Month: March 2018

Newsletter for 19th – 23rd March 2018


Welcome to another edition of LEDAP Nigeria’s Weekly Newsletter which keeps you up to date on the latest Human Rights News and updates in the law, What we are up to and Upcoming Events.
19th – 23rd March 2018

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King



Group Writes UN, Wants Herdsmen Attacks Treated As Terrorism

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the UN Security Council and its members urging them to: “treat the atrocities by herdsmen as terrorist acts, in line with the UN Security Council resolution 2349 (2017), which addresses Boko Haram’s presence in the Lake Chad Basin and calls on all states to combat all forms and manifestations of terrorism….” Read more

Falana Faults NNPC’s Rejection of FOI Request – Refusal to Disclose Financial Details

A human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on Sunday criticised the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), for rejecting a Freedom of Information request on its operations and finances. Read more

Islamic State Faction in Nigeria Follows Boko Haram’s Playbook: Kidnapping SchoolgirlsAccording to the Wall Street Journal  ISIS West Africa Faction and not  Boko Haram was responsible for kidnapping the Dapchi Girls. Read more

President, VP, Governors, Legislators should Disclose Salaries 

The Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Kaduna State, Shehu Sani, yesterday charged Nigerians to demand for compulsory disclosure of salaries and allowances of the President, Vice President. Secretary to the Government of the Federation, governors, state legislators and chairmen of councils. Read more

LITE-Africa, CFLI Partner on Security, Human RightsThe Leadership Initiative for Transformation and Empowerment (LITEAfrica) which, true to its objectives, held a two-day sensitization workshop on Voluntary Principles (VP) and United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) on Security and Human Rights, in Abuja. LITE-Africa, with support from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiative (CFLI), is implementing what is termed, the Strengthening Voluntary Principles in-country Implementation in Nigeria. Read more

Nigerian Army Failed to Act on Warnings before Schoolgirls Abducted, Amnesty says

Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian army of failing to act on “advance warnings” given a few hours before Boko Haram militants abducted 110 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria last month. Read more

Thousands of Anglophone Cameroonians Continue to Flee to Nigeria

Thousands of English-speaking Cameroonians continue to flee violent crackdowns by government forces. The U.N. refugee agency has registered more than 20,000 Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria’s Cross River, Taraba, Benue and Akwa-Ibom states. An overwhelming majority are women and children. Read more


Nigerians Berate FG, DSS over Abduction of Lagos Port WorkerSome Nigerians have berated the Federal Government after operatives of the Department of State Services, Lagos State Command, allegedly abducted a port worker, Moruf Ajao, in the Aguda, Surulere area of Lagos. They said the act was a backward step to the military era when there was disregard for the constitution, rule of law and human rights. Read more

UN Says Executions, Torture, Slave Markets Persist In Libya 
Armed groups continue to  execute and torture civilians in Libya in almost complete impunity seven years after the revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, the UN human rights office said on Wednesday. Libyans and migrants are often held incommunicado in arbitrary detention in appalling conditions, and reports persist of captured migrants being bought and sold on “open slave markets”, the UN said in a report to the Human Rights Council. Read more

Justice Ministry, Women Affairs Pledge Commitment to the Passage of Disability Bill into LawFederal Ministries of Justice, Women Affairs and Social Development on Tuesday in Abuja respectively pledged renewed commitments to the passage of the Nigerian Disability Bill into law. Read more

How 104 Abducted Dapchi Girls Regained Freedom

The Federal Government yesterday explained that the release of 104 out of the 110 Dapchi schoolgirls abducted last month by the Boko Haram sect was secured through back-channel efforts and with the help of some friends of the country. Read more

Human Rights Watch Warns Libya To Resist Rushing Into Elections

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday warned Libya to resist rushing into elections this year because the country is too violent and authorities cannot guarantee freedom of assembly or free speech, which are essential for a vote. Read more

Presidential Committee Frees 80 prisoners in Jigawa

No fewer than 80 inmates were set free from prison by the presidential committee on prisons reform and decongestion in Jigawa State. The prisoners who were serving different terms convicted on civil and criminals cases regained their freedom after their individual fines were settled. Read more

Cambridge Analytica’s Ruthless Bid to Sway the Vote in Nigeria

“It was the kind of campaign that was our bread and butter,” says one ex-employee. “We’re employed by a billionaire who’s panicking at the idea of a change of government and who wants to spend big to make sure that doesn’t happen.” Read more

NBA, NGO Signs MoU On Pro Bono Legal Services In Nigeria
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Friday in Abuja, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote free legal services in Nigeria with the Justice Research Institute, an NGO. Read more

Nigerian Anti-Corruption Group wins UN Award

A Nigerian anti-corruption youth group, the Creative Youth Initiative Against Corruption (CYIAC), has emerged the winner of the Innovative Category of the first UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Action Awards. Read more


Should Nigeria have a Sex Offender Registry?
“If we have a registry that one can go quietly, report and register one’s complaint and the offender is invited for interrogation and when found culpable, he or she is punished; victims will be interested in reporting their ordeal to relevant authorities and seek help.” Read more

Where Is the Gold From?

This week is the start of Baselworld, one of the world’s largest jewelry and watch fairs. Visitors will learn a lot about new watch and jewelry design. But how much will they hear about the human rights conditions under which gold and other minerals for jewelry and watches have been mined? Read more


Fighting corruption: Time for Nigeria to Take the Gloves off “Nigeria is making significant inroads into the fight against corruption. Charges are being brought against people in Nigeria for corruption and fraud allowing significant amounts of cash to be recovered.” Read more  

Time To Re-Think Opposition To LGBT RightsThe Nigerian state continues to oppose same-sex marriage and the respect for human rights of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) persons locally and internationally. Read more


Participation in NBA’s Criminal Justice Confab

LEDAP will participate in the Nigerian Bar Association’s  Criminal Justice Confab holding on the 25th-26th of April. LEDAP’s lead counsel Chino Obiagwu, who is also the alternate chair of the NBA Human Rights Institute, will be speaking on the Administration of Criminal Justice Law and state level lessons at the forthcoming high level conference on criminal justice reform. To register and find out more, click here.

