Order of arrest of ship subsists after fourteen days

The Federal High Court lacks jurisdiction over civil claims arising from insurance matters, section 97 of the Insurance Act, 1997 notwithstanding.

Sun Insurance (Nig.) Plc v. U. E. C. C. Ltd. [2015] 11 NWLR (Pt. 1471) 576 at 612, paras. F-H, Kekere-Ekun, JSC:

“The issue to be determined therefore, is whether the Insurance Act of 1997, being an existing law by virtue of section 315(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution, confers such exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court. Notwithstanding the fact that in section 97 of the Act, “court” is interpreted to mean the Federal High Court, the sections of the law, which refers to the court do not confer exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court nor oust the jurisdiction of the State High Courts to entertain matters relating to simple contracts of insurance. In other words, by virtue of section 272(1) of the Constitution, the State High Courts are fully competent to hear and determine claims arising from simple contracts of insurance.”

Blogger’s Note:

The unanimous Judgment of the Supreme Court above is clearly to the effect that the Federal High Court does not have exclusive jurisdiction to entertain civil claims arising from insurance contracts. One pertinent point to note is that in spite of Section 97 of the Insurance Act No. 2 of 1997, the Supreme Court maintained that the Federal High Court does not have jurisdiction over civil claims bordering on insurance. Looking at the Insurance Act, one may be tempted to assume that perhaps, both the Federal High Court and the State High Courts should exercise jurisdiction over such matters. However, the Supreme Court did not leave anyone in doubt. No jurisdiction, whether exclusive or additional, is conferred on the Federal High Court over civil claims on insurance matters. Fabiyi, JSC at page 602-603 of the report, paras. G-C put it clearly thus: “In short, it is clear that a simple insurance contract matter does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court. It is not expressly imbued with jurisdiction to entertain such a matter… The appellant also attempted to hide under the umbrage of the provision of section 251(1)(s), CFRN, 1999. In the lead Judgment it is shown that the provisions of the Insurance Act No. 2 of 1997 did not confer exclusive or additional jurisdiction to entertain simple claims on insurance contracts on the Federal High Court. The subject matter of such claims remains under the jurisdiction of the State High Courts under section 272(1) 1999 CFRN. I agree with; and respectfully adopt same.”

Nonetheless, the apex Court agreed and noted that, “it is quite clear that the jurisdiction conferred on the Federal High Court by section 80 of the Insurance Act No. 2 of 1997 is in respect of the trial of all criminal offences committed under the Act.” – Per Mohammed, CJN at page 599, para H.
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