What Determines the Validity of Stop Notices in Nigeria: Technical Accuracy or Substantial Justice?

What Determines the Validity of Quit Notices in Nigeria: Technical Accuracy or Substantial Justice?

Earlier than the primary and second world wars, the connection between the owner and tenant was an abusive and exploitative one; the owner wielded and exercised monumental powers over his tenant. He was entitled to evict his tenant at any time, for no motive in any way by way of using pressure or different technique of self-help. He was below no obligation then to furnish the tenant with discover of his intention to terminate the tenancy or to get well possession of his premises. Additionally, the owner might unilaterally improve the hire paid by the tenant and the tenant was certain to both pay the elevated hire or transfer out of the home. The tenant was not able to query increment in hire nevertheless arbitrary or unjustified such increment was. This oppression, exploitation and abuse of tenants by landlords necessitated the enactment of landlord and tenant legal guidelines to guard tenants from the high- handedness of landlords.Presently, tenants get pleasure from quite a few protections by advantage of those legal guidelines. In Nigeria, the legislature each on the federal and state ranges has enacted a number of legal guidelines to manage landlord-tenant relations. Examples of those statutes in Nigeria embody the Tenancy Regulation, 2011 of Lagos State, the Restoration of Premises Act, Abuja and the varied Hire Management and Restoration of Premises Legal guidelines of the varied states in Nigeria. It’s due to the enactment and enforcement of those legal guidelines that it’s now unlawful and actually a prison offence to forcefully evict or try to forcefully evict a tenant from lawful occupation of any premises. A landlord who needs to get well possession of his premises from his tenant should apply to court docket for an order to get well his premises from the tenant. (see sections 16 and 44 (1) of the Tenancy Regulation of Lagos State,2011). It’s also by advantage of those legal guidelines {that a} tenant can now query any increment in hire which he considers to be prohibitively excessive, unjustified or arbitrary. (see part 37 of the tenancy legislation of Lagos state).Extra importantly, it’s by advantage of the provisions of those legal guidelines {that a} landlord is remitted and compulsorily required to serve a tenant he needs to evict from his home with notices of his intention to terminate the tenancy in addition to of his intention to use to court docket to get well possession of his premises. For instance, part 13 of the Tenancy Regulation of Lagos State, 2011 supplies that the place there isn’t a stipulation as to the discover to be given by both celebration to find out a periodic tenancy, the next shall apply -(a) per week’s discover for a tenant at will;

(b) one (1) month’s discover for a month-to-month tenant;

