AJBPCL JULY – DECEMBER, 2010 - WRIT FOR SERVICE OUT OF JURISDICTION IN THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT- OWNERS OF THE MV “ARABELLA” V. N.A.I.C. REVISITED.
WRIT FOR SERVICE OUT OF JURISDICTION IN THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT- OWNERS OF THE MV “ARABELLA” V. N.A.I.C. REVISITED.
Ikenna Okoli & K.C. Okoli*
The issuance and service of a writ of summons for service outside jurisdiction have raised problematic legal questions with the Supreme Court of Nigeria handing down apparently contradictory decisions. The issue was further clouded by the Supreme Court’s 16th May, 2008 decision in the Owners of the MV “Arabella” v Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Corporation (“MV Arabella”). Given the court’s current pronouncement on the subject, it is difficult for any lawyer to confidently advise a client on the correct legal position. In this article, we shall re-examine this thorny issue by revisiting the Supreme Court’s decision in the MV Arabella. We will not deal with the court’s view of the true nature of a statute of limitations – whether it is a non-waivable jurisdictional issue or simply a defence to a properly constituted action over which a court has jurisdiction. That issue will be for another occasion. We shall concern ourselves only with that portion of the Supreme Court’s decision which held that both the issuance and service of the writ of summons are void. Finally, we will suggest what the correct legal position on the subject is.