LEDAP,National Judicial Institute, and AfricaLii commence Nigeria Legal Information Institute(NigeriaLii)

Nigeria Legal Information Institute(NigeriaLii) is aimed at bringing legal materials, all laws and case decisions in Nigeria free of charge to the public. The official launch is coming up soon but the NigeriaLii portal currently contains several thousands of case decisions, statutes, rules of court, and other legal materials. Visit the NigeriaLii website here

LEDAP and Imo State Judiciary ACJA Bill Workshop
 In the last week of April 2018, LEDAP will partner with the Imo State Judiciary to hold a two day stakeholders workshop towards the  adoption of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in Imo state.


LEDAP Undertakes a Baseline Assessment of the Rate of Compliance & Awareness  of the  ACJA in the F.C.T.  

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project in partnership with the E.U funded Rule of Law (RoLAC) programme and the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) recently began a practitioner survey to identify the level of awareness and the extent of implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in the Federal Capital Territory. Read more

LEDAP’S Suit Against the Securities and Exchange Commission & 1 Other, Adjourned for Judgement

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project on the 20th of January, 2016 filed an action at the Investment and Securities Tribunal against the Security and Exchange Commission and The Nigerian Stock Exchange challenging the power of the Security and Exchange Commission in allowing states government raise bonds in the open market. Read more

LEDAP Submits Universal Periodic Review Report on  the Human Rights Situation in Nigeria

LEDAP has submitted a Universal Periodic Review Report on  the Human Rights Situation in Nigeria to the Office of the Human Rights Council. The report focuses on issues such as, Unlawful Arrests and Detention, Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Enforced Disappearance, Detention Incommunicado, Death in Detention, Extra Judicial Killings and the Slow Judicial Process in the Prosecution of Fundamental Human Rights Cases in Court.

LEDAP Writes Attorney General of the Federation for Release of Suspects Discharged by the Court
About 800 Boko Haram suspects were discharged by the Court during the second phase of the trial of Boko Haram Suspects held from the 12th to the 16th of February 2018 at Wawa Military Cantonment, Kinji, Niger State for want of sufficient evidence to charge them to court. However, these persons are still being detained at the detention center. LEDAP has written to the Attorney General of the Federation demanding the unconditional release of these detainees.


Court Stops Lagos State Government from Enforcing Hotel Tax Law

The Federal High Court in Lagos has restrained the Lagos State Government from enforcing the provisions of its new Hotel Occupancy and Restaurant (Fiscalisation) Regulations 2017. The law introduced a five per cent consumption tax in addition to a five per cent Value Added Tax on every purchase or service rendered by hotels, restaurants, fast food outlets, event centres, bars and nightclubs. Read more

Obaseki signs Edo Criminal Justice Administration Bill into Law 

Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has signed the Edo State Criminal Justice Administration Bill into Law.
Obaseki, who assented to the bill at the Government House, in Benin City, the Edo State capital on Tuesday, said, “The law would strengthen the protection of the rights of citizens and ensure fair and speedy administration of justice.” Read more

Kano to get Appeal Court

The Federal Government will establish an Appeal Court division in Kano State, President of the Appeal Court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, has said. Read more

Sergeant to Die for Extra-Judicial Killing

A Bayelsa State High Court sitting in Yenagoa has sentenced a police sergeant, Jilla Lannubo, to death by hanging for the extra-judicial killing of Oruyegha Grand at Agudama on May 13, 2017. Read more

Signing of Court Processes By a Law Firm: A Review of the Recent Case of Heritage Bank V. Bentworth

This write-up seeks to clarify the decision in the Heritage Bank Case with consideration given to the position of the courts on the proper person to sign court processes under Section 2 and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act and the implication on proceedings arising thereupon. Read more



3rd Regional Congress Against the Death Penalty

The African Congress will be held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on 9-10 April 2018. Over 300 participants are expected. LEDAP’s lead counsel, Mr. Chino Obiagwu will be speaking on the topic, “Africans on death row in foreign countries, a consular duty” at the second workshop on the 10th of April from 3pm to 4pm. Read more 

Lagos Multi-Door Court House To Hold 2018 Edition of The Yaba District Settlement Week

Registration for the event is free. It will hold from the 26th – 29th of March 2018 at the The Chief Magistrate Court, Lagos State Judiciary, Botanical Gardens, Ebute Metta. Find out more here.

Prof. Attahiru Jega, To Speak At NIALS 2018 Founders Day Lecture

The Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies is to holds its 2018 edition of Founders Day lecture. The Lecture is scheduled to hold on Tuesday, 27th March, 2018. The theme of the lecture is “TOWARDS ELECTION INTEGRITY IN 2019: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS”. This year’s edition of Founders Day Lecture will be Delivered by Professor Attahiru Jega, Pro-Chancellor Plateau State University, Former Chairman of the (INEC). Find out more here

Two Day Consultative Stakeholder Meeting on Strengthening the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice

The Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC) in partnership with TrustAfrica has invited stakeholders to a two day consultative meeting on “Strengthening the ECOWAS Court of Justice and enhancing Access to Justice in the West Africa Sub-Region” The event will take place on the 11th to the 12th of April 2018 at Rockview Hotels, Abuja.

