An Examination of Interlocutory Applications: A Revisit of the Conditions for Grant

CONTRIBUTED BY LINDA AMAEFULE

INTRODUCTION:

The essence of interlocutory applications is to reduce complexities in Court proceedings. In general, court proceedings tend to be intricate and protracted, often involving unexpected twists and turns when addressing procedural matters.[1] These twists and turns often involve interlocutory hearings, which are like mini hearings within the main proceedings. One party triggers them by making an interlocutory application, asking the court to make certain orders and these court orders are a declaration made by a judge, commanding something to be done, or prohibiting certain activity. Interlocutory applications can seek a wide range of orders, such as,

  1. Urgent assistance from the court; or
  2. Orders about the procedure or timetable of the court proceedings, including orders about obtaining or disclosing evidence.[2]

However, there are certain things the Court will consider in examining interlocutory applications, such as; the nature of the application, the evidence provided, and the arguments presented by the parties, etc. The court’s decision on the interlocutory applications will bear a significance on the outcome of the case.[3]

This article will explain why interlocutory applications are used and the benefits they provide. The article would go on to explain the circumstances or standards for granting interlocutory applications.

WHAT ARE INTERLOCUTORY APPLICATIONS?

Interlocutory applications are applications made to courts during the pendency of proceedings. They include all steps taken to assist either a party in the prosecution of his case, whether before or after final judgment; or in protecting or otherwise dealing with the subject matter of the action before the rights of the parties are finally determined.

When a lawyer files an originating process and exchanges pleadings, there may be questions about whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the case, whether the wrong party was sued, whether a party needed to be replaced after passing away, or whether an interlocutory injunction is required to stop one of the parties from pursuing a particular course of action. These are all preliminary issues, which ought to be determined before the final determination of rights in the Suit. Hence interlocutory applications are made to decide these issues.

Applications for interlocutory orders are often made by motion, which can be made ex parte or on notice. An affidavit containing the facts the applicant intends to rely on supports the application. The respondent must file a counter-affidavit if he plans to contest the application on the facts. If there are discrepancies in the parties’ filed affidavit and counter affidavit regarding material facts, the court must request oral testimony to address the issues, unless there is documentary evidence that could help the court address the issues. This much was held in the case of KOTOYE V. CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA[4]

Interlocutory applications are only temporary, and their outcomes can be reconsidered or modified as the case continues. The goal of these applications is to address immediate concerns and guarantee that the judicial proceedings run smoothly.

It is of great importance to point out that the Court cannot pronounce on substantive matters or issues in the course of interlocutory proceedings and this has been reiterated in a plethora of judicial authorities including the case of A.G KWARA STATE & ANOR v. LAWAL & ORS (2017) where the Court per BAGE, J.S.C. held as follows;

“The settled position of the law is that at the interlocutory stage, no Court whether trial or appellate, is allowed to delve into the substantive matter in the pending matter and decide it. All decisions reached in such a situation can only constitute a nullity.”  (P. 37, Paras. E-F) [5]

TYPES OF INTERLOCUTORY APPLICATIONS

1. STAY OF PROCEEDINGS: This application is made to request the court to halt the proceedings temporarily, usually pending the determination of another matter.

2. INJUNCTION: An injunction is a court order that prohibits a party from doing certain actions or requires a party to do certain actions. Interlocutory injunctions are usually sought to prevent irreparable harm or to maintain the status quo until the final determination of the case.

3. DISCOVERY: Discovery refers to the process of exchanging information and evidence between the parties involved in the case. An interlocutory application for discovery may be filed to request the court’s intervention in a dispute over the extent or manner of discovery.

4. SUMMARY JUDGMENT: This application is made to request the court to decide the case summarily, without a full trial, if there is no genuine issue of material fact.

5. SECURITY FOR COSTS: This application is made to request the court to order one party to provide security for the potential costs of the other party if they are successful in the case.[6]

CONDITIONS FOR GRANT OF INTERLOCUTORY INJUNCTIONS

Interlocutory applications cannot be completely discussed without referring to the two different types of injunctions which are Interim injunctions and Interlocutory injunctions. While an Interim injunction is a provisional measure sought during legal proceedings, before trial, an Interlocutory injunction is obtained before, and remains in force until, trial.

