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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It is trite law that where a court of competent Jurisdiction has settled an issue by a final decision, in respect of matters in dispute between the parties neither party may re-litigate on that issue again by raising same in any proceedings except on appeal. This issue of relitigation falls within the ambit of estoppel. There are two kinds of estoppels; the first is called cause of action estoppel which occurs where the cause of action is merged in the Judgment which can be described as transit in rem judicatam either party is precluded from litigating on the same cause of action. See Fadiora Gbadebo (1978) 3 SC 219, Ebba v. Ogodo (2000) 10 NWLR (Pt.675) 387. The second kind of estoppel inter parties usually occurs where an issue has earlier on been adjudicated upon by a court of competent Jurisdiction and the same issue comes in question in any subsequent proceedings between the same parties. Idigbe JSC distinguished the two types of estoppel by record of inter parties in Fadiora v. Gbadebo Supra where he held: “Now, there are two kinds of estoppel by record inter parties or per rem judicatam, as it is generally known. The first is usually referred to as ’cause of action estoppel’ and it occurs where the cause of action is merged in the judgment, that is Transit in rem judicatam – See King v. Hoare (1844) 13 M.& W 495 at 504. Therefore, on this principle of law (or rule of evidence) once it appears that the same cause of action was held to lie (or not to lie) in a final judgment between the same parties, or their privies, who are litigating in the same capacity (and on the same subject matter), there is an end of the matter they are precluded from re-litigating the same cause of action. There is however, a second kind of estoppel inter parties and this usually occurs where an issue has earlier on been adjudicated upon by a court of competent jurisdiction and the same issue comes incidentally in question in any subsequent proceedings between the same parties (or their privies); in these circumstances, ‘issue estoppel’ arises. This is based on the principle of law that a party is not allowed to (ie., he is precluded from) contending the contrary or opposite of any specific point which having been once distinctly put in issue, has with certainty and solemnity been determined against him. See Cutram v. Morewood (1803) 3 East 346. Issue estoppel applies whether the point involved in the earlier decision is one of fact or law or one of mixed fact and law. However, for the principle to apply, in any given proceedings, all the pre-conditions to a valid plea of estoppel inter partes or per remjudicatam must apply, that. (1) the same question must be for decision in both proceedings (which means that the question for decision in the current suit must have been decided in the earlier proceedings), (2) the decision relied upon to support the plea of issue estoppel must be final (3) the parties must be the same (which means that parties involved in both proceedings must be the same) (per se or by their privies)”. See also Ladega v. Durosimi (1978) 3 S.C. 91, 102-103where Eso, J.S.C. said: “The doctrine of res judicata, which finds expression in the maxim ‘nemo debet his vexari pro una et eadem causa, lays emphasis on the ‘causa. It is the cause of action that would have been determined and nay suit, brought to relitigate such action, which has been determined, would be dismissed. Where, however, what is raised in an issue estoppel, then, it is only in regard to that issue, that has been raised that the parties to an action, shall be bound, and the proper course to take would be one of striking out all the paragraphs in the pleadings raising that issue”. Though the whole concept of ‘estoppel’ is viewed as a substantive rule of law (see Haustead v. Commissioner of Taxation (1926) A.C. 155 at pp. 165.166 and also Canada and Dominion Sugar Coy. Ltd. v. Canadian National (West Indies) Steamships Ltd. (1947) A.C. 46 at p.56, it is essentially a rule of evidence.

— R.O. Nwodo, JCA. Teleglobe v 21st Century Tech. (2008) – CA/L/694/2006

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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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It is trite law in Nigeria on the authorities I have earlier cited in this judgment that the defence of estoppel, whether founded on admissions or not, must be pleaded and, if it has not been pleaded, any evidence tending to establish it goes to no issue and the evidence ought to be rejected: Ogboda v. Adulugha (1971) 1 All N.L.R. 86. This is a general statement of the law. Let us see if the High Court of Lagos (Civil Procedure) Rules, 1972, which is the applicable law, make provision for an exception.

— M. Bello, JSC. Salawu Ajide V. Kadiri Kelani (SC.76/1984, 29 Nov 1985)

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The principle of estoppel by conduct is based on the public policy that says that there must be an end to litigation. Its aim is, not only to hold a party to his undertaking that he will no longer insist on either his right to appeal or the accrued right or obligation from the judgment, but also not to allow a person benefit from his prevarication. Equity, generally abhors subterfuge, deception and some other unconscienable conduct. Equity acts in personam … It operates thus: if a person with full knowledge of the rights, interest, profits or benefits conferred upon or accruing to him by and under the law, intentionally decides to give up all these, or some of them, he cannot be heard to complain afterwards that he has not been permitted the exercise of his right, or that he has suffered by his not having exercised his rights. In the circumstance, just like in the instant case, he should be held to have waived his rights and consequently estopped from raising the issue subsequently.

— Ejembi Eko, JSC. County Dev. Co. v Hon. Min. Env. Housing Urban Dev. (2019) – SC.239/2011

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Where any person having an interest may make himself a party to a suit by intervening and knowing what was passing, was content to stand by and see his battle fought by somebody else in the same interest, he should be bound by the result, and not be allowed to reopen the case.

– Iguh, JSC. Clay v. Aina (1997)

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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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