Open Society offers Media Grants [West Africa]

The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) is accepting proposals to support initiatives in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Possible target areas include journalism, justice reform and the rule of law, the democratic practice and more. Proposals must promote investigative journalism and free, quality and independent media. The deadline is April 30. Find out more here

2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize call for nominations

The 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize will be given out at the United Nations in New York on Human Right Day, 10 December. Nominations are open until 6 April 2018. The prize to recognize individuals or organization for outstanding achievements in the field of human rights is given out every five years. Read more


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LEDAP’S Suit Against the Securities and Exchange Commission & 1 Other, Adjourned for Judgement

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project on the 20th of January, 2016 filed an action at the Investment and Securities Tribunal against the Security and Exchange Commission and The Nigerian Stock Exchange challenging the power of the Security and Exchange Commission in allowing states government raise bonds in the open market.

The reason for this action is that the Investment and Securities Act in section 224(3)(a) made clear provisions on the conditions any state government must fulfil before it is granted loan or credit or bond in the capital market and these conditions are strict and ought to be followed and complied with strictly.

The claims sought by LEDAP are as follows;

  1. That the Security and Exchange Commission and the Nigerian Stock Exchange are not to allow state governments float bonds and other security and raise money from the public as this is in violation of the investment and security Act
  2. That the provisions of section 222,223,224,225,226 and the entire provisions of the Investment And Security Act which allows the government to raise fund from the public is unconstitutional
  3. An order restraining the defendants from authorising or raising funds and other securities for any state government in the capital market.

At the last proceeding, which came up on the 27th of February, all parties adopted their applications before the tribunal. The matter has been adjourned to the 22nd of May for Judgment.



The Legal Defence and Assistance Project in partnership with the E.U funded Rule of Law (RoLAC) programme and the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC) recently began a practitioner survey to identify the level of awareness and the extent of implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in the Federal Capital Territory.

The survey focuses on the implementation of the Nigerian criminal justice reform agenda, the objective of the survey is to advance the timely, effective and transparent dispensation of criminal justice.

The outcome of the survey will contribute to making informed decision on appropriate actions to be implemented to enable progress in implementation of and compliance with key provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, it will also help to provide useful information to stakeholders on the progress being made and it will provide a baseline by which progress can be measure annually.

The survey targets the police and other law enforcement officers, prosecutors, magistrates and judges, prison officials and defence lawyers who are involved in the implementation of provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.

OPINION: Signing Of Court Processes By A Law Firm: A Review Of The Recent Case Of Heritage Bank V. Bentworth

Some legal practitioners have opined that the decision Supreme Court in SC/175/2005- delivered on the 23rd of February 2018 is clear deviation and implicit overruling of its earlier position on the implication of a court process signed by a law firm.

Most of the commentators have argued that the position of the law as established through a long line of cases interpreting section 2 and Section 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act, is that a court process signed other than by a legal practitioner whose name appears on the Roll of legal practitioners registered with the Supreme Court, is a nullity.

This write-up seeks to clarify the decision in the Heritage Bank Case with consideration given to the position of the courts on the proper person to sign court processes under Section 2 and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act and the implication on proceedings arising thereupon.


Prior to the decision of the apex court in the Heritage Bank Case (Supra) there have been a plethora of decided cases on the implication of signing court processes by a law firm. The most popular Nigerian case on this issue being the case  Okafor V. Nweke (2007) 10 NWLR Pt 1043 at 521 where the  Applicants filed a motion before Supreme Court praying inter alia for; An order for extension of time within which to apply for Leave to (Cross) Appeal; Leave to (Cross) Appeal; Extension of time within which to file the applicants Notice and Grounds in the said (Cross) Appeal; and An order deeming the said Notice and Grounds of Appeal properly filed and served.

The Applicant’s motion seeking the above orders was signed by “J.H.C. Okolo, SAN & Co” as was the Notice of Cross Appeal and the brief of argument in support of the motion. The Respondents filed a Counter Affidavit in opposition to the application and in its brief of argument raised the issue “Whether the Notice of Motion, Notice of (Cross) Appeal and the Applicants’ Brief of Argument for extension of time in this application are null and void.”

The Learned Senior Advocate (Counsel to the Respondents) referred the Supreme Court to Section 74(1) of the Evidence Act, Cap 112, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 and submitted that by virtue of that provision the Court was enjoined to take judicial notice of all legal practitioners authorized by law to appear or act before it and further submitted that “J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co” was not a legal practitioner authorized by law to appear or act before the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

In support of his argument the Learned Senior Counsel referring to and relying on Sections 2(1) and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act, cap 207, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, submitted that the law firm, “J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co” not being a person whose name is on the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria was not entitled to sign or issue the Notice of Motion, Notice of (Cross) Appeal and Applicants’ Brief of Argument for Extension of Time in the application and that the said documents as signed and issued by the firm were null and void relying on the Court of Appeal decision in New Nigerian Bank Plc vs Dendag Ltd (2005) 4 NWLR(pt. 916)  549 at 573.

In response, the Applicant contended that a casual look at the documents confirmed that each of them was signed by the party issuing same as the counsel in the proceeding, that Respondent was not challenging the signature as being that of a legal practitioner and the import of Sections 2(1) and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act merely required a legal practitioner representing a party in any proceeding to sign any court process. It further argued that since it was not in contention whether the process had been signed by a legal practitioner, all that was required was to call oral evidence to ascertain the legal practitioner that signed it.

The learned counsel for the Applicant further argued that a signature on any document is the attribute that authenticates the document and the documents under consideration where duly signed by “J.H.C. Okolo (SAN)” a registered Legal Practitioner shown on the Rolls of the Supreme Court as No 1265 and on the Rolls of Senior Advocates of Nigeria as No 76. The Applicant stated that the addition of the words “& CO” not in the signature authenticating the process but in the further description of that known identity is a mere surplusage which cannot take the place or displace the signature.

Interestingly, after the Respondents raised the above issues, the Applicant’s reply brief in response to the issues was signed by J.H.C. Okolo SAN and not J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co, almost a clear admission that its former position was defective and an attempt at administering the medicine after death.