(c) three (3) months discover for a quarterly tenant

(d) three (3) months discover for a half-yearly tenant; and

(e) six months discover for a yearly tenant.Along with the above named notices, the owner can also be mandated to serve the tenant with a seven (7) day discover of his intention apply to court docket to get well possession of his premises. Additionally, a tenant below a tenancy for a hard and fast time period is entitled to a seven (7) discover proprietor’s intention to use to court docket to get well possession (see part 13 (5) of the tenancy legislation of Lagos state, 2011). Once more, below part 14 of tenancy legislation of Lagos state, 2011, a licensee who’s in occupation of premises is entitled to a seven (7) day discover of proprietor’s intention to get well possession of his premises from such licensee. It should be harassed that the aim of requiring the service of those statutory notices on tenants by landlords is to safe the tenure of tenants in addition to to forestall unlawful or forceful evictions.It’s this want to safe the tenant’s tenure and defend him from illegal and forceful evictions that gave beginning to the rule or coverage of Nigerian courts that since statutory notices have been designed for the safety of the tenant, any defect, deficiency, irregularity, mistake, omission or deviation nevertheless slight or trivial made or dedicated in relation to the difficulty, service, content material or type of any statutory discover renders such notices invalid and of no impact. Not solely that, any motion, act or swimsuit taken on the idea of such an invalid discover is a nullity and is of no impact in any way. It’s subsequently because of this that restoration of premises below Nigerian legislation could be very technical and calls for strict compliance with the provisions of the legislation or else, the entire proceedings can be a nullity.From determined instances, errors, omissions, defects,deficiencies, irregularities or deviations made or dedicated in respect of stop notices or 7 days notices which invalidates, nullifies and vitiates them embody however usually are not restricted to the next situations:1. The place the owner’s agent or solicitor points the statutory notices, failure of the owner to provide the agent or solicitor written authorization to subject the notices renders such notices invalid and ineffective. Additionally, any act, motion or swimsuit taken on the idea of such notices is a nullity. See part 7 of the Restoration of Premises Act, Abuja, part 13 of Hire Management and Restoration of Premises Edict, Lagos, 1997. See additionally Wemabod Property Ltd v. L.O. Kotun (1977) 10/CCHCJ/2319, Shittu v. LEDB (1966) L.L.R. 102, Ayiwoh v. Akorede (1951) 20 N.L.R 4, Coker v. Adetayo (1992) 6 N.W.L.R pt 249 at p. 6122. The place the size of discover given is lower than or shorter than the statutorily prescribed size of discover or shorter/lower than the interval agreed by the events. See the Supreme Courtroom resolution within the case of Oyekoya v. GBO Nig. Ltd (1969) 6 N.S.C.C 69,Awoniyi & sons v. igbalaiye Brothers (1965) ALL NLR 169,Dominic Nnadozie v. Anthony Oluoma (1963) ENLR 77, MN Ugochukwu and sons v.Buraimah (1963) ALL NLR 5613. In Abuja and a few states apart from Lagos, the place the stop discover doesn’t expire on the eve of the anniversary of the tenancy it’s invalid and a nullity. See the instances of Papersack (Nig) Ltd v. Odutola (2004) 13 N.W.L.R pt 891, pg 509., Owoade v. Texaco Africa Ltd. (1973) Four NSCC 61. See additionally UIC v. Harmond Nig. Ltd. (1998) 9 NWLR pt. 565 at p.3404. The date of the expiry of the discover to stop should be accurately said on the discover to stop or else the discover can be invalid. The insertion of a incorrect date invalidates the discover. See Adejumo v. David Hughes & Co Ltd (1989) 5 NWLR pt.120, p.146 5.5. Misdescription of the premises or failure to explain the premises sought to be recovered. See the instances of Oshodi v. Okafo (1975) CCHCJ 1093, Kuye v. Nwogbo (1978) 7CCHCJ 10736. Failure to make use of the prescribed kind or failure/omission to incorporate particular particulars or objects of data within the discover as required by legislation. In Fasade v. Nwabunike (1974) 12 CCHCJ 1865 the discover omitted the phrases “which you hold of him as tenant thereof”, the discover was held to be invalid.7. Failure to correctly describe the tenant. A discover should correctly describe the tenant and any error on this respect renders the discover invalid; see Nigerian Joint Company Ltd. V. Match Co Ltd. (1972) NMLR8. Inaccurate or improper description of the character of the tenancy. The place a yearly tenancy is wrongly described as a month-to-month tenancy or the place the discover doesn’t state the character of the tenancy in any respect, the discover can be invalid. See the instances of Olaoye v. Mandilas (1949) 19 NLR 59 Giwa v fagbeyisa (1975)10 CCHCJ 16The unlucky factor about this judicial rule or coverage that errors, defects, omissions or deviations dedicated or made in relation to the difficulty, service, content material and type of statutory notices renders such notices invalid and a nullity is that it tends to delay and frustrate the best of the owner to restoration of possession of his premises. The vulnerability or susceptibility of statutory notices, particularly the stop discover to invalidity or nullity on account of slight or trivial errors or omissions presents a chance for unscrupulous tenants who refuse to surrender possession after the expiry of their time period, to frustrate and delay the graceful and speedy adjudication of the matter in court docket.By using these delay techniques, tenants elongate their tenure on the expense of their landlords. Landlords have suffered and proceed to endure and endure grave loss, injustice and hardship on account of this inflexible, rigid and unjust perspective of Nigerian courts. Many fits by landlord to get well possession from tenants have been struck out on account of trivial or slight errors, errors or omissions made within the issuance, service, content material or type of statutory notices. It isn’t unusual to see a choose throw out a landlord’s case and ask him to go and serve the tenant afresh with legitimate statutory notices. It’s also widespread follow amongst tenants and their legal professionals to unnecessarily