instant appeal, the action was brought against a Federal Government agent, consequently, the jurisdiction of the State High Court is ousted going by the decision in Edegbero (supra)." Per Ariwoola and Ba'aba JJCA.

   
OTHER CITATIONS
 
  1. Min., Works & Housing v. Shittu. (2007) 16 NWLR 351 at 373-374 Paras. H-F,(CA)

  2. Min., Works & Housing v. Shittu. (2007)V P. 374-375, Paras. F-B, P.375, Paras. G-H (CA)
 
CASES CITED ON ISSUE
 
   
STATUTES CITED