The Supreme Court in upholding the arguments of the Respondents held that with the combined provision of section 2(1) and Section 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap 207 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 for a person to be qualified to practice as a legal practitioner he must have his name in the roll otherwise he cannot engage in any form of legal practice in Nigeria. The court viewed that:

“…the rule does not say that his signature must be on the roll but his name.  “J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co” is not a legal practitioner and therefore cannot practice as such by say, filing processes in the courts of this country

In holding that such court process signed by a law firm is incompetent and liable to striking out the Supreme Court stated that:

“… J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co is not a legal practitioner recognized by the law, it follows that the said J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co cannot legally sign and/or file any process in the courts and as such the Motion on Notice filed on 19th December 2005, Notice of Cross Appeal and Applicants brief of argument in support of the said motion all signed and issued by the firm known and called J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co are incompetent in law particularly as the said firm of J.H.C. Okolo SAN & Co is not a registered legal practitioner.”

By the decision in Okafor’s case a court process signed by a person other than a legal practitioner is incompetent and must be struck out.


In a more recent case in Suit No SC. 96/2006-Chief Gabriel Igbinedion & Ors v. Umoh Asuquo Antiadecided on the 17th of December 2017 the Supreme Court again considered a similar issue and in so doing showed much appreciation of its earlier decisions with regards. In this case one of the question raised by the Appellant before the Supreme Court was

“Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal acted within their jurisdiction in relying on the fundamentally defective Notice of Appeal issued and signed by Chief P.C Ajayi-Obe (SAN) & Co., which is not a legal practitioner recognized by the law to practice in Nigeria?”

It was the contention of the Appellant that the judgement of the Court below was incompetent because it was predicated upon an incompetent Notice of Appeal, and so, as held in Macfoy v. UAC (1962) AC 152, “there was nothing upon which the judgement of the lower court could be predicated, and every judgement founded on such Notice of Appeal is a nullity”. The Appellant submitted that a defective Notice of Appeal is non-existent in the eyes of the law, therefore, the appeal is incompetent. It argued that the defect of the Notice of Appeal being the signing of the notice by the law firm instead of a legal practitioner as required under Section 2(1) and Section 24 of the LPA. The Appellant cited several earlier decided cases on this point for the consideration of the court. The Respondent in its reply did not address this issue.

In agreeing with the Appellant, the Supreme Court per Amina Adamu JSC stated:

“The appellants are right that a Notice of Appeal is the originating process that sets the ball rolling for the valid and lawful commencement of an appeal-Shelim v. Gobang (12) NWLR Pt. 1156 at 435. Therefore, any defect in the Notice of Appeal goes to the root of the appeal and robs this court of jurisdiction to hear the appeal”

The Court in reaching the above decision quoted with approval the dictum of Rhodes-Vivour JSC in Iwunze v, FRN (2015) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1404) at 580 where the Learned Justice observed inter alia that:

…the originating process in all appeals is the Notice of Appeal. Once it is found to be defective the Court of Appeal ceases to have jurisdiction to entertain an appeal in whatever form”.

The apex court also cited with approval its decision in FRN v. Dairo (2015) 6 NWLR Pt. 1454 at 141 per Nweze, JSC, that:

“As it is well known, it is a notice of appeal that initiates an appeal from a High Court to the lower Court-Put differently, the notice (actually a competent notice of appeal) is the foundational process that triggers off an appeal from the High Court to the lower Court (Court of Appeal)..As such any virus in this process would, invariably, corrode or taint the entire appeal thereby rendering it incompetent. The effect of such viral corrosion is, usually, far-reaching as it nibbles at the jurisdiction of the appeal Court which must, as of necessity, strike out such a process. In effect, the absence of a competent Notice of Appeal, simply, translates to the non-existence of an appeal… This must be so for it is a condition precedent to any valid exercise of the appellate jurisdiction.

In the above cases of Igbinedion & Ors v. Umoh Asuquo (supra), Iwunze v, FRN (supra) and FRN v. Dairo (supra) the Supreme Court while maintaining the position in Okafor’s case that a law firm “cannot  legally sign and/or file any court process in the courts”, and such process signed by a law firm is “incompetent in law”, the apex court went further to state succinctly that when the court process which is struck out as incompetent due to defective signing is a process which initiates the proceedings then the entire proceedings is a nullity, the foundation of the proceedings having been struck out.

The apex court in the three cases considered whether the defective process was of such nature that robbed the court of jurisdiction in the entire proceedings and on this point concluded that because the defective court processes where originating processes; having been declared incompetent, there was nothing on which the entire proceedings of the court could rest. The defect in the originating process therefore meant that there was no valid process upon which the court could assume jurisdiction.

The view expressed by their lordships in these decisions accord with the Court’s view, per Fabiyi JSC, in SBL Consortium V. NNPC (2016) 9 NWLR Pt. 1252 at 317 where the originating summons had been signed by a law firm and the Learned Justice held that:

“It is not in doubt that the signature of “Adewale Adesokan & Co” on the originating summons robs the process of competence ab initio as the said firm is not a registered legal practitioner enrolled to practice as a barrister and solicitor in this Court…In the prevailing circumstance, all the proceedings, which rested on the inchoate originating summons, are deemed not to have taken place in law. One cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand…”

Interestingly however, in reaching its decision in Igbinedion & Ors v. Umoh Asuquo (supra), the Supreme Court also quoted with approval the dictum of Galadinma JSC in Hamzat & Anor v. Sanni & Ors (2015) 6 NWLR Pt. 1453 at 486 wherein the Learned Justice very aptly stated as follows: 

“…In SBL Consortium v. NNPC this Court citing the case of Okafor v. Nweke struck out the Plaintiffs originating summons and statement of claim, both having being signed by “Adewale Adesokan & Co”, who was held not to be a legal practitioner known to law…in view of our clear position in Okafor v. Nweke and other similar cases, I hold that the Appellant’s Statement of claim on which evidence was led, were a nullity, same having been signed in the name of a law firm.”

