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FIVE CONDITIONS FOR ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM TO SUCCEED

Dictum

I would first refer to the case of Oshodi & 2 ors v. Eyifunmi (2000) 3 NSCQR 320 at 338 – 340, 339 wherein Iguh JSC had proffered five conditions which must be present for the plea of Estoppel per rem judicatam to succeed. These are:- 1. That the parties or their privies are the same that is to say that the parties involved in both the previous and the present proceedings are the same. 2. That the claims or the issues in dispute in both the previous and present actions are the same. 3. The res, that is to say the subject matter of the litigation in the two cases is the same. 4. The decision relied upon to support the plea of Estoppel per rem judicatam must be valid subsisting and final. 5. The court that gave the previous decision relied upon to sustain the plea must be a court of competent jurisdiction.

— M.U. Peter-Odili, JSC. Ugo v. Ugo (2007) – CA/A/110/2007

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WHEN ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATAM CAN SUCCEED

Judicial authorities have enunciated the principles which are well pronounced in the case of Makun V. F.U.T. Minna (supra) wherein this court re-iterated that, for a plea of estoppel per rem judicatam to succeed, the party relying thereon must establish the following requirements or pre-conditions namely:- (a) That the parties or their privies are the same in both the previous and the present proceeding. (b) That the claim or issues in dispute in both actions are the same. (c) That the res or the subject matter of litigation in the two cases is the same. (d) That the decision relied upon to support the plea of estoppel per rem judicatam is valid, subsisting and final. (e) That the court that gave the previous decision relied upon to sustain the plea is a court of competent jurisdiction. It has also been held severally by this court that, unless all the above constitutional elements or requirements of the doctrine are fully established, the plea of estoppel per rem judicatam cannot sustain. See also the decisions in Yoye V. Olalode (1974) 10 SC 209; Alase V. Olori-Ilu (1965) NMLR 66; Fadiora V. Gbadebo (1978) 3 SC 219 and Udo V. Obot (1989) 1 SC (Pt. 1) 64.

— C.B. Ogunbiyi, JSC. Ogbolosingha v. B.S.I.E.C. (2015) – SC.165/2013

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ESTOPPEL IS A SHIELD AND NOT A SWORD – NOTHING LIKE TITLE BY ESTOPPEL

The estoppel put an impediment on its way, Estoppel is thus a shield not a sword; it’s role is defensive not offensive. To use the language of naval warfare, an estoppel must always be either a mine layer or a mine sweeper; it can never be a capital unit. There is nothing like title by estoppel as an estoppel gives no title to that which is the subject matter of the estoppel.

– Nnamani JSC. Gbadamosi v. Bello (1985)

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MAKING A PERSON BELIEVE IN A STATE OF THINGS CREATES ESTOPPEL

Joe Iga & Ors v. Ezekiel Amakiri & Ors. (1976) 11 S.C 1, this court stated at pp.12-13: “If a man by his words or conduct willfully endeavours to cause another to believe in a certain state of things which the first knows to be false and if the second believes in such state of things and acts upon the belief, he who knowingly made the false statement is estopped from averring afterwards that such a state of things does not exist at the time; again, if a man either in express terms or by conduct, makes representation to another of the existence of a state of facts which he intends to be acted upon in a certain way, in the belief of the existence of such a state of facts, to the damage of him who so believes and acts, the first is estopped from denying the existence of such a state of facts. Thirdly, if a man whatever his real meaning may be, so conducts himself that a reasonable man would take his conduct to mean a certain representation of facts and that it was a true representation, and that the latter was intended to act upon it in a particular way, and he with such belief, does act in that way to his damage, the first is estopped from denying the facts as represented.”

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REQUIREMENTS FOR ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATA

Before a judgment of a court can qualify as an estoppel per rem judicata and in order to bind a party; the following conditions must be satisfied: a) The judgment must be valid and subsisting; b) the parties in that judgment must be the same as the parties (either by themselves or their privies) in the subsequent proceedings; c) the subject-matter must be the same; and d) the issue or cause (in issue estoppel or cause of action estoppel as the case may be decided in the earlier proceedings must have arisen again in the later proceedings.

— Adeyemo v. Ida & Ors. (1998) – CA/1/6/92

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REQUIREMENT FOR ESTOPPEL PER REM JUDICATA

Now, for a judgment to constitute issue estoppel the following conditions must be satisfied: – 1. the same question must be for decision in both proceedings (i.e. the same question for decision in the current suit must have been decided in the previous suit); 2. the decision relied upon to support the plea of issue estoppel must be final; 3. the parties or their privies must be the same. The three elements must be present and co-exist for a plea of estoppel per rem judicata to apply. See Ito v. Ekpe & Ors (2000) 3 NWLR (pt. 650) 678; Oshoboja v. Amida & Ors (2009) LPELR-2803 (SC) and Oleksandr & Ors v. Lonestar Drilling Co. Ltd & Anor (2015) LPELR – 24614 (SC).

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. APM v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/04/2023

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WHERE BY WORDS OR CONDUCT A PARTY HAS MADE THE OTHER PARTY CHANGE HIS STANCE

The position of the law still remains the same. It is that where by words or conduct, a party to a transaction freely makes to the other an unambiguous promise or assurance which is intended to affect the legal relations between them and the former acts upon it by altering his position to his detriment, the party making the promise of assurance will not be permitted to act inconsistently with it. This is as pronounced in Central London Property Trust Ltd. v. High Trees House Ltd. (1947) K.B. 130. It has remained good law for a long time now. I approve same without any reservation.

— J.A. Fabiyi, JSC. BFI v. Bureau PE (2012) – SC.12/2008

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