An order of mandamus is an order issued by a court of law, usually, the High Court to compel the performance of a public duty in which the person applying for the order of mandamus has a sufficient legal interest.
To succeed in an action for mandamus, it is mandatory for an applicant to show that he has a legal interest or right which he seeks to protect. The applicant must also show the existence of a public duty on the part of the person or body against whom he applies for an order of mandamus.
In the Legal Tip scenario for the week, the Claimant/Applicant commenced a suit against the Defendants, seeking an Order of Mandamus compelling the Defendant to verify and certify the authenticity of an IELTS Result with candidate number 4956211 but did not show that he had any legal right or interest to protect or fight for or ensure the performance of that duty. The Claimant/Applicant did not also show that the Defendants had any public duty to perform in their interest. In essence, the Claimant/Applicant failed to establish sufficient legal interest in the subject matter of this case and the existence of a public duty for which an order of mandamus could be issued to compel them to act in his favour. Thus, the Claimant lacks the locus standi to institute the action. See, FANYAM V. GOV., BENUE STATE (2022) 11 NWLR (PT. 1840) 33.
It is trite that a person who seeks an order of mandamus must show that he has a legal right to ensure the performance of a duty. The court in FAWEHINMI V. I.G.P. (2002) 7 NWLR (PT. 767) 606 AT 689-690, PARAS. F-C; 693-694, PARAS. H-A; 696, PARAS. B-C, E; 698, PARA. A the court held;
“A person who seeks an order of mandamus must, among other things, show that he has a legal right to ensure the performance of a duty. Admittedly, the issue of the locus standi of an applicant for mandamus cannot be said to be free from difficulties, it would appear that such locus standi may depend on two alternative factors in regard to the duty allegedly not performed after demand; that is, either that:-(a) the applicant must have a specific legal right. to enforce, or a specific legal right to the enforcement of, the duty; or(b)that the applicant has a sufficient legal interest; or an interest more substantial than the general interests of the other members of the community or interest group to which he belongs, or that he is specially aggrieved by the non-performance of the duty more than other members of the public generally. In the instant case, it has not been shown that the appellant has a specific legal right to enforce or to the enforcement of the police duty to investigate alleged crimes or that his interest which is above that of the general public has been affected.”
The court is robbed of the jurisdiction, to entertain the suit and the suit is liable to be dismissed. The significance of locus standi to the jurisdiction of the court to entertain a suit was explained explicitly in OGUN STATE PROPERTY AND INVESTMENT CORP & 3 ORS v. ATUNRASE (2002) 36 WRN 88.
“The term Locus Standi or standing/denotes the legal capacity to institute an action in court of Law. Standing to sue does not depend on success or merits of the Plaintiff’s case, it is rather a condition precedent to the invocation of judicial powers or authority of the court or to the determination of a Plaintiff’s case on the merit.”
Indeed! In order to clothe the court with jurisdiction, the Claimant/Applicant must show that he has locus standi to commence or institute the action. This is because the locus standi of a Claimant/Applicant is a pre-condition to the court assuming jurisdiction to even be entitled to grant an application for mandamus.
LEGAL TIPS is anchored by Ms CIA Ofoegbunam, an Abuja-based lawyer who is passionate about legal practice. LEGAL TIPS offers quick hints on substantive law, as well as rules of practice and procedure, and serves as a handy reference guide to lawyers, especially in court. Published on a weekly basis, the LEGAL TIPS Series is CIA’s modest contribution to legal development in Nigeria.