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FAIR HEARING LIES IN THE PROCEDURE USED NOT THE DECISION ITSELF

Dictum

The apex court had stated the position of the law succinctly thus:- “Fair hearing lies in the procedure followed in the determination of the case and not in the correctness of the decision. It is synonymous with trial and implies that every reasonable and fair-minded observer who watches the proceedings should be able to come to the conclusion that the court has been fair to all the parties”. (Italics mine, for emphasis) Magna Maritime Services Ltd v. Oteju (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 270) 1995, (2005) LRCN Vol. 128 1497 at page 152; per Edozie JSC Kotoye v. C.B.N. (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 98) 419 at 444; State v. Onagoruwa (1992) 7 LRCN 194.

— Danjuma, JCA. Tony Anthony Nig. Ltd & Ors. v. NDIC (CA/L/630/2009 • 25 January 2011)

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DECISION VOID WHERE NATURAL JUSTICE IS ABSENT

Adigun v. Attorney- General of Oyo State (1987) 2 NWLR (Pt. 56) 197 where the Supreme Court stated: “If the principles of natural justice are violated in respect of any decision, it is indeed immaterial, whether the same decision would have been arrived at in the absence of the departure from the essential principles of justice. The decision must be declared as no decision.”

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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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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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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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DENIAL OF FAIR HEARING RENDERS PROCEEDINGS NULL & VOID

There is a plethora of authorities of this Court on the effect of a breach of the right to fair hearing. It is fundamental. It is a breach of one of the twin pillars of natural justice, “audi alteram partem,” meaning, “let the other side be heard”, the other being “nemo judex in causa sua” meaning “a person should not be a judge in his own cause.” A denial of fair hearing renders the affected proceedings and any order, ruling or judgment therein, null and void. See: Adigun Vs A.G. Oyo State (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 53) 678; Salu Vs Egeibon (1994) 6 NWLR (Pt. 348) 23 @ 44; Bamgboye Vs Unilorin (1999) 10 NWLR (Pt. 622) 290 @ 333; NUT, Taraba State & Ors Vs Habu & Ors (2018) LPELR – 44057 (SC) @ 13 – 14 D – A; Zenith Plastics Industries Ltd. Vs Samotech Ltd. (2018) LPELR 44056(SC) @ 13 – 14 D – F.

— K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun JSC. Umeano v. Anaekwe (SC.323/2008, Friday January 28 2022)

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THE VERY ESSENCE OF FAIR HEARING UNDER SECTION 36 OF THE CONSTITUTION

The court below at pages 289 to 291 of the record in its judgment examined the appellants’ complaint as to absence of fair hearing and said: “It must be noted that the court must balance its discretionary power to grant or refuse an adjournment with its duty to endeavour to give an appellant the opportunity of obtaining substantial justice in the sense of his appeal being granted a fair hearing or even in the court below. This is because of the need that in granting the hearing on the merits no injustice is done to the other party where that opportunity or fair hearing existed in the court below, the appellate court has no business interfering. See University of Lagos v. Aigoro (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1) page 142; Ogundoyin v. Adeyemi (2001) 13 NWLR (pt. 730) 403 at 421. The very essence of fair hearing under Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 is a hearing which is fair to both parties to the suit; be they plaintiffs or defendants or prosecution or defence. The section does not contemplate a standard of justice which is biased in favour of one party and to the prejudice of the other. Rather, it imposes an ambidextrous standard of justice in which the court must be fair to both sides of the conflict. The hearing must be fair and in accordance with the twin pillars of justice, read as pillars of justice, namely audi alteran partem and nemo judex in causa sua per Onu J.S.C. at 421. See also Ndu v. State (1990) 7 NWLR (pt. 164) 550. A party who will be affected by result of a Judicial inquiry must be given an opportunity of being heard, Otherwise, the action taken following the inquiry will be Unconstitutional and illegal. See Ogundijun v. Adeyemi (2001) 13 NWLR (Pt. 730) 403 at 423 per Onu J.S.C. See also Atande v. State (1988) 3 NWLR (pt. 85) 681. In the light of the above I have no difficulty in Resolving this issue of fair hearing or not against the Appellant. Therefore this appeal lacking in merit is hereby dismissed.” I agree with the views expressed by the court below above. I am unable to hold that the appellants were denied their right to fair hearing as enshrined in section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.

— A. Oguntade, JSC. Pam & Anor. V Mohammed (2008) – SC.238/2007

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