extend a case and thereby elongated their tenure/possession of the premises by continuing on attraction on the bottom that the statutory notices served on the tenant are invalid. In lots of instances, Nigerian courts uphold their appeals and rule that the judgment given in favour of the owner by the decrease court docket is incorrect and subsequently a nullity.It’s trite legislation that the primary objective of a discover is to deliver to the eye of the individual on whom the discover is impact/served sure info, data or state of affairs. This reality is often ignored by Nigerian courts. In all situations the place notices have been held to be invalid on account of trivial errors, it was irrelevant that the tenant may need understood the purport and impact of the discover served on him and was not in any means misled by any mistake or defect within the discover. In different phrases, the truth that the tenant didn’t endure any loss, harm or injustice because of errors or defects within the discover just isn’t often thought of by courts in Nigeria. This unduly inflexible and rigid perspective of Nigerian courts is counterproductive, unfair and prejudicial to the rights of landlords to restoration of possession of their premises.This judicial coverage of strict/slavish compliance with procedural formalities events grave injustices to landlords, defeats substantial justice and offers unscrupulous tenants the license to defraud, frustrate and exploit their landlords. It turns into crucial within the mild of the above to debate and look at what must be the overriding consideration in figuring out the validity of statutory notices in Nigeria, particularly the stop discover.It’s our argument {that a} honest check or customary for ascertaining the validity of stop discover shouldn’t be based mostly on a slavish adherence to procedural formalities. It’s because this method doesn’t make exceptions for situations the place a tenant is served with a stop discover that accommodates some defects or errors however is in reality not misled, injured or in any means prejudiced because of such defect or mistake. Our submission is that the place the court docket finds {that a} tenant completely understood the aim and impact of a discover and he isn’t misled or in any other case prejudiced by the defects or errors contained therein, the court docket ought to uphold the validity of the discover however the defects. Due to this fact, so long as a tenant doesn’t endure any harm, loss, injustice, harm or prejudice on account of a defect or errors within the stop discover, the courts ought to maintain such notices legitimate and impact. Stop notices with some defect or irregularity ought to solely be held to be invalid the place a tenant has been misled or has suffered loss, harm, harm or injustice on account of such defects or irregularities.The proposition that courts ought to discountenance adherence to technicalities and do substantial justice just isn’t alien to Nigerian legislation. Certainly, it’s a lengthy standing coverage of courts in Nigeria that courts shouldn’t emphasize strict compliance with procedural formalities on the expense of doing substantial justice. In a protracted line of instances, Nigerian courts have denounced the penchant of litigants and their legal professionals to make use of technical guidelines of court docket/legislation in opposition to the right settlement of disputes in court docket. See the instances of Ayankoya v. Olukoya (1996) 2 S.C.N.J 292 at p.305 per Adio, J.S.C,Afolabi v. Adekunle (1983) A.N.L.R p.470 at 481, State v.Gwonto (1983) 1 S.C.N.L.R 142 web page 160 per Eso J.S.C, AG Federation v. AG Abia state (2001) 11 N.W.L.R pt 725 p.689. The gist of all these choices is that technicalities shouldn’t be used to defeat the ends of justice, that instances shouldn’t be selected the idea of technicalities quite they be selected their benefit. In line with Oputa, J.S.C within the case of Aliu Bello &13 Others v. AG of Oyo state (1986) 5 N.W.L.R pt 45 528 at p.528 at p.886 E-G,”The picture of the law and its technical rules triumphant and justice prostrate may, no doubt, have its admirers. But the spirit of justice does not reside in forms and formalities, nor is the triumph of the administration of justice to be found in successfully picking one’s way between pitfalls of technicality”.Additionally, within the case of Nipol Ltd v. Bioku Funding & Property Co Ltd (1992) Three N.W.L.R pt232 p. 727 Olatawura, J.S.C mentioned that”Technicality in the administration of justice shuts out justice. A litigant sent out of court without a hearing is denied justice. A man denied justice on any grounds grudges the administration of justice. It is therefore better to have a case heard and determined on the merits than to leave the court with a shield of victory on mere technicality”.Regardless of these noble and lofty judicial pronouncements, the courts have persistently didn’t disregard technicalities and strict compliance with procedural formalities and to do substantial justice in instances in regards to the validity of stop notices.In contrast to their counterparties in Nigeria, nevertheless, judges in England favour a versatile method in coming to a call whether or not a stop discover is legitimate or not. This method entails making an enquiry or discovering as as to whether the discover containing the defect in reality misled, confused or embarrassed the recipient. In different phrases, did the defect in query make any distinction to the understanding or conduct of the recipient? In England, the place the giver of a faulty discover can not treatment the defect, he sometimes seeks to defend the discover in certainly one of 4 methods:1. He argues that the supposed impact of the discover would have been completely clear to any affordable recipient (this is called the Mannai protection).2. He argues that the defect is corrected elsewhere within the discover or by one other doc, typically a overlaying letter (that is also called “the covering letter defense”).3. He argues that the discover is “substantially to the like effect” because the prescribed kind (also called “the like effect defense”).4. He argues that the defect in query is a mere inaccuracy within the required particulars which doesn’t invalidate the discover (“also known as the mere inaccuracy defense”).