The decision above decision struck out the statement of claim alone relying on the authority of Okafor v. Nweke. This posture to the issue has however been reconsidered by the apex court in the recent Heritage Bank’s case and distinguished from the established principles having the applicability in Okafor v. Nweke and the consequences to jurisdiction of the court. 


In Suit No: SC.175/2005-Heritage Bank Limited v. Bentworth Finance (Nigeria) Limited, decided by the Supreme Court on the 23rd day of February 2018, the Respondent had at the trial court filed a Statement of Claim on 19th of September 1990 signed and settled by “Beatrice Fisher & Co.”. The Appellant did not raise any objection on this defect at the trial court nor at the court of appeal but raised it as an issue of jurisdiction at the Supreme Court.

It was the contention of the Appellant that the Statement of Claim filed by the Respondent on 19th September 1990 signed or settled by “Beatrice Fisher & Co.” a person whose name is not on the Roll of Legal Practitioners registered in the Supreme Court and licensed to practice law in Nigeria was defective and incompetent. Consequently, it was submitted by the Appellant’s Counsel that the defective process did rob the trial court and the Court of Appeal of their jurisdiction. The Appellant cited Section 2(1) and Section 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act , LFN 1990 and the several decisions of the Supreme Court on the issue including Okafor v. Nweke (2007) 10 NWLR Pt 1375 at 513, Brathwaite v. Skye Bank Plc (2013) 5 NWLR Pt. 1346 1, Oketade v. Adewunmi (2010) 8 NWLR Pt. 1195 at 63, SLB Consortium v. NNPC (2011) 9 NWLR Pt. 1252 at 337, Nigerian Army v. Samuel (2013)14 NWLR Pt. 1375 at 466 as authorities on its arguments.

The Respondent in reply to the issue raised by the Appellant, argued that the decisions of the Court which the Appellant relied on where reached after the said statement of claim had already being filed and contended that the allegedly defective processes in the suit where filed and settled in 1990, before the decision in Okafor v. Nweke decided in 2007.

It is beyond doubt that the present issue before the apex court was one which the earlier decisions of the court seemed to have put beyond peradventure. Thus, it is understandable that the Respondent did not argue the authorities as there were several authorities against it on the point. However, the Supreme Court, per Ejembi Eko JSC, after hearing argument of parties in disagreeing with the Appellant held:

“I observe that the Appellant made no distinction between substantive jurisdiction and procedural jurisdiction. He also made no distinction between an originating summons and the allegedly defective Statement of Claim. It is important that I make this point from the onset that a defect in procedure is not the same as a defect in competence or jurisdiction. A defect in the former is regarded as a mere irregularity and it can be waived: SAUDE v. ABDULLAHI (1989) 7 SC (Pt. ii) 116. …Whether or not an irregularity renders a process void or merely voidable depends on the type of irregularity. The law is settled, as this Court pointed out in, Brathwaite v. Skye Bank Plc (2013) 5 NWLR Pt. 1346 1, Nigerian Army v. Samuel (2013)14 NWLR Pt. 1375 at 466…; an irregularity affecting an originating process is a fundamental irregularity that goes to the roots. The Statement of Claim, I must point out, is not such an originating process.

The apex court further stated that:

Jurisdictional defect that renders the adjudication incompetent ultra vires, null and void is the substantive jurisdiction because such jurisdictional issue is extrinsic to the adjudication: MADUKOLU v. NKEMDILIM (1962) 2 SCNLR 341.  When want of substantive jurisdiction is raised, the issue is whether the jurisdiction vested statutorily in the court allows it to adjudicate in the matter. That is why it is extrinsic.  When, however, the issue is whether a process filed in the course of proceeding or adjudication is an irregular process having not being issued or filed in accordance with the prescribed practice, the issue raised is whether the process can be countenanced, and not whether the court can ordinarily and completely assume jurisdiction and adjudicate in the matter in the first place. In most cases procedural jurisdiction is secondary to the substantive jurisdiction. The distinction between the two lies in the fact while procedural jurisdiction can be waived; substantive jurisdiction cannot be waived.

The court in reaching this decision cited with approval the dictum of Rhodes Vivour, JSC in A.G KWARA STATE & ANOR V. ALHAJI SAKA ADEYEMO & ORS (2016) 7 SC Pt. 11 P. 149 that:

“Jurisdiction is a question of law. There are two types of jurisdiction. 1. Jurisdiction as a matter of procedural law. 2. Jurisdiction as a matter of substantive law. A litigant may waive the former…”

The court concluded that although the Statement of Claim was allegedly not signed by a known legally qualified legal practitioner, the Appellant as defendant, condoned the defective process. They participated in the proceedings and evidence from the Statement of Claim was called after the Statement of Defence joining issues with the defective statement of claim, the trial court gave judgement upon the evidence and even at the court of appeal no issue was made of the alleged defective statement of Claim. The court therefore held the Appellant to have waived its right to object to the defective process.

The decision of the Supreme Court in the Heritage Bank’s case without expressly attempting to overrule itself unavoidably deviates in some regards from its position on the above issue, particularly on the implication of signing of a court process other than an originating process by a law firm or person other than a legal practitioner.

The position that a Statement of Claim or Court Process signed by a law firm rather than a legal practitioner is “irregular” rather than “incompetent” put forward clearly runs against all earlier authorities on the issue. In Hamzat & Anor v. Sanni & Ors (supra) Galadinma JSC stated without any ambiguity that the statement of claim signed by the law firm in the suit was a “nullity”. A process being a nullity ab-initio cannot receive life by condoning or a waiver as it was dead upon its arrival and is of no legal consequence. Accordingly, all proceedings upon such statement of claim stood on nothing.