  1. LEGAL RIGHT: The first challenge an applicant for an injunction has is proving that there is a legitimate right that is in danger and that right ought to be safeguarded. If an applicant for an injunction does not have a legitimate right that the courts have recognized, they cannot award him an injunction. The viability of an injunction claim depends on the presence of conflicting legal rights. In the cases of Ifekwu v Mgbako[7] and Okechukwu v Okechukwu where injunctions were granted in favour of defendants who did not counterclaim; the appeals were successful because the injunctions were not based on any interest or rights claimed, the defendants having not filed counterclaims.[8]
  2. SUBSTANTIAL ISSUE TO BE TRIED: This requirement is significant because it brings up a fundamental issue that judges need to be especially aware of. When evaluating an application for an interlocutory injunction, the court should refrain from attempting to settle disputes over affidavits on facts that could ultimately support either party’s claims or from making decisions on complex legal issues that require careful analysis and thorough debate. Stated differently, the court needs to exercise caution when deciding on matters whose resolution could affect the outcome of the substantive complaint. See OBEYA MEMORIAL HOSPITAL VS A.G FEDERATION.
  3. BALANCE OF CONVENIENCE: In order to ascertain which side the balance of convenience leans, the court must carefully consider the facts presented in the parties’ affidavits. That is, if the request for an injunction is approved or denied, who will experience greater inconvenience? If the applicant has the greater convenience, an injunction will be granted. See the case of Egbe v Onogun where it was held that the Court would grant an Injunction if the balance of convenience in on the side of the Applicant.

4) IRREPARABLE DAMAGE OR INJURY: In Saraki v. Kotoye, a significant injury that cannot be sufficiently repaired or compensated for by damages was referred to as irreparable damage. In his affidavit, the applicant must present evidence indicating that, should the injunction be denied, he would suffer severe and substantial harm beyond monetary compensation.

(5) CONDUCT OF THE PARTIES: In determining an application for interlocutory injunction, the conduct of the parties is one of the relevant factors to be taken into consideration. On the part of an applicant, a reprehensible conduct is enough to deny him a grant of his application. An application for an order of interlocutory injunction should fail if he is guilty of delay. This is because an order of interlocutory injunction is an equitable remedy. It is known that delay defeats equity. An applicant should act timeously so as not to overreach his opponent. In the case of Akapo v. Hakeem Habeeb[9], the Supreme Court held that where a respondent to an application for injunction relies on the illegality of his actions, he has no right to resist the application of the applicant with a recognized legal right to an order of injunction. This is because injunction, being an equitable remedy, requires that those who come to it must come with clean hands.

(6) UNDERTAKING AS TO DAMAGES: A commitment to pay damages in the event that the interlocutory injunction is later determined to have been unwarranted is one of the requirements for the granting of an interlocutory injunction. The undertaking is a legally binding pledge to reimburse the defendant for any potential damages, which will be calculated after the fact. The venture becomes feasible if the plaintiff loses the case on the merits. Nonetheless, the defendant would have to ask the court to investigate the amount of damages incurred as a consequence of the order. If the request for information is not submitted on time, it will be denied.

CONCLUSION:

In conclusion, interlocutory applications play a crucial role in the Nigerian legal system. They are procedural steps taken in the course of a legal proceeding to seek interim relief or address specific issues that arise before the final judgment is made. These applications are essential for the effective and fair resolution of disputes, allowing parties to seek necessary remedies, protection, or clarification on specific matters. Interlocutory applications serve to expedite the judicial process, ensure justice is served, and uphold the principles of fairness and equity. They provide an avenue for parties to assert their rights, respond to emerging issues, and prevent potential harm or injustice. Overall, interlocutory applications greatly contribute to the efficient administration of justice in Nigeria.

  1. LawGlobal Hub; Nigerian Cases on Interlocutory Injunction (Rationes) https://www.lawglobalhub.com/nigerian-cases-on-interlocutory-injunction/ accessed 28 November, 2023.
  2. Jodie Thompson; what is an Interlocutory Application? https://legalvision.com.au/meet-our-team/jodie-thomson accessed 28, NOVEMBER, 2023.
  3. Barr Ezekiel Chigozie (2013) INTERLOCUTORY APPLICATIONS UNDER THE NIGERIAN COURT http://wingrass.blogspot.com/2013/03/interlocutory-applications-under_1.html accessed 28 November,2023.
  4. (1989) 1 NWLR (PT 98) 419 @ 441 – 442.
  5. Ibid.
  6. LAWNOTES; Types of Interlocutory Applicationshttps://lawnotes.co/interlocutory-applications/ accessed 28 November, 2023.
  7. [1990] 3 NWLR (Pt 140) 591
  8. HON. JUSTICE CHINWE IYIZOBA; PROCEEDINGS IN INTERLOCUTORY APPLICATIONS: INJUNCTIONS, STAY OF PROCEEDINGS AND EXECUTION https://nji.gov.ng/images/Workshop_Papers/2016/Induction_Course/s01.pdf ACCESSED 28, November, 2023.
  9. (1992) 6 NWLR (Pt. 247) 266

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