These defenses can be thought of briefly beneath.THE REASONABLE RECIPIENT DEFENSEIn the instances of Mannai v. Eagle Star (1997) 1 EGLR 57 determined by the Home of Lords, Garston v. Scottish Widows (1998) 2 EGLR 73, and York v. Cassey (1998) 2 EGLR 25, determined respectively by the English Courtroom of Enchantment, the notices served expired too early but the courts held that these notices are legitimate as a result of an affordable recipient with information of the phrases of the lease would have been in little question that the giver of the discover wished to find out the tenancy on the proper date. The court docket took the view that every one unilaterally issued notices are legitimate if they’re clear sufficient to depart an affordable recipient in no affordable doubt as to how and when they’re supposed to function. Nevertheless, the place the faulty discover provides rise to confusion and perplexity, the discover will held to be invalid. This was the place of the English courts within the instances of Panayi v. Roberts (1993) 2EGLR 51, Clickex v. McCann (1999) 2HLR 6324 and Barclays v. Bee (2001) 37 EG 153.Nevertheless, it’s pertinent to level out that the affordable recipient protection (also called the Mannai protection) has been held to be inapplicable to notices in respect of which a statutory provision requires to comprise particular data. Failure or omission to incorporate these specified particulars or objects of data within the Discover renders similar invalid. The Mannai defence, it must be famous, applies solely the place it isn’t an indispensable situation for the efficient train of a proper that the discover should comprise particular data. See the instances of John Lyon Grammar College v. Secchi (1999) 32 HLR 820, Dalziel v. Speedwell Estates Ltd (2002) 02 EG 104, Burman v. Mount Cook dinner (2001) EWCA Civ.1712 and St. Ermin’s Property Firm Ltd v. Patel (2001) L &TR 537.THE COVERING LETTER DEFENCE:As has already been identified, a giver of a faulty discover in England can increase the protection that the defect or omissions within the discover has been cured by reference to a press release elsewhere within the discover or in a overlaying letter. Thus, the omission of a signature in a discover has been held to be cured by a signature on an accompanying letter. Additionally, insertion of an incorrect date of termination has been held to be cured by the phrases of a overlaying letter. See the instances of Stidolp v. American College (1969) 20 P & CR 802. Germax Securities Ltd v. Speigal (1999)1 EGLR 84, and York v. Casey (1998) 2 EGLR 25.THE LIKE EFFECT DEFENCE:Most legal guidelines which prescribe types of notices often present that any deviations from the prescribed kind is not going to invalidate the discover so long as the discover is considerably to the like impact. English courts have held {that a} discover that deviates from the prescribed kind just isn’t unhealthy or invalid if the phrases used imply considerably the identical factor because the phrases which ought to have been used. That is particularly so the place the discover has not misled or in any other case prejudiced the tenant. See the instances of Andrew v. Brewer (1997) EGCS 19. Tadema Holdings Ltd v. Fergusion (1999) EGCS 138, Ravenseft Properties Ltd v. Corridor (2001) 13 EGCS 125.It must be famous that this defence can also be obtainable in Nigeria. See part 31 (1) of the Restoration of Premises Act, Abuja. Part 23 of the Interpretation Act supplies {that a} kind completely different from a prescribed kind shall not be invalid by motive solely of the distinction, if the distinction just isn’t in a fabric explicit and isn’t calculated to mislead. Within the instances of Adejumo v. David Hughes & Co Ltd, supra, and Bucknor-Maclean & Anor. V. Inlaks Ltd (1980) ANLR 184, the Supreme Courtroom held that notices or kinds that deviated barely however not considerably from the prescribed kind have been good and legitimate in legislation. Nevertheless, in Fasade v. Nwabunike (1974) 12 CCHCJ 1865 the discover was held to be invalid as a result of the discover omitted the phrases “which you hold of him as tenant thereof”, as prescribed within the statutory kind.THE MERE INACCURACY DEFENCE:In England, the courts maintain that the place a statute requires a discover to comprise sure specified particulars, the discover is to not be invalidated by any inaccuracy within the particulars required or any misdescription of the property to which the declare extends. Nevertheless, within the case of statutory notices, it’s a query of what the statute requires. Errors in elements of the shape that are irrelevant to the circumstances don’t matter however the discover to be legitimate, should set out totally and precisely these particulars that are vital for it to carry out its statutory features. See “Notices: when is a defect not a defect?” by Jonathan Gaunt and Nichola Cheffings for extra detailed dialogue of English legislation on faulty notices.In conclusion, the rule of Nigerian legislation that any mistake in a discover, nevertheless trivial renders it invalid produces unjust outcomes. The place a mistake or omission in a discover doesn’t mislead or confuse the tenant, the discover shouldn’t be invalidated. Nigerian courts ought to all the time inquire as as to whether the tenant understood the aim and impact of the discover and whether or not the tenant was or was not in reality misled or confused by any mistake or omission contained therein. This fashion, unscrupulous tenants can be prevented from irritating and exploiting their landlords.The choice of the supreme of Nigeria within the case of Nigerian Joint Company Ltd. V. Arrow Engineering and Common Transport Firm (1970) 1 ALL NLR 324 signifies that there’s hope that Nigerian courts will cease sacrificing justice on the altar of technicality. In that case, the date of the termination of the tenancy was erroneously said to be 1st June 1967 as an alternative 31st Could, 1967 within the seven day discover. The supreme nonetheless held the discover to be legitimate. The Supreme Courtroom was glad that whereas the plaintiffs ought to have put the date of the dedication of the tenancy as 31st Could 1967, the defendants had not in any means been prejudiced by the act of the plaintiffs in placing the date sooner or later later I.e 1st June 1967.