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A CONCURRING OPINION HAS EQUAL WEIGHT AND FORCE AS A LEAD JUDGEMENT

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It is settled law that a contributory or concurring judgment has equal weight as the lead judgment. It is part of the lead judgment and therefore has the same force and binding effect. The mere fact that a concurring or contributory judgment contains what is not in the lead judgment will not whittle down its binding effect. Thus in Olufeagba & Ors v. Abdur Raheem (2009) LPELR-2613(SC), my Lord Fabiyi, JSC said: “A concurring judgment, has equal weight with or as a lead judgment. A concurring judgment compliments, edifies and adds to the lead judgment, when the justice, add to it certain aspects which the writer of the lead judgment did not remember to deal with. In so far as a concurring judgment performs same or all the above functions, it has equal force with or as the lead judgment in so far as the principles of stare decisis are concerned.”

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. APM v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/04/2023

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WRITING OF JUDGEMENT IS A MATTER OF STYLE OF THE JUDGE

One major and central complaint of counsel is in respect of the way the learned trial Judge wrote his judgment vis-à-vis his evaluation of the totality of the evidence before him. While I agree that a judgment should have certain vital features and characteristics, I do not believe that a trial Judge must be regimented to a strictly laid down pattern beyond which he can only go on pain of punishment by way of setting his judgment aside on appeal. A trial Judge is not a child in a kindergarten class who must be led by the nose and the hands to write or recite a rhyme in unison or in union to the strictest details of the words and the letters and the punctuation marks. It should not be so. A trial Judge, the highly respected professional that he is should be given some freedom in the method of writing his own judgment. After all, writing of judgment is a matter of the personal style of the individual Judge. A Judge can develop his own “house” style and as long as that style is not outrageous, an appellate court cannot raise its eyebrows. Although it is neater to follow some generally set down pattern and methodology in the judgment writing process, an appellate court, in my humble view, is not competent to throw out a judgment of a trial Judge merely because it failed to follow the set down procedure. What an appellate court should be interested in, is whether from the entire judgment, justice has been done to the parties and in considering this package of justice, an appellate court should not be myopically interested in pockets of irregularities in the judgment but the totality of it all. I should perhaps go further to make the point that once the trial Judge has been able to bring out clearly the issues for determination, the case of the parties adequately summarised without any detestable embellishments, the argument of counsel and a careful and unbiased evaluation of the evidence, a judgment should not be subjected to an appellate attack to the extent that it must be thrown out.

— Tobi, JCA. Abraham v Olorunfunmi (1990) – CA/L/83/89

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PRESUMPTION AS TO CORRECTNESS OF TRIAL COURT JUDGMENT

The law is that the conclusion of the trial Court on the facts is presumed to be correct, so that presumption must be displaced by the person seeking to upset the judgment on the facts.

– Ogakwu, J.C.A Fijabi v. FBN (2021)

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A SEPARATE PANEL CANNOT TAKE JUDICIAL NOTICE OF NULLIFIED JUDGEMENT OF ANOTHER EARLIER PANEL

In argument, we were not referred to any decided case that appeared to have answered the basic problem in the above questions. I shall therefore attempt to answer them inferentially from some decided cases and from general principles. In the case of Craven V. Smith (1869) L.R. 4 Exch. 146 which was referred to in argument, it is clear from a careful reading of the report that what the court was held to be entitled to look at was the lawful record of the same panel of the court in the same case. It cannot, therefore, be regarded as supporting a case like this in which the question is whether a separate panel can take notice of the nullified judgment of an earlier panel. Even though the courts in England took judicial notice of the law of England as administered in the Court of Chancery (for which see e.g. Sims v. Marryatt 17 Q.B. 281), yet the practice of that court was earlier proved by oral evidence before it would be noticed. Hence in Dicas v. Brougham Ltd M. & Rob, 309, Lord Eldon had to be called as a witness to prove that practice. In Tucker V. Inman 4 M & Gr 1049 an equity counsel was called for the same purpose. In Place V. Potts 8 Exch. 705 at the invitation of counsel, the court made its own inquiry and informed itself as to the jurisdiction of the Court of Admiralty. See also Williams V. Lloyd 1 M & Gr. 671.

— P. Nnaemeka-Agu JSC. Gbaniyi Osafile v. Paul Odi (SC 149/1987, 4th day of May 1990)

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NOT EVERY ERROR IN A JUDGEMENT WILL VITIATE IT

It is not every mistake or error in a judgment or decision that could vitiate such a decision as the mistake has to be shown to have led to a miscarriage of justice or materially or substantially affected the decision making to have such impact. See Owhonda v Ekpechi (2003) 9-10 SC 1 at 21; Mrs. Jumbo v R. S. H. P. A. D. A. (2005) 5 SC (Pt.11) 102 at 112. — M.U. Peter-Odili, JSC. Kwara Judicial Commission v Tolani (2019) – SC.63/2010

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EXECUTORY JUDGEMENT VS DECLARATORY JUDGEMENT

Executory judgment declares the respective rights of the parties and then proceeds to order the defendant to act in a particular way. e.g. to pay damages or refrain from interfering with the plaintiffs’ rights, such order being enforceable by execution if disobeyed. Declaratory judgments, on the other hand, merely proclaim the existence of a legal relationship and do not contain any order which may be enforced against the defendant. Second: A declaratory judgment may be the ground of subsequent proceedings in which the right, having been violated, receives enforcement but in the meantime there is no enforcement or any claim to it … A declaratory judgment is complete in itself since the relief is the declaration. See Vol. 1 Halbury Laws, 4th Ed., para. 185 187; Akunnia v. Attorney General of Anambra State (1977) 5 S.C. (161 at 177).

— Agbaje JSC. Okoya & Ors. V. S. Santilli & Ors. ( SC.206/1989, 23 MAR 1990)

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