IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
ON FRIDAY, THE 10TH DAY OF SEPTEMBER, 1993
APPEAL No: SC.52/1988
CITATION: SC (1993) 9 LLER 1
Before Their Lordships
ADOLPHUS GODWIN KARIBI-WHYTE, J.S.C.
SALIHU MODIBBO ALFA BELGORE, J.S.C.
OLAJIDE OLATAWURA, J.S.C.
IDRIS LEGBO KUTIGI, J.S.C.
UTHMAN MOHAMMED, J.S.C.
1. HON. JUSTICE KALU ANYAH
(Chairman, The Council, University Of Benin)
2. PROFESSOR GRACE ALELE-WILLIAMS
(Vice-Chancellor, University Of Benin)
3. THE COUNCIL, UNIVERSITY OF BENIN
4. THE UNIVERSITY OF BENIN
DR. FESTUS IYAYI
The facts of this case material to the action before the court are not in dispute. Summarily stated, the 3rd appellant purporting to be acting in implementation of the Report of a Visitation Panel into the 4th appellant University, and on the directive of 1st and 2nd appellants terminated the appointment of the respondent, a member of the academic staff of the 4th appellant University. When plaintiff brought an action challenging the exercise by appellants of powers under Section 16 of the University of Benin Edict No.3 of 1971, the appellants have now invoked the provisions of the Public Officers (Special Provisions) Decree No. 17 of 1984 seeking to strike out the action on the ground that the Court lacked the requisite jurisdiction.
On this preliminary question, both the trial court and the Court of Appeal held that the trial court had Jurisdiction to hear the matter. On further appeal to the Supreme Court, the issue formulated was thus
“Whether the Court of Appeal was right in affirming the decision of the learned trial Judge who held that he had jurisdiction to hear the case.”
The Supreme Court held;
The conclusion therefore is that appellants have not satisfied the preconditions enabling the application of the Decree No. 17 of 1984. It is only when this has been done will the jurisdiction of the learned trial Judge be ousted. By this I mean that the facts relied upon do not seem to me to fall within the purview of the Decree No. 17 of 1984.
Hence, since 3rd appellant does not fall within the definition of “appropriate authority” in Section 4(2)(ii) of the Decree, appellants are not entitled to the protection of the Decree, even if they had acted in reliance thereof. – See Garba v. Federal Civil Service Commission & Anors (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt. 71) 449 – See also A-G of the Federation v. Sode (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt. 128) 500; Federal Capital Development Authority v. Alhaji Musa Noibi (1990) 3 NWLR (Pt. (38) 270; (1990) 5 SCNJ 186.
For the reasons I have given above, I have no doubt in my mind that the Court of Appeal was right to have dismissed the appeal of the appellants. The learned trial Judge has jurisdiction to hear the case. The appeal of the appellant is accordingly dismissed.
I should observe that all the parties in this case and both courts below appeared to have been oblivious of the fact that they were concerned with the determination of the preliminary objection whether the learned trial Judge had the jurisdiction to hear the case. The issues relating to the merit of the case is still to be heard if and when the objection to the jurisdiction fails, as if has in this case. I think in this case considering the arguments before the learned trial Judge it is only fair that the case be heard before another Judge of the High Court of Edo State.