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

What Determines the Validity of Stop 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 huge powers over his tenant. He was entitled to evict his tenant at any time, for no cause by any means by way of the usage of drive or different technique of self-help. He was beneath no obligation then to furnish the tenant with discover of his intention to terminate the tenancy or to get better possession of his premises. Additionally, the owner might unilaterally enhance 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 ready to query increment in hire nonetheless 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 take pleasure in various 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 control 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 assorted Hire Management and Restoration of Premises Legal guidelines of the assorted 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 and forcefully evict a tenant from lawful occupation of any premises. A landlord who needs to get better possession of his premises from his tenant should apply to court docket for an order to get better 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 regulation 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 better possession of his premises. For instance, part 13 of the Tenancy Regulation of Lagos State, 2011 offers that the place there isn’t any 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 better possession of his premises. Additionally, a tenant beneath a tenancy for a set time period is entitled to a seven (7) discover proprietor’s intention to use to court docket to get better possession (see part 13 (5) of the tenancy regulation of Lagos state, 2011). Once more, beneath part 14 of tenancy regulation 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 better possession of his premises from such licensee. It should be burdened 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 start to the rule or coverage of Nigerian courts that since statutory notices had been designed for the safety of the tenant, any defect, deficiency, irregularity, mistake, omission or deviation nonetheless 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 go well with taken on the idea of such an invalid discover is a nullity and is of no impact by any means. It’s subsequently because of this that restoration of premises beneath Nigerian regulation could be very technical and calls for strict compliance with the provisions of the regulation 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 will not be restricted to the next situations:1. The place the owner’s agent or solicitor points the statutory notices, failure of the owner to present the agent or solicitor written authorization to challenge the notices renders such notices invalid and ineffective. Additionally, any act, motion or go well with 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 Court docket choice 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 appropriately acknowledged on the discover to stop or else the discover can be invalid. The insertion of a fallacious 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 type or failure/omission to incorporate particular particulars or gadgets of knowledge within the discover as required by regulation. 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 badly 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 could 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 proper 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 ways, 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 better 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 decide throw out a landlord’s case and ask him to go and serve the tenant afresh with legitimate statutory notices. It’s also widespread apply amongst tenants and their attorneys to unnecessarily extend a case and thereby elongated their tenure/possession of the premises by continuing on enchantment 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 fallacious and subsequently a nullity.It’s trite regulation that the primary goal of a discover is to convey to the eye of the individual on whom the discover is impact/served sure details, info or state of affairs. This reality is normally ignored by Nigerian courts. In all situations the place notices had 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, injury or injustice on account of errors or defects within the discover just isn’t normally thought-about 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 study 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 take a look at or customary for ascertaining the validity of stop discover shouldn’t be based mostly on a slavish adherence to procedural formalities. It is because this method doesn’t make exceptions for situations the place a tenant is served with a stop discover that incorporates some defects or errors however is in truth not misled, injured or in any means prejudiced on account 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’s not 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 injury, 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, injury 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 regulation. Certainly, it’s a lengthy standing coverage of courts in Nigeria that courts mustn’t emphasize strict compliance with procedural formalities on the expense of doing substantial justice. In an extended line of instances, Nigerian courts have denounced the penchant of litigants and their attorneys to make use of technical guidelines of court docket/regulation in opposition to the correct 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 moderately they be selected their benefit. In accordance 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”.Despite these noble and lofty judicial pronouncements, the courts have constantly 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.Not like their counterparties in Nigeria, nonetheless, 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 if the discover containing the defect in truth 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’t treatment the defect, he sometimes seeks to defend the discover in one among 4 methods:1. He argues that the meant impact of the discover would have been completely clear to any cheap 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 masking letter (that is also referred to as “the covering letter defense”).3. He argues that the discover is “substantially to the like effect” because the prescribed type (also referred to as “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-about briefly under.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 Court docket of Attraction, the notices served expired too early but the courts held that these notices are legitimate as a result of an inexpensive recipient with data 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 right date. The court docket took the view that every one unilaterally issued notices are legitimate if they’re clear sufficient to depart an inexpensive recipient in no cheap doubt as to how and when they’re meant to function. Nevertheless, the place the faulty discover offers 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 cheap recipient protection (also referred to as the Mannai protection) has been held to be inapplicable to notices in respect of which a statutory provision requires to comprise particular info. Failure or omission to incorporate these specified particulars or gadgets of knowledge within the Discover renders similar invalid. The Mannai defence, it must be famous, applies solely the place it’s not an indispensable situation for the efficient train of a proper that the discover should comprise particular info. See the instances of John Lyon Grammar Faculty 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 elevate 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 masking 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 masking letter. See the instances of Stidolp v. American Faculty (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 normally present that any deviations from the prescribed type 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 type 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 accessible in Nigeria. See part 31 (1) of the Restoration of Premises Act, Abuja. Part 23 of the Interpretation Act offers {that a} type completely different from a prescribed type shall not be invalid by cause solely of the distinction, if the distinction just isn’t in a fabric specific 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 Court docket held that notices or types that deviated barely however not considerably from the prescribed type had been good and legitimate in regulation. 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 type.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 components of the shape that are irrelevant to the circumstances don’t matter however the discover to be legitimate, should set out absolutely 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 regulation on faulty notices.In conclusion, the rule of Nigerian regulation that any mistake in a discover, nonetheless 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 if the tenant understood the aim and impact of the discover and whether or not the tenant was or was not in truth 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 Basic 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 acknowledged to be 1st June 1967 as an alternative 31st Might, 1967 within the seven day discover. The supreme nonetheless held the discover to be legitimate. The Supreme Court docket was happy that whereas the plaintiffs ought to have put the date of the willpower of the tenancy as 31st Might 1967, the defendants had not in any means been prejudiced by the act of the plaintiffs in placing the date someday later I.e 1st June 1967.

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