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COMMON SENSE TO AID IN STATUTORY INTERPRETATION

Dictum

I believe, most respectfully, that in construing statutes of this nature some measure of good or common sense should be brought to bear on the statutory provisions under construction for the purpose of meeting the mischief the enactment is intended to cure and/or the object of the statute. – Ikyegh, JCA. SIFAX v. MIGFO (2015)

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STATUTE SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED TO TAKE AWAY PROPERTY RIGHT WITHOUT COMPENSATION

Therefore, the cardinal rule of construction and interpretation of statutes is that unless there is express provision in clear and unambiguous words within a statute expropriating the property of a person, the statute should be construed in favour of the person in whom the property has been vested and it should not be construed so as to deprive the person of his property without compensation. This rule of interpretation is in accord with the provisions of
Sections 31 and 40 of our 1963 and 1979 Constitutions respectively which enjoined compulsory acquisition of property without compensation.

– M. Bello, CJN. Abioye v. Yakubu (1991) – SC.169/1987

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COURT CANNOT READ INTO THE CONSTITUTION WHAT IS NOT THERE

Courts of law, in interpreting the Constitution or a statute have no jurisdiction to read into the Constitution or statute what the legislators did not provide for, and a fortiori read out of the Constitution or statute what is provided for by the legislators. In either way, the courts are abandoning their constitutional functions and straying into those of the Legislature by interfering or interloping with them. As that will make nonsense of the separation of powers provided for in sections 4 and 6 of the Constitution, courts of law will not do such a thing, whatever is the pressure by Counsel.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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MEANING OF THE WORD “SHALL” – IT IS A COMMAND

At para. 2.19: In the case of Dr. Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo and Ors V. Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Ors. (2010) LPELR-2109(SC), the apex Court held as follows on the interpretation to be accorded the word ‘shall’ in a statute, “The word shall when used in a statutory provision imports that a thing must be done. It is a form of command or mandate. It is not permissive, it is mandatory. The word shall in its ordinary meaning is a word of command which is normally given a compulsory meaning as it is intended to denote obligation. Bamaiyi V. A.G. Federation (2001) 12 NWLR Pt. 722 pg. 468 Ifezue V. Mbadugha (1984) 1 SCNLR pg. 427 Chukwuka V. Ezulike (1986) 5 NWLR pt. 45 pg. 892, Ngige V. Obi (2006) 14 NWLR pt. 991, pg. 1.” See also Chika Madumere and Anor V. Barrister Obinna Okwara and Anor (2013) LPELR-20752(SC).

— (Relied upon in FRN v ASUU (2022) – NICN/ABJ/270/2022)

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MARGINAL NOTES IN STATUTES

Marginal notes, otherwise known as side notes or section heads are short notations appearing above or beside each section of a statute or regulation. While marginal notes are not part of a statute, they provide an interpretative aid to Courts and are useful in considering the purpose of a section and the mischief at which it is aimed. See per Eso, JSC in OLOYO V. ALEGBE (1983) 2 S.C.N.L.R. 35 AT 57; Per Idigbe, JSC in UWAIFO V. AG BENDEL STATE (1982) 7 SC 124 AT 187 188, OSIEC & ANOR V. AC & ORS (2010) LPELR-2818 (SC), INAKOJU & ORS V. ADELEKE & ORS (2007) LPELR 1510 (SC), YABUGBE V. C.O.P (1992) LPELR 3505 (SC).

— A. JAURO, JSC. UBA v Triedent Consulting Ltd. (SC.CV/405/2013, July 07, 2023)

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WHERE INTERPRETATION IS NEEDED ORIGINATING SUMMONS IS APPROPRIATE

KEYAMO VS. HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, LAGOS STATE (2000) 11 W.R.N. 29 at 40, (2000) 12 NWLR (Pt. 680) 796 at 213 stated as follows: “I must state that the correct position of the law is that originating summons is used to commence an action where the issue involved is one of the construction of a written law or of any instrument made under a written law, or of any deed, contract or other document or some other question of law or where there is unlikely to be any substantial dispute of fact. This is the provision of Order 3 Rule 2 (2) of the Lagos State Civil Procedure (supra)”

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WHERE INTERPRETATION IS CAPABLE OF TWO MEANINGS, ADOPT A NON-DEFEATIST APPROACH

It is settled that where in the interpretation of a word appearing in a particular piece of legislation, such word is capable of two meanings, the court has a duty to adopt an interpretation which would not defeat the intention of the law makers. See Mandara v. Attorney-General, Federation (1984) NSCC 221; Yabugbe v. C.O.P. (1992) 4 SCNJ 116; Lawal v. G. B. Ollivant (1972) 3 SC 124.

— Galadima, JSC. Wike Nyesom v. Peterside, APC, INEC, PDP (SC. 718/2015, 27 Oct 2015)

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