DATE OF JUDGMENT: ON FRIDAY, THE 28TH DAY OF APRIL, 2006
COURT: SUPREME COURT
SUIT: SC. 312/2001
1. SALIHU M.A. BELGORE (Presided)
2. UMARUA. KALGO
3. NIKI TOBI
4. ALOMAM. MUKHTAR
5. MAHMUD MOHAMMED
6. WALTER S. N. ONNOGHEN
7. IKECHI F. OGBUAGU (Delivered the Leading Judgment)
ISSUE(S): Whether the Federal High court can Order the transfer (even Suo Motu) of a matter over which it had no jurisdiction to the appropriate court vide S.22 (1) & ( 2) of the Federal High court, Act?
The court below, at pages 98 and 99 of the Records, rightly, in my respectful view, stated as follows:
“There can be no doubt that Section 22(3) of the Federal High Court Act, Cap.134, Laws of the Federation, 1990 to the extent that it sets out what a State High Court should do if the State High Court is of the view that a cause or matter should have been initiated in the Federal High Court and not in a State High Court, is clearly not in conformity with Section 239 of the 1979 Constitution which vests such legislative authority on the State House of Assembly.
The argument of the respondent that the Federal High Court Act Cap.134 LFN being an existing law could be modified to bring it in line with the 1979 (or 1999 Constitution) overlooks the fact that what is in issue here is not textual inconsistency of the said Section 22(3) Cap.134, 1990 with any other law or Constitution but rather that the National Assembly could not in any case legislate over the practice and procedure in a State High Court. At the time the 1979 Constitution came into force, Lagos State has its State High Court law which was Cap.52, 1973 Laws of Lagos State.”
Section 12 of the said High Court Law, was referred to and reproduced.
It thus means, that under the said High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules, 1972, there is no rule of procedure, which enables that court, to transfer a cause or matter, to the Federal High Court. That court, cannot even in the circumstance, resort to or fall back to the practice and procedure in England as there appears to be no such provision of transfer from a High Court to the Federal High Court. So, as it stood or stands, the Lagos State House of Assembly, has not made any provision for the transfer of a cause or matter to the Federal High Court.
The practice and procedure of a State High Court, is regulated by Section 239 of the 1979 Constitution. See Aluminium etc. v. N.P.A. (infra).
I am aware that while the Federal High Court can transfer a cause or matter to a State High Court, by virtue of Section 22(2) of the Act, see: Aluminium Manufacturing Co. (Nig.) Ltd. v. N.P.A. (1987) 1 NSCC Vol.18 page 224 at 234; 1987 1 NWLR (Pt.51) 475; (1987) 1 SCNJ 94, there is no such provision applicable at least, in the Lagos State High Court Rules.
FASAKIN FOODS NIGERIA LIMITED v. MARTINS BABATUNDE SHOSANYA (2006) 4 S.C. (Pt. II) 204 @ 13-14 PARA 10 – 25