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THE LIMIT OF THE EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT IN AN ACTION AGAINST A FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY: NEPA V EDEGBERO AND ONUORAH V K.R.P.C. LTD REVISITED

OLU DARAMOLA, SAN

Head, Lagos Office, Afe Babalola & Co.

Emmanuel Chambers, Lagos, Nigeria

 

Abstract

This paper examines the decisions of the Supreme Court in the case of NEPA v Edegbero and Onuorah v KRPC Ltd. It submits that these decisions create a lot of confusion as regards the limits of the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in suits filed against an agency or parastatal of the Federal Government. The confusion is on whether or not the Federal High Court has exclusive jurisdiction in a matter whose subject matter is outside section 251(1)(a)-(s) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution but where a Federal Government agency or parastatal is a party in the suit. It also considers the effect or limit of section 251(1)(p),(q) and (r) of the Constitution as it affects Federal government agencies and parastatals. Following a critical analysis of the various decided cases on the issues, the paper prefers the decision in NEPA v Edegbero and regards it as correct and, therefore, calls on the Supreme Court any time it has the opportunity to revisit the issue and re-affirm it. This is necessary because it is clear from the provisions of section 251 of the 1999 Constitution that the intention of the legislature is to prevent actions against Federal agencies to be litigated in the States High Courts. On the other hand, it submits that the decision in Onuorah v KRPC Ltd is not good law because there was a finding in the case that KRPC Ltd is not an agency of Federal Government. The paper, therefore, submits that the Supreme Court had no business in that case to lay down a rule that in a matter of simple contract involving an agency of the Federal Government, the State High Court has exclusive jurisdiction. This is so because the intention of the legislature is to confer exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court where the Federal Government or any of its agencies are involved.