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AWARDING INTEREST BEFORE JUDGEMENT

Dictum

The power to award interest before judgment is based on statute or a right based on the common law or some equitable principle or contract. The nature of this interest makes it mandatory that before an award can be claimed, the facts in support must be pleaded and evidence lead to support the claim. The rate of interest and date to calculate from should be lead in evidence and clear.

– Nwodo, JCA. OLAM v. Intercontinental Bank (2009)

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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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COURT CANNOT TAKE JUDICIAL NOTICE OF A NULLIFIED JUDGEMENT NOT PRODUCED BEFORE IT

Whether the record and contents of a nullified judgment ought formally be produced in court or extract thereof be placed before the court before the opinions expressed therein could be countenanced; or whether the Court of Appeal could have taken notice of their existence and contents by the mere fact that the nullified judgment was probably in the archives of the court. In Attorney-General v. Silem L.R. 10 H.L. Cas. 704, it was held that S.26 of the Queens Remembrance Act, 1859, which empowered the Barons of Exchequer to frame rules for making “the process, practice and mode of pleading” on the revenue side of the court uniform with that of the plea side, did not give the Judges the power of entertaining appeals on revenue cases, as they assumed. It is always necessary to exercise powers conferred by an enabling statute within the four comers of the statute: see Australian cases of Tavcar v. Tavcar (1950) A.L.R. 260; White v. White (1947) A.L.R. 342. It therefore appears to me that the power, conferred by S.73(1) of the Evidence Act, for a court to take judicial notice of its course of proceedings and rules of practice cannot rightly be invoked to take judicial notice of the contents of a nullified judgment, which the members had not earlier had an opportunity of seeing. For, true, it existed as a fact, being devoid of any legal consequences, it was then like any other opinion, say, in a textbook. I do not think that anybody can suggest that such a textbook opinion should be judicially noticed.

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

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COURT JUDGEMENT IS VALID UNTIL APPEALED AGAINST

The law is settled that the judgment of any competent Court, once perfected, and not appealed against, is valid and subsisting until it is set aside by competent Court or authority.

– Kekere-ekun JSC. Adegbanke v. Ojelabi (2021)

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RATIONALE BEHIND JUDGEMENTS BEING DELIVERED WITHIN THE CONSTITUTIONAL THREE MONTHS

There is no doubt, that if a Court of Appeal fails to deliver its judgment within three months, such failure contravenes this provision. Therefore, any judgment becomes null and void if delivered outside the time limit. The question is, who should be blamed since the appellants or the respondents as the case may be, are not responsible for the lateness of the Court of Appeal in delivering its judgment. Where, therefore, should the blame lie, in what appears to be the wrong doing of a panel of judges There is no provision in the law as to who will bear the responsibility for the cost of re-hearing. It therefore appears, that parties to a suit are being punished for the wrong doing which they are not responsible for. It is in this sense that counsel argued forcibly that the construction of the relevant section should not be mandatory but directory. If one accepts the argument that the provision of section 258(1) of the 1979 Constitution is directory, then the question is as to what happens to the judgment delivered in breach of it. Definitely, the judgment violates the provision of the Constitution, because it was delivered out of time. The judgment, therefore, is null and void. The next question is as to what happens to the parties and the judges Except that the judgment becomes null and void, the judges do not suffer any liability. It is quite clear that there is no provision for damnifying judges for such a breach. This section of the Constitution has been specially promulgated to prevent rather undue delayed judgment, which, being capable of being set aside, does not benefit either party to the case or on appeal. When any judgment is unnecessarily delayed, it is not possible for the court of trial to retain observations of the witnesses, and the freshness of the demeanour of a witness is lost. It is, therefore, to save such undue delay that this particular provision has been made. Often in the past, a judgment is set aside and the case is remitted for retrial or re-hearing, because the delay is so long that a trial judge would have lost advantage of observation of a witness and sometimes forgets the sequence. It is the duty of all judges to apply the laws strictly, but it will not be right of them to attempt to wriggle out of such application and defeat its object. It is, therefore, essential that all courts should see to the proper compliance with section 258 (1) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1979. Learned counsel for the appellant emphasised that directory construction should be preferred, because of the helplessness of parties. In a judgment given in violation of section 258(1), one party gains and the other loses. It is only fair that parties be restored to their original status when ordering re-hearing. The purpose of section 258(1) is to give some certainty as to the law determining rights of parties. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance to either the appellant or the respondent that a court, which determines an appeal, does so within the required period. That will lead to the enhancement of the court and the judiciary.

— Sowemimo, JSC. Odi v Osafile (1985) – SC.144/1983

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COURT OF APPEAL IS BOUND BY HER PREVIOUS JUDGEMENT

This is a hypothetical and an academic question but my answer to the question is in the affirmative, i.e., that the Court of Appeal is bound by its previous judgments. It is also bound by the judgments of the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal has not contended the contrary. Since the Court of Appeal sits in divisions, now there exists the danger of decisions delivered in one division conflicting with decisions in another division.

— Obaseki, JSC. Foreign Finance Corp. v Lagos State Devt. & Pty. Corp. & Ors. (1991) – SC. 9/1988

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GROUND OF APPEAL MUST RELATE TO THE JUDGEMENT OF THE COURT

It is long settled that a ground of appeal must arise or relate to the judgment against which the appeal is filed. That is to say the ground of appeal should be a direct challenge to the decision of the lower court. Where this is not the case, the ground of appeal should be struck out. See Kolawole v. Alberto (1989) 1 NWLR Pt.98 p.382 Alubankudi v. A.G. Federation (2002) 17 NWLR pt.796 p.360.

— O. Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Wassah & Ors. v. Kara & Ors. (2014) – SC.309/2001

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