LEGAL NUGGETS (44): Whether Limitation Period Can Be Postponed In Cases Of Fraud, Concealment And Mistake.By Adedotun Habeeb Adetunji LL.M (M.IoD), FCAI.



ISSUE: LIMITATION OF ACTION-Whether limitation period can be postponed in cases of fraud concealment and mistake

"In both the cases of NWOSU V. OFFOR and SIFAX (NIG.) LTD. V. MIGFO (NIG.) LTD. (Supras), the apex Court held the view that where a cause of action is based on fraud or the right of action is concealed by fraud, the period of time does not commence until the fraud is discovered or would reasonably have been discovered. The period of limitation is also extended in the case of disability of a plaintiff either from infancy or unsoundness of mind. In the later case, the provision of Section 58 of the Limitation Law of Lagos State 2003 which expressly limits or suspends the application of limitation law to action based on the fraud of the defendant or his agent as well as the right of action which is concealed by fraud of any such person was the issue for consideration. I have held elsewhere in this judgment that what a statute of limitation bars is an action and not the cause of action. In this case, the appellants' action was for balances of sundry emoluments arising from privatization exercise of 2nd respondent by the 1st respondent. And that the appellants became aware of the wrong done to them vide a letter dated 13th March, 2003. It is therefore inconceivable to assume that the appellants' cause of action was based on any fraud and or that their right of action was concealed by fraud. The wrong done to the appellants was uncovered when the respondent through the audit consultants did a mere perfunctory and casual cross check of the 2nd respondents' accounts and documents without a head count to ascertain their actual entitlements. Also in the absence of a clear provision exempting and or suspending the accrual of the cause of action in the extant limitation law, it would be wrong for the trial Court to hold otherwise because the Courts are not permitted to import into the words of a statute such qualifying or additional words that were not provided there in the first place by the legislature. It was settled that the duty of the Court is to interpret the words that the legislature has used, and even where those words infact present some ambiguity, the powers and duty of the Court to travel outside them on a voyage of discovery are strictly limited. I am therefore not persuaded by the submission that the appellants' right of action was concealed by fraud which would necessitate the suspension of the accrual of the cause of action to any later date." Per SHUAIBU, JCA.(Pp.23-25,Paras.B-B).

Post a Comment