Judiciary-Poetry-Logo
JPoetry

FINAL ADDRESS OF COUNSEL IS ALWAYS RELEVANT

Dictum

Learned counsel for the respondent had argued that a trial Judge can in certain circumstances dispense with final addresses and that one of such circumstances is where, as in this case, the facts are straightforward and in the main not in dispute. Reference was made to: Niger Construction Company Ltd. v. Okugbeni (1987) 11/12 SCNJ 135 at 139; Donatus Ndu v. The State (1990) 12 SCNJ 50 at 60. Nemi and Ors. v. The State (1994) 10 SCNJ 1. He submitted that in the present case, the facts are straightforward and that the evidence of the plaintiff is undisputed and that addresses in the circumstances would have been a mere formality and that there is nothing to show that the appellantsuffered a miscarriage of justice as a result of the counsel not addressing the court. I have read the cases cited by the respondent’s counsel and it appears to me that those cases are not in line with the current decisions of the Supreme Court and this court as well. This case is not straightforward as the respondent’s counsel had submitted. I must observe that a trial court does not call for addresses just for a fun or as a matter of course. An address is a part and parcel of the trial and its immense and enormous value is unquantifiable and its absence can tilt the balance of the trial court’s judgment as much as the delivery of an address after the conclusion of evidence can. It will be therefore erroneous on the part of the court to hold that a case is straightforward, that an address is not necessary or that even if an address was delivered, that the decision could not be different as this is nothing more than a mere speculation.

— Opene JCA. United Bank for Africa (UBA) v. Samuel Igelle Ujor (CA/C/134/99, 20 FEB 2001)

Was this dictum helpful?

SHARE ON

WHEN DELIBERATION HAS ALREADY BEGUN, ADDRESSES BY COUNSEL ARE NOT FINAL ADDRESS

An invitation by the court to address it on points raised by the court during the deliberation or consideration of the judgment does not, in my view, come within the contemplation of evidence and final addresses in section 258(1) of the 1979 Constitution.

— Obaseki, JSC. Odi v Osafile (1985) – SC.144/1983

Was this dictum helpful?

ADDRESS OF COUNSEL ARE INTEGRAL PART OF THE TRIAL

In Obodo v. Olomu (1987) 3 NWLR (Pt.59) 111 at page 121, Belgore, JSC, observed as follows: “Addresses of counsel form part of the case and failure to hear the address of one party, however overwhelming the evidence on the one side, vitiates the trial because in many cases, it is after the addresses that one finds the law on the issue fought not in favour of the evidence adduced … By holding that the decision could not have been different if all the address were before the trial court, the Court of Appeal was attempting to read the mind of the trial Judge. He heard the evidence and saw the witnesses, the addresses might have thrown a new light on his view on the evidence. For a totality of a case heard entails not only the evidence but also the addresses.” At pages 123 and124, Obaseki, JSC, stated:- “The hearing of addresses by every court established by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is recognised by the constitution. It is to be given before judgment. See section 258 (1) – “Its beneficial effect and impact on the merit of the case is enormous and unquantifiable. The value is immense and its assistance to the Judge in arriving at just and proper decision though dependent on the quality of the address cannot be denied … until the learned trial Judge’s mind is exposed to an address, no one can say what effect it will have on his mind. It cannot be said that in the light of the above, the failure to hear the address of counsel for the plaintiff has not occasioned a miscarriage of justice. It certainly has not served the interest of justice. Miscarriage of justice vitiates a judgment and renders it a nullity.”

Was this dictum helpful?