This is particularly so as the Black’s Law dictionary 4th Edition defines “nullity” as

“Nothing; no proceeding; an act or proceeding in a cause which the op- posite party may treat as though it had not taken place, or which lias absolutely no legal force or effect. Salter v. Hilgen, 40 Wis. 363; Tenness v. Lapeer County Circuit Judge, 42 Mich. 460, 4 N. W. 220; Johnson v. Dines, 61 Md.

Quite respectfully, unless the apex court intends to overrule its earlier position, there is a clear difference between its recent decision that a statement of claim signed by a law firm is “irregular” and its earlier decision that same is a “nullity”. One can only favour the view that the subsequent and more recent decision represents an implicit overruling of the earlier position or at best that there is no concurrence of two decisions of the apex court on the question.

The decision in Heritage Bank’s Case however appeals to law and logic and is not without legal framework to support the reasoning. The Court of Appeal sitting at Lagos in M.O Moudkas Nigeria Ent. Limited & Anor V. Emiko Israel Obioma (2016) LPELR-40165 (CA) had the cause to determine an exactly similar issue ie. “Whether a statement of Claim signed by a law firm was irregular and therefore curable or incompetent and therefore a nullity ab-initio”.

In the case the Plaintiff filed and properly signed the writ of summons in the name of the legal practitioner. However, the statement of Claim was signed in the name of the law firm rather than a known legal practitioner. The Plaintiff on realizing the defect filed an amended Statement of defence which reflected the name of the legal practitioner and sought to rely on same to correct the defective processes earlier filed. The Court of appeal in considering the signature on the statement of claim stated:

“Of the statement of claim I am clear in my modest opinion that it was not signed by a recognized or known registered legal practitioner or the claimants. It is on that score incurably defective. The defect cannot be cured by an amendment. The amended statement of claim does not therefore cure the mortal defect in the statement of claim. See Ministry of Works and Transport, Adamawa State and Ors. v. Yakubu and Anor. (2013) 6 NWLR (pt.1351) 481 at 495 My Lord, in the instant appeal, it is not in dispute that the

The Court of Appeal in M.O Moudkas Nigeria Ent case therefore held that the defective Statement of Claim was a nullity and same could not be curred by subsequent amendment. The Court of Appeal considering the proper order to make in the circumstances ie. Where there was a valid writ but an incompetent and void Statement of Claim decided:

“However, because the writ of summons by which the action was commenced, and which originated the action was properly signed by a legal practitioner as prescribed by our law, it remains valid and can still be built upon as a solid foundation. It is the statement of claim upon which evidence was based that cannot stand. Indeed, as the saying goes, you cannot put something or nothing and expect it to stay, it will fall. Evidence led in the case based on incompetent statement of claim is also incompetent and should be discountenanced and struck out. Therefore, the writ of summons which was separately filed several months before the statement of claim was filed having been properly signed and competent cannot and should not be allowed to be killed by an incompetent statement of claim. It stands, while the statement of claim is struck out

The above decision of the Court of Appeal quite respectfully would have been a decent guide for the Supreme Court in its consideration of the Heritage Bank Case even though the apex court’s decision can be supported by the argument I now canvass below.

If we consider the Rules of Court on this issue, with particular focus on the Lagos Rules for illustration, the decision in Heritage Bank’s Case becomes easier to rationalize and appreciate. It is incisive to note that the Rules of court are usually an incorporation of several decided authorities on an issue of procedural law. It is therefore safe to opine that the rules regard the existing decisions of court at the time of its making.

Now, under Order 3 Rules 2(1)(2) of the High Court of Lagos State Rules 2012 it is provided that;

  1. (1) All civil proceedings commenced by writ of summons shall be accompanied by: (a) statement of claim. (b) list of witnesses to be called at the trial, (c) written statements on oath of the witnesses except witnesses on subpoena (d) copies of every document to be relied on at the trial. (e) Pre-action Protocol Form 01

(2) Where a claimant fails to comply with Rules 2 (1) above, his originating process shall not be accepted for filling by the Registry

Rules Order 5 of the same Rules state that:

(1) Where in beginning or purporting to begin any proceeding there has by reason of anything done or left undone, been a failure to comply with the requirements of these rules, the failure shall nullify the proceedings.

(2) Where at any stage in the course of or in connection with any proceedings there has by reason of anything done or left undone been a failure to comply with the requirements as to time, place manner, or form, the failure shall be treated as an irregularity and may not nullify such step taken in the proceedings. The Judge may give any direction as he thinks fit to regularize such steps.

  1. (1) An application to set aside for irregularity any step taken in the course of any proceedings may be allowed where it is made within a reasonable time and before the party applying has taken any fresh step after becoming aware of the irregularity

The provision of Order 5 quoted above represents the state of the procedural law on the issue and states that any violation done to a process which commences proceedings shall nullify the proceedings. However, if the violation is not of a process which commences proceedings, but one filed after commencement of proceedings then such violation is an irregularity which may not nullify proceedings depending on whether objection to the irregularity is raised timeously or condoned by the adverse party.

The basis of this position is that after an action is properly commenced the court assumes substantive jurisdiction. The jurisdiction which then guides proceedings after the court assumes jurisdiction is the procedural jurisdiction which does not nullify the proceedings if it is cured or waived by the party at whose instance it ought to be set it aside for irregularity.

What is left therefore is to query whether a “Statement of Claim” is an originating process for assumption of the court’s substantive jurisdiction? On this Order 3 of the Lagos Rules being used illustratively indicates a civil action may be commenced by a writ of summons which shall be accompanied inter alia by a statement of claim. An argument that a statement of claim is an originating process is therefore akin to argument that list of documents in a suit commences an action. This is so because an originating or initiating process is one which commences an action.

