On construction of expropriatory statutes

Provost Lagos State College of Education v. Edun [2004] 6 NWLR (Pt. 870) 476 at 509, paras. D-E, per Tobi, JSC (of blessed memory):

“It is settled law that expropriatory statutes which encroach on a person’s proprietary rights must be construed fortissime contra preferentes that is strictly against the acquiring authority but sympathetically in favour of the citizen whose property rights are being deprived”.

Blogger’s Note:

The above case was cited by the Court of Appeal, per Ogunwumiju, JCA in Procter & Gamble Co. v. G.S. & D. Ind. Ltd. [2013] 1 NWLR (Pt. 1336) 409 at 451-452, paras. F-H.

An expropriatory statute is a statute by which the government takes or modifies an individual’s property rights.
In Kotoye v. Saraki, the Supreme Court, per Onu, JSC, explained further: “On the need to discourage a statute that is capable of retrospectively abrogating proprietary rights, I need only refer to the decision of this court in the case of DIN v. Attorney General of the Federation (1988) 4 NWLR (Pt.87) 147, where it was held inter alia that statutes which encroach on the rights of a subject, be they personal or proprietary rights, attract strict construction by the courts; they are construed fortissime contra preferentes, if possible so as to respect such personal or proprietary rights.”

A court can set aside its decision made without jurisdiction

Egunjobi v. Federal Republic of Nigeria [2013] 3 NWLR (Pt. 1342) 534 at 564, para A, Muhammad, JSC:

“Where a court discovers that it acted without jurisdiction, it can fall back on its inherent jurisdiction to set aside its decision in the matter.”

Blogger’s Note:

According to Brian A. Garner (ed). Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th edition, (West Group: USA, 2009) 853, inherent powers (inherent jurisdiction) doctrine is “the principle that allows courts to deal with diverse matters over which they are thought to have intrinsic authority, such as (1) procedural rulemaking, (2) internal budgeting of courts, (3) regulating the practice of law, (4) general judicial housekeeping.”
See Usikaro v. Itsekiri Land Trustees (1991) 2 N.W.L.R (Pt. 172) 150.

Where a court admits a piece of evidence, the whole of the evidence must be used.

Procter & Gamble Co. v. G.S. & D. Ind. Ltd. [2013] 1 NWLR (Pt. 1336) 409 at 455, paras. C-D, per Ogunwumiju, JCA:

“…where a court admits a piece of evidence, the whole of the evidence must be used. Courts may not analyse and depend on a piece of evidence in support of a party’s position without engaging in a similar analysis and dependence on the same piece of evidence that support’s the other party’s position.”

Blogger’s Note:

The above principle is based on the principle of fair hearing. It is trite that justice is not a one-way traffic. Judges must always be mindful to ensure proper evaluation of evidence in order to arrive at just conclusions.

On e-mail as a form of communication

Continental Sales Ltd. v. R. Shipping Inc. [2013] 4 NWLR (Pt. 1343) 67 at 85, paras. G-H, per Ogunwumiju, JCA:

“E-mail is a form of communication that is set down in writing. It is not oral. The fact that it is electronic is immaterial. It is not in thin air. It can be downloaded and as real as a hard copy of the letter or mail in your hand”.


On limit to powers of the Supreme Court under section 22 of the Supreme Court Act

Ugba v. Suswam [2013] 4 NWLR (Pt. 1345) 427at 477, paras. B-D, per Rhodes-Vivour, JSC:

“Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act confers wide powers on this court to rehear a matter as if it was the trial court, but where the trial court no longer has jurisdiction to hear a matter this court cannot hide under the provisions of section 22 (supra). The wide powers conferred by section 22 of the Supreme Court Act is to enable this court assume jurisdiction and do what the court below ought to have done but did not do. Where the court below did not do what it supposed to do because it had to do it within a time provided by the Constitution, section 22 of the Supreme Court Act would be inapplicable.”


On whether a returning officer can review or cancel results after declaration of same

Umar v. Labo [2013] 4 NWLR (Pt. 1345) 496 at 531, paras. A-B, per Orji-Abadua, JCA:

“…it is the law that once a returning officer made a declaration of the scores of the parties and returned a candidate based on that declaration, his decision is final and cannot be reviewed even by him, but, by the tribunal or by this court. The [Electoral] Act does not confer on him any other powers, be it power of cancellation”.

On how to challenge decision of Court of Appeal dismissing a preliminary objection to the appeal before it

Kubor v. Dickson [2013] 4 NWLR (Pt. 1345) 534 at 564, paras. C-D, per Onnoghen, JSC:

“…the proper thing to do in law, is not to raise the same preliminary objection before this court but to appeal by way of cross appeal against the … finding/holding by that court as that is the only acceptable way to challenge any decision of a court of law or tribunal.”

Period of limitation cannot be extended by the court except where expressly provided for.

Abubakar v. Nasamu (No.1) [2012] 17 NWLR (Pt. 1330) 407 at 459-460, paras. H-A, per Adekeye, JSC:

“Where the limitation of time is imposed in a Constitution, Statute, Decree or Edict unless they make provision for extension of time, the courts cannot extend the time…”

Blogger’s Note:

A court cannot extend time in the absence of any provision for extension of time. To do otherwise would tantamount to acting outside its jurisdiction as well as usurping the powers of the legislature.

On when defendant not sued in his proper name will not be heard to complain on appeal

Agbule v. W.R. & P. Co. Ltd. [2013] 6 NWLR (Pt. 1350) 318 at 341, paras. B-C, per Ogunbiyi, JSC:

“It goes without saying therefore that a defendant/respondent who did not protest against the name used and in fact filed processes… cannot now be heard to complain at this stage. This is because he is deemed to have waived his right and is therefore estopped from contending the contrary as rightly submitted by the learned appellant’s counsel. The wrong use of the name did not overreach or put the respondent to any form of disdain in the absence of any earlier complaint thereof. The use of the name in my view is, at best, a misnomer and which did not occasion any negative effect. This court under its inherent powers has the jurisdiction to correct such inconsequential error which did not require any formal application to be made.”

Blogger’s Note:

The Supreme Court relied on its earlier decision in the case of Afolabi v. Adekunle (1983) 8 SC 98. 


World of recent and rare Nigerian judicial authorities…