THE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO FINAL ADDRESS

My Lords, I had the opportunity of addressing this type of anomaly in Kalu v. State (2017) LPELR – 42101 (SC). Speaking for this Court, I held that: “… it is undeniable that Section 294 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria consecrates the right to final addresses, Sodipo v. Lemminkainen Oy [1985] 2 NWLR (pt 8) 547; Mustapha v. Governor of Lagos State [1987] 2 NWLR (pt 58) 539; Ijebu Ode v. Balogun and Company Ltd (1991) LPELR – 1463 (SC) 31- 32; F-A; Okeke v. State (2003) LPELR – 2436 (SC) 19 -20; F-A. The said expression ‘final addresses’ means the last or ultimate speech or submission made to the Court in respect of the matter before it, before the delivery of the judgment. Put simply, it is the last address before the delivery of the judgment, Sodipo v. Lemminkainen Oy (supra); Mustapha v. Governor of Lagos State (supra); Ijebu Ode v. Balogun and Company Ltd (supra); Okeke v. State (supra). It [final address] is the penultimate part of the three most important portions of the trial period; the first, being the hearing of the evidence; while the last is the judgement, Okeke v. State(2003) LPELR -2436 (SC) 19 -20; F-A. Such is its pedestal in the administration of justice that when counsel or a party is denied this right [that is, of address], the trial Court is, equally, deprived of its enormous benefits. Its inevitable consequence is that a miscarriage of justice has been occasioned, Okafor and Ors v. A.G., Anambra and Ors (1991) LPELR -2414 (SC) 28; A-C; Obodo v. Olomu [1987] 3 NWLR (pt.59) 111; Adigun v. A-G of Oyo State (supra). This explains why a party must have the same right as given to his adversary to offer, by his counsel, the final address on the law in support of his case, Ndukauba v. Kolomo and Anor (2005) LPELR -1976 (SC) 12; A-D. It would thus seem obvious that, the draftsperson of this section [Section 294] had in mind the eloquent views of a distinguished American Jurist, Dillon, who observed in his Laws and Jurisprudence of England and America that: “I feel reasonably assured of my judgment where I have heard counsel, and a very diminished faith where the case has not been orally argued, for mistakes, errors, fallacies and flaws elude us in spite of ourselves unless the case is pounded and hammered at the Bar…” [Italics supplied for emphasis] Now, prior to the evolution of brief writing in various Rules of our Courts, counsel, actually, ‘pounded and hammered [their arguments] at the Bar.’ In place of that practice which has now fallen into desuetude, one of the new features introduced by these rules is the concept of advocacy in writing, that is, brief writing, whose main purpose is to curtail the time that should have been wasted in lengthy oral arguments, Onifade v. Olayiwola and Ors (1990) 7 NWLR (pt 161) 130, 160: oral arguments in which verbose counsel beat out the bush, Omojasola v. Plison Fisko Nig.Ltd and Ors (1990) 5 NWLR (Pt 151) 434, 441. Thus, although oratorical prowess was previously a great asset in advocacy, due to the great changes which have been wrought in the Court rules, proficiency in the presentation of briefs has taken the place of brilliancy in oral advocacy, Gaamstac Eng. Ltd and Anor v. FCDA (1988) 4 NWLR (pt 88) 296, 305-306. [per Nweze, JSC in Kalu v. State (supra) 9 et seq].

— Chima Centus Nweze, JSC. State v. Andrew Yanga (SC.712/2018, 15 Jan 2021)

Was this dictum helpful?

AIM OF FILING WRITTEN ADDRESS

It must be realised that the aim of filing written addresses in court, is primarily to save time and obviate unnecessary delay in the administration of justice. The reverse certainly is the end result if an order to file addresses is made and it is insisted that after filing it learned counsel will have to appear to present it viva voce. That obviously cannot be a measure meant to save time and enhance speedy trial.

– GWAR v. ADOLE (2002) JELR 44626 (CA)

Was this dictum helpful?

FINAL ADDRESS CANNOT MAKE UP FOR LACK OF EVIDENCE

It is not clear to me why the above submission of senior counsel to the respondent has come up. There is no evidence on record that Russal of Russia has taken possession of ALSCON and now fully operates it. Such forms part of address which is ordinarily designed to assist the court. It is not evidence and no fine speech in an address can make up for lack of evidence to prove or establish a fact or else disprove and demolish a point in issue. See: Niger construction Ltd. v. Okugbeni (1987) 4 NWLR (pt. 67) 738 at page 792.

— J.A. Fabiyi, JSC. BFI v. Bureau PE (2012) – SC.12/2008

Was this dictum helpful?

DENIAL OF PARTY TO GIVE FINAL ADDRESS MAY RENDER ENTIRE PROCEEDING VOID

In the case of Ndu v. State (1990) 7 NWLR (Pt. 164) 550 at 560, it was held that the hearing of address from counsel before delivery of judgment is an important exercise in the judicial proceedings in our courts and the denial of that right to a party may render the entire proceedings a nullity if a miscarriage of justice occurs. It is my very view that the judgment entered in favour of the respondent against the appellant without the latter closing its case and presenting through its counsel its final address is a serious violation of the appellant’s right to fair hearing, which renders the entire proceedings a nullity. This being the position, it is not necessary to consider whether the damages awarded can be justified.

— Opene JCA. United Bank for Africa (UBA) v. Samuel Igelle Ujor (CA/C/134/99, 20 FEB 2001)

Was this dictum helpful?

No more related dictum to show.