(For himself and on behalf of the family of Alhaji Kawuju Umaru)
MICHELIN MOTORS SERVICES LIMITED
SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
O. RHODES-VIVOUR JSC (Presided and Read the Lead Judgment)
KUDIRAT M. OLATOKUNBO KEKERE-EKUN JSC
CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE JSC
AMIRU SANUSI JSC
EJEMBI EKO JSC
FRIDAY, 24 JANUARY 2020
Whether the court was right when it held that the appellant’s action is statute-barred by virtue of section 18 of the Plateau State Limitation Law (Edict No. 16, 1988).
The respondent, a company engaged in the manufacture of tyres entered in a dealership company with the appellant, under which the latter became its tyres distributor. Under the contract, the appellant paid a refundable deposit to the respondent. In the course of the contract, there was a disagreement between the parties on whether the appellant was indebted to the respondent and whether the latter rightly held on to the deposit which it refused to return to the appellant. The appellant therefore filed an action in the High Court of Plateau State, claiming a refund of the deposit, its progress bonus with pre and post judgment sum and damages.
One Alhaji Abubakar Baba Umar also sued the respondent on similar facts and the two suits were consolidated by order of court. The trial court thereafter granted judgment in appellant’s favour. On appeal by the respondent, the Court of Appeal held the actions were statute-barred. Dissatisfied, the appellant filed an appeal to the Supreme Court contending that the lower court erred in holding that this action was statute barred.
In determining the appeal, the Supreme Court considered the following statutes;
– Section 14, Plateau State Limitation Law: 14(1). No action shall be brought to recover-
(a) Any principal sum of money secured by a mortgage or other charge on property; or
(b) Proceeds of the sale of land; after the expiration of the sale of land; after the expiration of ten years from the date on which right to receive the money accrued.
(2) No foreclosure action in respect of mortgage property shall be brought after the expiration of ten years from the date on which the right to foreclose accrued: provided that if, the mortgage was in possession of the mortgaged property after that date, the right to foreclose on the property which was in his possession shall be treated as having accrued for the purposes of this subsection until the date on which his possession discontinued.
(3) The right to receive any principal sum of money secured by a mortgage or other charge and the right to foreclose on the property subject to the mortgage or charge shall not be deemed to accrue so long as that property comprises any future interest or any life insurance policy which has not matured or been determined.
(4) Subject to subsections (5) and (6) of this section, no action to recover (a) money payable in respect of proceeds of the sale of land; or (b) arrears of interest payable in respect of any sum of money secured by a mortgage or other charge; or (c) damages in respect of such arrears, shall be brought after the expiration of ten years from the date on which such money becomes payable or interest becomes due.
(5) Where (a) a prior mortgage or other encumbrance has been in possession of the property charged; and (b) an action is brought within one year of the discontinuance of that possession by a subsequent encumbrance; the subsequent encumbrance may recover by that action all the arrears of interest which fell due during the period of possession by the prior encumbrance or damages in respect to those arrears notwithstanding that the period exceeds ten years.
(6) Where –
(a) The property subject to the mortgage or charge comprises any future interest or life insurance policy, and;
(b) It is the term of the mortgage or charge that arrears of interest shall be treated as part of the principal sum of money secured by the mortgage or charge; the interest shall not be treated as becoming due before the right to recover the principal sum of money has accrued or is treated as having accrued.
– Section 18, Plateau State Limitation Law:
No action founded on contract, tort or any other action not specifically provided for in parts
(i) And (ii) of this Edict shall be brought after the expiration of five years from the date on which the cause of action accrued…