The question whether a statement of Claim is an originating process was considered by the court of appeal in the case of Buhari V. Adebayo (2014) 10 NWLR Pt 1416 where the court on held per Ajeku JCA:

“… from the above clear and unambiguous provisions, the statement of claim is one of the accompanying processes to be filed with a writ of summons in a proceeding initiated by a writ. The writ is the originating or initiating process.”

Therefore, the statement of claim not a process which begins or purports to begin a suit, a defect therein should ordinarily not nullify the proceedings and can should therefore not rob the court of its jurisdiction over the suit in itss entirety. This is the premise and conclusion of the decision of the court in the Heritage Bank Case.


The Supreme Court by its decision in Heritage Bank Ltd has clearly amended the new blue print for arguments on the effect of Section 2 and 24 of the Legal Practitioner’s Act to court processes signed by person other than the Litigant or his Legal Practitioner defined thereunder.  The position of the law can be succinctly summarized presently to be:

  1. Where the originating process itself (ie. The writ of summons, the originating summons or the petition) is not issued or signed by a Litigant or his Legal practitioner whose name appears on the Roll of the Supreme Court, such court process is incompetent, a nullity and the court cannot assume jurisdiction upon same. Therefore, all proceedings borne of such incompetent processes are null and void.
  1. Where the defective signature by a law firm is not contained on the originating process but on some other accompanying documents or court processes the authorities are divided on whether the defective signing makes such process irregular or rather renders them a nullity. In any case, the op-posite party is enjoined to object timeously to such defect in any court-process not being an originating process. Where a party does not object timeously but rather joins issues without any objections, his right to subsequently raise the issue may be deemed to have been waived. This dual position shall persist until such time when the supreme Court has opportunity to give a decision on the issue either by overruling its earlier position or clarifying with certainty.


NEWSLETTER For 12th -16th March 2018

“A right delayed is a right denied.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Welcome to another edition LEDAP Nigeria’s Weekly Newsletter which keeps you up to date on the latest Human Rights News and updates in the law, What we are up to and Upcoming Events.
12-16th March 2018


Air Raid – Adamawa Communities Vow to Drag Nigerian Air Force to ICC for Alleged Killings

Six Bachama ethnic communities in Adamawa State have vowed to drag the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged bombings of their communitiesRead more

Nigerian judge, Chile Eboe-Osuji Elected New President of ICC

The judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC), sitting in a plenary session have elected Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji of Nigeria as President of the Court for a three-year term with immediate effect. Read more

SERAP Writes AU, Demands Suspension of Cameroon

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has sent an open letter to the African Union Chairperson and President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, urging him to urgently call an Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) to suspend the rights of membership of Cameroon from the Union.  Read more 


Enugu Rangers, WACOL Launch Campaign against Anti-women Practices

An Enugu based non-governmental organization, NGO, Women’s Aid Collective (WACOL) and the Enugu Rangers International F.C. have launched fresh action against all forms of negative practices on women.  Read more

Hate Penalty for Hate Speech?

A recent bill, which passed through first reading in the Senate, has stirred controversy and criticism for recommending death sentence or life imprisonment for hate speech mongers. Read more

Security Agents as Rights Abusers

There have been reports of human rights abuses by security agencies. This has led to Nigeria receiving low ratings in rights enforcement and respect.  Read more

Nigerian Govt’s Treatment Of IPOB Violates African Charter, Says African Commission On Human And People’s Rights

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) has stated that the declaration of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group, the attacks by Federal Government agencies on its members constitute a prima facie violation of the African Charter. Read more

Police and Nigerian Chief Vow Action Against Anti-Gay Blackmail

The police commissioner and a traditional chief in Delta State are backing Nigerian human rights activists’ efforts to end a wave of blackmail and extortion of gay men and others. Read more 

UN Experts Condemn Decision to Seek Death Sentence against Egyptian Photojournalist Abou Zeid

UN human rights experts strongly condemn a decision by the Egyptian prosecutor to seek the death sentence against acclaimed photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as “Shawkan”, who was arrested while covering anti-government protests.  Read more

Paradigm Initiative Commends Passage of Digital Rights Bill

The Nigerian Senate has passed the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, following in the footsteps of the Nigerian House of Representatives which passed the Bill on December 19, 2018. Read more

Sahel 2018: Overview of Humanitarian Needs and Requirement 

Acute rainfall deficits last season in several regions of the Sahel, and worsening insecurity have escalated humanitarian needs. To address the most urgent needs across the region, humanitarians will need US$2.7 billion in 2018. In five countries – Cameroon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Nigeria – aid organisations and Governments have developed response plans to provide life-saving assistance and help communities rebuild livelihoods. Read more


Bring Back Our Girls Campaigners Threaten to Sue The Nigerian Government over Abducted Dapchi Girls

The Nigerian group that sparked a global campaign for the safe return of schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014 said on Tuesday it would sue the government if it failed to provide answers over a similar mass abduction of the Dapchi Girls last month. Read more

Court Fines Nigeria Police N3m for Violation of Fundamental Right 

An FCT high court, Maitama, on Tuesday, March 13, ordered the Nigeria Police Force to pay N3 million to one Kingsley Efobi, for violation of his fundamental right to personal liberty. Read more

Ambode leads Walk Against Domestic Violence, Backs 25-year jail term for Rapists

Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has backed the 25 years jail term prescribed for rapists and perpetrators of all forms of domestic violence, saying that the time has come to take more aggressive steps to put a stop to the menace. Read more


Amnesty Data Activists Uncover Serious Negligence by Oil Giants Shell and Eni

A groundbreaking research project by Amnesty International has exposed evidence of serious negligence by oil giants Shell and Eni, whose irresponsible approach to oil spills in the Niger Delta is exacerbating an environmental crisis. Read more

Court Fines Military N1 Million for Human Rights Abuse in Port Harcourt 

A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt has fined the 6 Division of Nigerian Army, N1 million for gross abuse of human rights. The army was accused of abusing the rights of an actress and movie producer, Ebere Ohakwe, popularly known as Jewel Infinity. Read more

Court Reinstates Dismissed Whistleblower

About three years after he was suspended, a whistle-blower who exposed alleged fraudulent activities in the Police Service Commission (PSC), Aaron Kaase, has been reinstated by the commission. Read more



International Women’s Day 2018

To celebrate the International Women’s Day 2018 which occurred on the 8th of March 2018. The Legal Defence and Assistance Project, interviewed a number of powerful and successful Nigerian women on what it means to be a woman in Nigeria and how young girls and women can PressforProgress in line with this year’s theme. Checkout the video here.


