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DO NOT IMPORT MEANING INTO A STATUTE

Dictum

It is wrong to import into a statute what it has not said.

– Ubaezonu JCA. Coker v. Adetayo (1992)

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INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 82 CFRN 1999

It appears rather from the resolution, exhibit A, and the proceedings of the house, exhibit C, that the purposes is the decision of the house to show resentment for the respondent’s affront in daring to publish something about highly placed legislators rather than a plan for the investigation of the members for abuse. This should not be. The essence of section 82(2) of the Constitution is invalid (sic). No power exists under the section for general investigation nor for the aggrandizement of the house. So, the [respondents] were not entitled to have invited the [appellant] in the first instance.

– Oguntade, JCA. El-Rufai v. House of Representatives (2003)

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PARLIAMENT DOES NOT INTEND ALTERATION BEYOND THAT STATED

Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes 12th Ed. page 116. The statement of the law reads: “Few principles of statutory interpretation are applied as frequently as the presumption against alterations in the common law. It is presumed that the legislature does not intend to make any change in the existing law beyond that which is expressly stated in or followed by necessary implication from the language of the statute in question. It is thought to be in
the highest degree improbable that Parliament would depart from the general system of law
without expressing its intention with irresistible clearness and to give any such effect to general words merely because this would be their widest, usual, natural or literal meaning would be to place on them a construction other than that which Parliament must be supposed to have intended. If the arguments on a question of interpretation are fairly evenly balanced, that interpretation should be chosen which involves the least alteration of the existing law.”

– Cited in Abioye v. Yakubu (1991) – SC.169/1987

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NOT THE DUTY OF A COURT TO FILL GAPS IN STATUTES

In Adewunmi v. A-G., Ekiti State (2002) 2 NWLR (Pt. 751) 474, Wali, J.S.C. said at page 512: “In cases of statutory construction the court’s authority is limited. Where the statutory language and legislative intent are clear and plain, the judicial inquiry terminates there. Under our jurisprudence, the presumption is that ill-considered or unwise legislation will be corrected through democratic process. A court is not permitted to distort a statute’s meaning in order to make it conform with the Judge’s own views of sound social policy.”

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LEAN TO BROADER INTERPRETATION IN STATUTES; INTERPRETATION SHOULD NOT DEFEAT PURPOSE OF STATUTE

In Rabiu v. State (1980) 8-11 SC. 130 at 148-149; Udoma JSC opined: In my view, this Court should whenever possible, and in response to the demands of justice, lean to the broader interpretation; unless there is something in the text or in the rest of the Constitution to indicate that the narrower interpretation will best carry out the objects and purposes of the Constitution…I do not conceive it to be the duty of this Court to construe any of the provisions of the Constitution as to defeat the obvious ends the Constitution was designed to serve where another construction equally in accord and consistent with the words and sense of such provisions will serve to enforce and protect such ends.”

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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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INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 82 CFRN 1999

In my view their power under the section is further circumscribed and limited by sub-section (2) of section 82. They can only invite members of the public when they want to gather facts for the purpose of enabling them make law or amend existing laws in respect of any matter within their legislative competence or as witnesses in a properly constituted inquiry under section 82(1)(b). Their power to expose corruption, inefficiency, or waste is also limited to government departments, authorities, and functionaries.

– Oguntade, JCA. El-Rufai v. House of Representatives (2003)

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