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FAIR HEARING BEING SO FUNDAMENTAL MUST BE RAISED IN GOOD FAITH

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My lords, so fundamental and crucial is the right to fair hearing of the citizen before all Courts of the land that a failure by a Court to observe it in the litigation processes would invariably vitiate both the proceedings and judgment of such a Court, notwithstanding the merit or otherwise of the cases of the parties or indeed how meticulous the proceedings were conducted or even how sound the resultant judgment was on the merit, they are all a nullity. However, it must be pointed out at once that the issue of fair hearing must be raised with all seriousness and in good faith. It must never be raised in bad faith or merely intended as a red herring to raise a storm in a teacup without any factual basis. See Agbogu V. Adiche (2003) 2 NWLR (Pt. 805) 509@ p. 531. See also Agbapuonwu V. Agbapuonwu (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt. 165) 33 @p.40; Adegbesin V. The State (2014) 9 NWLR (pt. 1413) 609 @pp. 641 – 642.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. UBA v. Ashimina (2018) – CA/L/1033/2014

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EXPEDITIOUS HEARING MUST BE IN ACCORDANCE WITH FAIR HEARING

I am an adherent and a indeed devoted fan of expeditious hearing and determination of pending cases by the Courts but still it has to be in consonance with laid down rules of procedures and principles, particularly the observance of the inalienable right of the parties to be fairly heard in line with their constitutionally guaranteed right to fair hearing. In my view no Court no matter how zealous a Court is for the expeditious hearing and determination of matters before it can empower it to take away or infringe on the right to fair hearing of the parties and expect the Court to come out untouched by the tinge of invalidity and or nullity of both its proceedings, no matter how well conducted, and its decision, no matter how sound.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. UBA v. Ashimina (2018) – CA/L/1033/2014

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NATURE OF AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM

The audi alteram partem rule stipulates that each party must be given an opportunity of stating his case and answering if he can any arguments put forward against it. See Cooper v. Wandsworth Board of Works 14 C.B. (N.S.) 180. The rule requires that a person liable to be directly affected by proposed administrative acts, decisions or proceedings be given adequate notice of what is proposed so as to give him an opportunity to make representations, and effectively prepare his own case and to answer the case he has to meet. It is therefore essential that the person involved be given prior notice of the case against him so that he can prepare to meet that case. – Nnamani, JSC. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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FAIR HEARING INCLUDES A PARTY’S RIGHT TO CROSS-EXAMINE

There is no doubt that the well-settled position is that in order to be fair, “hearing” or “opportunity to be heard” must, inter alia, encompass a party’s right to cross-examine or otherwise confront or contradict all the witnesses who testified against him.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Junaidu v. State (2021)

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FAIR HEARING INCLUDES SUFFICIENT TIME GIVEN TO PRESENT DEFENCE

Here is a case where the panel has three months within which to conduct and conclude its investigation of impeachable allegations against appellant but appellant requested for a four days adjournment on health grounds and to enable two of his witnesses attend and testify on his behalf but the panel refused the request, closed the case of appellant and prepared its report which was submitted to the Taraba House of Assembly the next day. The said House proceeded on the same day of receipt of the report to remove appellant from office. In all, the proceedings lasted a period of about six days out of the three months assigned. Why all the rush one may ask. The rush in this case has obviously resulted in a breach of the right to fair hearing of appellant which in turn nullifies the proceedings of the panel. Appellant was, in the circumstances of the case not given sufficient time or opportunity to present his defence to the charges leveled against him.

– Onnoghen, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)

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ONE MUST BE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO EXCULPATE HIMSELF

It is my considered view that after the Disciplinary Investigation Panel had completed its investigation, each of such students against who disciplinary action was contemplated must be informed of the available evidence against him and in addition given reasonable opportunity of exculpating himself. It is essential that in the exercise, the Vice Chancellor must observe the principles of impartiality and fairness. – Coker, J.S.C. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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FAIR HEARING IS NOT A SPARE PART

Adebayo v. AG, Ogun State (2008) LPELR – 80 (SC) 23 – 24 “I have seen in recent times that parties who have bad cases embrace and make use of the constitutional provision of fair hearing to bamboozle the adverse party and the Court, with a view to moving the Court away from the live issues in the litigation. They make so much weather and sing the familiar song that the constitutional provision is violated or contravened. They do not stop there. They rake the defence in most inappropriate cases because they have nothing to canvass in their favour in the case. The fair hearing provision in the Constitution is the machinery or locomotive of justice; not a spare part to propel or invigorate the case of the user. It is not a casual principle of law available to a party to be picked up at will in a case and force the Court to apply it to his advantage. On the contrary, it is a formidable and fundamental constitutional provision available to a party who is really denied fair hearing because he was not heard or that he was not properly heard in the case. Let litigants who have nothing useful to advocate in favour of their cases, leave the fair hearing constitutional provision alone because it is not available to them just for the asking.”

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