Where decisions of the Supreme Court are based on legislations, amendment of same is required to overrule such decisions.

B. M. Ltd. v. Woermann-Line [2009] 13 NWLR (Pt. 1157) 149 at 186, per Adekeye, J.S.C.:

“This court will surely revisit or overrule its previous decisions to curb perpetration of injustice. Where the cases are based on legislations or statutes it obviously requires an amendment to the particular statutes to overrule such cases.”

Blogger’s Note:

You can read the full Judgment here.

In actual fact, any pronouncement of a court of law on a piece of legislation remains the law until set aside on appeal. However, the lawmakers may not decide to amend such legislation based on the pronouncement until the Supreme Court has either pronounced on it or considered the interpretation given by the lower courts. Therefore, as a final court, its decision on the legislation would surely require an amendment of the legislation by the legislature for it to be upturned.

In the same vein, where the Supreme Court reaches a decision, the legislature may legislate on it in order to render the decision inoperative. For instance, the case of Amaechi v. INEC [2008] 5 NWLR (Pt. 1080) 227 (where the Supreme Court declared Amaechi winner of an election he did not participate in for some reasons) led to the amendment of the Electoral Act 2006 to include Section 141 in the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which provides that ‘an election tribunal or court shall not under any circumstance declare any person a winner at an election in which such a person has not fully participated in all the stages of the said election’. For recent discussions on this, click here.

It is wrong to declare a document inadmissible and to decline to mark it “Tendered and Rejected”.

Babatola v. Aladejana [2001] 12 NWLR (Pt. 728) 597 at 609 paras. C-D, per Mohammed, JSC:

 
“…Once a document is tendered during proceedings and declared inadmissible by the trial Judge it should be marked “Tendered and Rejected”. The rejected document must be kept by the court or tribunal which hears the case for the statutory period and later the document shall be sent to the appellate court where there is an appeal. It is wrong to declare a document inadmissible and to decline to mark it “Tendered and Rejected”.
 

Blogger’s Note:

Click here for the full Judgment.

 

Marking a document declared inadmissible “Tendered and Rejected” is quite important in order to avoid any situation of confusion as to the true status of such document in relation to the case. It helps to set the records straight and also to prevent any clever party from reintroducing the said document.


An article which scandalises a court amounts to contempt of court.

Ebhodaghe v. Okoye [2004] 18 NWLR (Pt. 905) 472 at 501 para. B, per Oguntade, J.S.C.:

 
“An article or publication in a newspaper which scandalises or is calculated to bring the court into disrepute amounts to contempt.”

Blogger’s Note:

You can read the full Judgment here.
The law will not allow the courts or Judges to be ridiculed. It is not good for the image of the judiciary and for the justice system in general. There are legal consequences for being in contempt of court. It is a criminal conduct.

Service of hearing notice on a party is fundamental; failure to do so is a breach of fair hearing.

Achuzia v. Ogbomah [2016] 11 NWLR (Pt. 1522) 59 at 81 per Kekere-Ekun, J.S.C. paras. G-H:

 
“The record in this case shows that on 9/10/2001, 24/10/2001 and 31/10/2001, the appellant was absent and unrepresented by counsel. There was no order for hearing notice to be issued to him against each of the subsequent adjourned dates. Notwithstanding the fact that the ruling delivered on 23/7/2001 contained the next adjourned date of 9/10/2001, as the appellant was not in court when the ruling was delivered, an order for service of hearing notice on him ought to have been made. No matter how tardy a party might be in the prosecution or defence of his case before the court, he has a constitutional right guaranteed by section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution to be notified of the dates when the cause or matter will be heard.”
See also Sanusi, J.S.C. at p. 82 paras. G-H.
 

Blogger’s Note:

Download the full Judgment here.

It goes without saying because a party on whom hearing notice was not served is likely not to be present at the hearing for no fault of his. Therefore, he cannot be said to have been given the required opportunity to be heard. Courts must not be quick to proceed with the hearing of a case in the absence of a party especially where there is no proof that the party was aware of the hearing date.

Update:

In Darma v. Ecobank (Nig.) Ltd [2017] 9 NWLR (Pt. 1571) 480 at 511, the Supreme Court, per Nweze, JSC held that the absent party is entitled to be issued and served with a hearing notice of the date of the delivery of judgment because it is a constitutive part of the hearing of the case.

 

Court proceedings conducted in Judge’s chambers is an exercise in futility.

Alimi v. Kosebinu [2016] 17 NWLR (Pt. 1542) 337 at 356-357:

“Indeed, just as the court below found, a judge’s chambers cannot be classified as a regular courtroom or a place to which members of the public have right to go in and out since such access is dependent on the invitation or consent of the judge or may be by his permission. It therefore implies that a constitutional right to which members of the public apart from the litigants and counsel are entitled cannot be at the whim of a Judge whatever the status of the court the judge is presiding over. A part of the court’s proceedings which ought to be public and is conducted in the confines of the judge’s chambers is clearly one done in secrecy and detracts from the impartiality, independence, publicity, and unqualified respect which enshrouds justice given openly without fear or favour. Its acceptance by the public at large and the confidence it demands depends on these qualities which must be strictly adhered to… What occurred in the trial High Court was a clear aberration, an irregularity so profound as to be incurable…

Also to be stated is that the court at all times must act within its vires and where it lacks the jurisdiction to carry out any act, any such act is a nullity. Therefore, since the Constitution has not granted the trial court the jurisdiction to take proceedings and judgment in the private confines of the judge’s chambers, the Judge acted in futility when he set out to deliver the judgment in his chambers. He also did not have the power to give consent for whoever to come into his chambers to hear his pronouncement of the decision of court… For effect, it needs be stated that the provisions of section 36(1) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution are such that being a public right neither party to the litigation can waive the right or adjust it as it is a right donated by the Constitution…”

 

Blogger’s Note:

The crucial points from the above clear statement of the law are that  a Judge’s chamber is a private place, not public. A courtroom can be said to be a public place and the Constitution requires that court proceedings must be public. So, in the light of the above case, it is in the interest of litigants and their counsel to be mindful where an ‘erring’ Judge calls them in to have proceedings in chambers.