Torture Prevention Project Targeting The Police in Partnership with UNDEF

LEDAP calls for consultancies as it launches Torture Prevention Project Targeting Police – In partnership with the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) and the National Committee against Torture, LEDAP is getting set to launch a project to tackle torture and ill treatment in policing. The project will be located Lagos, Adamawa and Yobe States, as well as at the Federal Capital Territory. LEDAP just launched a call for consultants to conduct baseline assessment of the rate and pattern of torture and ill treatment in policing, and to prepare a police good conduct manual. For more information and the call for expression on interest for the consultancies, reach out to or

JAMB appeals against court decision banning post-UTME Exams

Following recent decision of the Federal High Court in the suit filed by the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) against JAMB, the Minister of Education and the National Universities Commission (NUC), declaring  illegal the Post-UTME examinations usually  carried out by Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education for admission candidates. JAMB has appealed against the decision to the Court of Appeal Abuja. Read more



South-West PDP Crisis: Appeal Court Gives verdict 

The Court of Appeal, Ado Ekiti division has set aside a ruling of the federal high court in the matter instituted by Chief Makanjuola Ogundipe against the executive of the party in the South West zone. Read more

Court sentences three men to death by hanging for armed robbery in Ogun

An Abeokuta High Court on Thursday sentenced three men to death by hanging for armed robbery, conspiracy and rape while the fourth accused, Oguntolu Oludare got 10 years imprisonment for receiving stolen goods. Read more


Court Orders Uncle to Return Inheritance, Properties to Nephew

The Shari’a Court 1, Magajin Gari, Kaduna, on Thursday ordered a 60-year-old man, Jaafar Salisu to return properties in his care, inherited by his nephew, Ibrahim Musa, after the death of the boy’s father. Read more



Commission on the Status of Women 2018

The sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018. This year’s priority theme is Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. Read more


West African Civil Society Institute – Call For Application

The West African Civil Society Institute is currently accepting applications for the Results-Based Monitoring and Evaluation/ Communicating Impact Course  scheduled for 14-18 May 2018. The training course is designed to equip development practitioners with requisite project-related monitoring and evaluation tools and competencies. The course will enable you to professionally. Read more


The Education Partnership (TEP) Centre Open Enrolment Workshop

Open Enrolment Workshop is a capacity development initiative of TEP Centre, to deliver training and workshop for individuals/organisations in the development sector. The broad theme of the workshop is “Basic introduction to Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning systems.” It will hold on the 5th of April 2018. For more information and enrolment, kindly contact Akinwunmi on

Osinbajo, CJN, Saraki for NBA Criminal Justice conference 

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Senate President Bukola Saraki and  Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen are among dignitaries expected at the fifth NBA Criminal Justice Reform Conference. The three-day event, which will hold in Asaba, Delta State from March 21 to 24, is organised by the NBA Criminal Justice Reform Committee chaired by Chief Arthur Obi-Okafor (SAN). Read more


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As the world marks the International women’s day, LEDAP lends its voice to that of the global activists, global governments, and women’s organizations to press for the progress of all women in all spheres of life and particularly for gender equality.

LEDAP recognizes the gains in women’s rights advocacy in the recent years ridden on the back of active campaigns for women’s progress. It is apparent that the eras where women were satisfied with being subjugated and subdued have phased out and a new dawn of free-expression and voicing-out against the oppression and tyranny of parochial society is at the horizon.

LEDAP particularly recognizes the active social media campaigns against sexual violence and abuse of women highlighted by the #MeToo and #Timesup movement, the involvement of several women in politics vying for the high offices which were hitherto inconceivable aspirations for women, the outcry against sexual violation of women in the work place and several other cases. LEDAP however admits that despite these pockets of achievements there is still much to be done for the actualization of gender equality in Nigeria.

LEDAP observes that in Nigeria several women especially those in the rural areas remain exploited, discriminated against and are unable to actualize their dreams due to illiteracy and lack of enabling environment. Many of these women do not get a fair opportunity for progress in politics, employment and have no access to reproductive health services. Women in the internally displaced camps have encountered all forms of sexual and gender based violence including sexual exploitation often in exchange for food and other necessities. These women exist in several societies as the voiceless women for whom the press for progress has remained largely illusive.

LEDAP expresses concern that in Nigeria the issues of women’s rights such as the need to create an enabling environment for women in the Nigerian society to receive expression and attain self actualization has not received much attention and many bills to address these grey areas have not been passed under the current President Buhari-led administration. LEDAP believes the confinement of women to the “kitchen” or “the other room” does not align with global trends and civilized existence and Nigeria Government has a major role to play in the emancipation of the Nigerian woman.

LEDAP beckons on the government to take immediate steps to ensure the domestication and implementation of the convention on the elimination of discrimination against women (CEDAW) and the protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of women in Africa.

LEDAP therefore uses the commemoration of this day to advocate for the voiceless women and girls who continue to live daily facing discrimination, violation and abuse. LEDAP calls on the Nigerian government at Federal and State level to create an enabling environment for women empowerment and ensure equal rights for all women in all spheres of life; access to education, access to reproductive services, equal pay for equal work as well as protection from all forms of violence.

FOR: Legal Defence & Assistance Project-LEDAP

Chino Obiagwu


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