Mike Igbokwe SAN & Co > News > Business > Sifax (Nig) Ltd v. Migfo (Nig) Ltd: Supreme Court Rules on Statutes of Limitation
  • Posted by: myke

In a landmark decision and for the 1st time in Nigeria, the Supreme Court held as argued by Mr. Mike Igbokwe, SAN, that limitation period did not count when action was pending between parties.’—Sifax (Nig.) Ltd v. Migfo (Nig.) Ltd. (2018)9NWLR (Pt.1623) 138.

The truth is that so far there has been no decision of this court on the issue of whether limitation period shall not count during the pendency of another suit” Sifax (Nig.) Ltd v. Migfo (Nig.) Ltd. (2018)9NWLR (Pt.1623) 138 at 182E-F, per Amina Augie, Justice of the Supreme Court.

In this case, the respondents filed the earlier suit expeditiously and the issue is whether the time spent at the wrong court can be frozen or suspended…The appellants say it cannot be…The respondents, on the other hand, insist that the court below is right and they referred in particular to the observation of Ikyegh, JCA, as follows:-

‘The revival of the action after it had been struck out was still the continuation of the same action that was struck out, so, the stoppage of time during the pendency of the action that was struck out would count in favour of the renewed action at the court with the requisite jurisdiction -the court below. The writ was taken out on 18/7/12. While the action, which had been initiated in 2006, in the same year that the cause of action crystallized, ran its full course of litigation from the Federal High Court to the Court of Appeal and finally to the Supreme Court where it was struck out on appeal for want of jurisdiction of the Federal High Court on 08-06-12- Between 18-07-12 when the action was struck out at the Supreme Court is less than two months showing the respondents did not tarry or delay in filing the action at the court below after they discovered from the judgment of the Supreme Court that only the High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the action. Ploughing back, the initial steps the respondents took to file the action at the Federal High Court in 2006 within the same year that the cause of action arose demonstrated the respondents were not tardy in bringing the action initially at the Federal High Court and; also the subsequent filing of the action at the court below within two months of its striking out by the Supreme Court indicated the promptness of the respondents in seeking redress for the alleged wrong done to them by the appellants. The object of the Limitation Law is to penalize claimants, who slumber over the enforcement of their rights, which appears not to be the case here. The pendency of the case at the Federal High Court and the Supreme Court was obviously beyond the control of the respondents, who were not in the position to control the time frame of the proceedings in the three superior courts of record in question. The accumulation of the time during the pendency of the action that the short time lag of less than two months when the respondents filed the action afresh at the court below after it was struck out by the Supreme Court indicated that they did not sleep over their rights to seek redress in court. It follow that the contention of the appellants that a matter struck out is dead is untenable and is hereby discountenanced.’

I agree; the earlier suit filed by the respondents cannot be dead; it is alive and so it can be resuscitated, which is what the respondents achieved, when they filed this suit at the trial court with the requisite jurisdiction to entertain this matter, and the time spent at the wrong court cannot be counted; it was suspended.” Sifax (Nig.) Ltd v. Migfo (Nig.) Ltd. (2018)9NWLR (Pt.1623) 138 at 184B-185E, per Amina Augie, Justice of the Supreme Court.

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Author: myke