Challenge of jurisdiction

You cannot challenge the jurisdiction of court with a letter

Usani v. Duke [2006] 17 NWLR (Pt. 1009) 610 at 654 paras. A-B, per Ngwuta, JCA (as he then was):


“The letter of 6/5/05 on the conduct of a member of the Tribunal and the bailiff attached thereto does not amount to a challenge to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. It may well raise the issue of bias but it clearly does not challenge the jurisdiction of the court…”

Blogger’s Note:

You can read the full Judgment here.
The principle is that an issue of jurisdiction can be raised at any time (even for the first time on appeal), by any means including orally. See, Petrojessica Enterprises Ltd. v. Leventis Technical Co. Ltd. (1992) 5 NWLR (Pt.244) 675 at 693, per, Belgore JSC.

In the above case, the Appellant wrote a letter addressed to the President of the Court of Appeal protesting the conduct of a member of the Election Tribunal and the bailiff attached to the Tribunal. The Court rightly held that the letter cannot be held to have validly challenged the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. It is not for the President of the Court of Appeal to decide the issue of jurisdiction. The law is that a court or tribunal seized of a matter has the jurisdiction to decide whether it has jurisdiction. See Obiuweubi v. CBN [2011] 7 NWLR (Pt. 1247) 465 at 509, para E, per Adekeye JSC. The Supreme Court in this case further held that “jurisdiction cannot be assumed in the interest of justice”.

 

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