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FAIR HEARING MUST BE OBSERVED – FAIR HEARING IS A MATTER OF FACT

Dictum

My lords, in considering these issues, I bear in mind that they deal frontally with the fundamental issue of the observance of the right to fair hearing in the determination of the civil rights and obligations of the citizen, including corporate legal entity, by Courts and tribunals and even quasi judicial bodies to ensure that decisions are not reached without a due hearing of the parties. However, an allegation of denial of the right to fair hearing, as grave as it could be and the dire consequences it could have on the proceedings and decision of a Court if proved, does not operate in a vacuum but is dependent on the facts and circumstances of each given case. In other words, whether the right to fair hearing was breached or not is a question of facts to be determined squarely on the facts and circumstances placed before the appellate Court since the law is that each case of allegation of breach of the right to fair hearing must be decided on the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case. This is so because fair hearing is primarily a matter of fact. It is only when the facts are ascertained that the law would be applied to the facts so established to see whether or not such established facts constitute a breach of the party’s right to fair hearing. See Newswatch Communications Limited V. Alhaji Ibrahim Atta (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt. 993) 144.

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

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ANYONE CHARGED OF A CRIMINAL OFFENCE MUST BE GIVEN FAIR HEARING

Assault is an offence under section 265 of the Penal Code. Stealing or theft is an offence under sections 287 and 288 of the Penal Code. Robbery is an offence under section 298 of the Penal Code. House Trespass is an offence under section 352 of the Penal Code. Arson or mischief by fire is an offence under section 337 of the Penal Code. These are all serious offences, which carry heavy punishment under the Penal Code. Any person found guilty of any of them will have his reputation and name tarnished and stigmatised for life. It is therefore clear why the right to fair hearing within a reasonable time by a court or tribunal is given to any person charged.

– Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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FAIR HEARING IS TO BE JUDGED BY THE NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE

The question of fair hearing is not just an issue of dogma. Whether or not a party has been denied of his right to fair hearing is to be judged by the nature and circumstances surrounding a particular case; the crucial determinant is the necessity to afford the parties equal opportunity to put their case to the court before the court gives its judgment. In the instant case, there has been no complaint that the respondents were granted advantages or special favours in the presentation of their case which were denied to the appellants. A complaint founded on a denial of fair hearing is an invitation to the court hearing the appeal to consider whether or not the court against which a complaint is made has been generally fair on the basis of equality to all the parties before it.

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

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FAIR HEARING LIES IN THE PROCEDURE USED NOT THE DECISION ITSELF

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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COURT WILL SET ASIDE MOTION EX PARTE MADE ON SUPPRESSED FACT – ISSUE OF FAIR HEARING DOES NOT ARISE

Further, the Appellant alleged lack of fair hearing, to this I would say that the allegation was not substantiated. It is not enough to waive the flag of lack of fair hearing and nothing more. Fair hearing is a two way traffic which both parties ought to enjoy or entitled to. The Respondent in the present case was entitled to be heard before an order that affects him should be made and having been made ex – parte, the Respondent was entitled to have it reviewed by the trial court after other facts with exhibits in support were made known to the lower court as deposed in the affidavit in support of the application to set aside the ex – parte order before the expiration of the 120 days granted. See, MFA & ORS VS. INONGHA (2014) (supra). If the Appellant had laid down the facts of the case as they were at the time the lower court granted the application, the lower court would not have been misled to have granted the ex – parte order which the court set aside, that led to the present appeal, had the facts not been suppressed the lower court would have arrived at a different decision.

— C.N. Uwa, JCA. FRN v Ozekhome (2021) – CA/L/174/19

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MEANING OF “REASONABLE TIME” IN SECTION 36 OF CONSTITUTION

The operative words for our purpose in this appeal are “reasonable time”, words which in their docile content are vague, and nebulous. A reasonable time is a time justified by reason. Reasonable time in its nebulous content cannot be determined in vacuo but in relation to the fact of each case. This is because what constitutes a reasonable time in one case may riot necessarily constitute a reasonable time in another case. Reasonable time in section 36 presupposes the granting of an adjournment in cases. In dealing with the reasonable time concept in section 36, the court will take into consideration the nature of the case in terms of the magnitude, intricacies, versatilities, complexities and volume of the work involved. In this respect, the court will consider the assemblage of witnesses and documents, if any and the likely or possible time to get all these. Above all, the court will take into consideration the procurement .of exculpatory or inculpatory evidence as the case may be. A reasonable time is also a moderately and practically possible time within which a court or tribunal could complete a trial and pronounce its decision. See Effiom v. State (1995) 1 NWLR (Pt. 373) 507. Reasonable time means the period of time which, in the search for justice, does not wear out the parties and their witnesses and which is required to ensure that justice is not only done but appears to reasonable person to be done. See Ariori v. Elemo (1983) 1 SCNLR 1; Chief Atejioye v. Ayeni (1998) 6 NWLR (Pt. 552) 132.

— Niki Tobi JSC. Pam & Anor. V Mohammed (2008) – SC.238/2007

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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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