Abuse of Court process generally refers to frivolous proceedings. It usually results from the deliberate use of a court proceeding to harass or oppress a party.
There is no exhaustive list of what constitutes an abuse of Court process. ‘It is of infinite variety and it does not appear that the category can be closed’.1CPC & Anor v Ombugadu & Anor (2013) LPELR 21007(SC).
Abuse of Court process may be occasioned where there is no iota of law supporting a Court process that has been filed.2Saraki & Anor v Kotoye (1992) LPELR-3016(SC) 35 The abuse lies, among other things, in the inconvenience, the other party has been put in defending a recklessly incompetent process.
In the case of Adegbanke v Ojelabi & Ors (2021) LPELR-54992 (SC), the Nigerian Supreme Court held that “There is said to be an abuse of the process of the Court when a party improperly uses the issue of the judicial process to the irritation and annoyance of his opponent, such as instituting a multiplicity of actions on the same subject matter, against the same opponent on the same issues …”.
The Supreme Court held in the case of Adamu v Nigerian Airforce & Anor3(2022) LPELR 56587(SC). that ‘abuse is a fundamental vice and it is always punished with a dismissal order’.
Where there is a right to institute an action, a multiplicity of actions on the same issue, subsequent actions (not the first one) will usually be deemed as abuse of Court process. ‘The abuse lies in the multiplicity and manner of the exercise of the right, rather than the exercise of the right, per se.’4Saraki & Anor v Kotoye (1992) LPELR-3016(SC)
Below are some leading Nigerian cases on abuse of Court process:
- African Reinsurance Corporation v JDP Construction Ltd. (2003) LPELR -215 (SC)
- Amaefule v The State (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt. 75) 156
- Edet vs. State (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt. 75) 156.
- Okafor v Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Anambra State (1991) 6 NWLR (Pt. 200) 659.
- Messrs NV scheep v The MV “S-Araz” (2000) 15 NWLR (Pt. 691) 622.
- Saraki & Anor v Kotoye (1992) LPELR-3016(SC).
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- 1CPC & Anor v Ombugadu & Anor (2013) LPELR 21007(SC).
- 2Saraki & Anor v Kotoye (1992) LPELR-3016(SC) 35
- 3(2022) LPELR 56587(SC).
- 4Saraki & Anor v Kotoye (1992) LPELR-3016(SC)