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When are exemplary damages awarded and object of? Whether need be specifically claimed?

CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA & 6 ORS. v. AITE OKOJIE (2015) 5-6 S.C. (Pt. II) 173 @ 214

CASE CITATION: CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA & 6 ORS. v. AITE OKOJIE (2015) 5-6 S.C. (Pt. II) 173 @ 214

DATE OF JUDGMENT: ON FRIDAY, THE 5TH DAY OF JUNE, 2015
COURT: SUPREME COURT
SUIT: SC. 127/2004

CORAM:

1. IBRAHIM T. MUHAMMAD (Presided)
2. MUHAMMAD S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE
3. OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR (Delivered the Leading Judgment)
4. NWALI S. NGWUTA
5. JOHN I. OKORO

ISSUE(S): When are exemplary damages awarded and object of? Whether need be specifically claimed.

CASE SYNTHESIS

I agree with both courts below. Exemplary damages are awarded with the object of punishing the Defendant for his conduct in inflicting injury on the Plaintiff. They can be made in addition to normal compensatory damages and should be made only:

(a) in a case of oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional acts by Government servants;
(b) where the Defendants conduct had been calculated by him to make a profit for himself which might well exceed the compensation pay able to the Plaintiff;
(c) where expressly authorized by statute.

See: Gov. of Lagos State v. Ojukwu (1986) 2 S.C. (Reprint) 202; Alele Williams v. Sagay (1995) 5 NWLR (Pt. 396) 441. The facts pleaded by the Respondent which are undisputed evidence fall under (a) above.

To my mind once facts in the pleadings support the award of exemplary damages the court should award it since the adverse party is in no way taken by surprise.

Furthermore since rules of court nowhere says that exemplary damages must be specifically claimed it can be granted if facts are pleaded and evidence led to justify it. I am satisfied in the circumstances that for exemplary damages to be awarded it need not be specifically claimed, but facts to justify it must be pleaded and proved. The well laid down position of the doctrine of precedence is that decisions of the Supreme Court are binding on all courts, but where judgments of the Supreme Court are in conflict all courts are bound by the latest decision of the Supreme Court. CEC v. Ikot (supra) supports my reasoning and courts are to be bound by it since it is the last decision on whether exemplary damages should be specifically claimed or if pleaded facts to justify it would do.

This issue is again resolved in favour of the Respondent.

CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA & 6 ORS. v. AITE OKOJIE (2015) 5-6 S.C. (Pt. II) 173 @ 214 Para 10 – 10

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