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IMMUNITY – CONSTITUTION MUST BE INTERPRETED ACCORDING TO ITS SPIRIT AND INTENTION OF THE FRAMERS

Dictum

To hold that the governor is immune in such proceedings is to go counter to the spirit and intent of our Constitution. This standpoint is better appreciated when one envisages a situation where a person is sworn in as a governor, but is later discovered to be a person of questionable character who won the election with doubtful papers, if he is immune, it would mean that an election tribunal provided for under the Constitution, will not be able to question his election and do something about it through the judicial process. In other words, the Constitution would have acted in vain in setting up election Tribunals. That cannot be so. The Constitution is the highest law of the land, and its interpretation must accord with the letter and spirit of the Constitution to reflect the intention of the framers, particularly in a democracy such as ours where election matters have taken on the hue of a do or die affair. It is in the light of this that I uphold the submissions of the appellant that election petitions being a special proceedings, a governor or any occupant of that office mentioned in section 308 of the 1999 Constitution does not enjoy immunity when it comes to an election petition, which seeks for the determination of his election.

— A. Augie, JCA. AD v. Fayose (2004) – CA/IL/EP/GOV/1/2004

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“MAY” MEANS MANDATORY WHERE A DUTY IS IMPOSED

UDE V. NWARA & ANOR. (1993) JELR 43303 (SC): “I agree with Chief Umeadi that although section 28(1) of the Law states that the lessor “may enter a suit”, “may” should be construed as mandatory i.e. as meaning “shall” or “must”. I believe that it is now the invariable practice of the courts to interpret “may” as mandatory whenever it is used to impose a duty upon a public functionary the benefit of which enures to a private citizen.”

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IF A STATUTE IS PLAIN, THE DUTY OF INTERPRETATION DOES NOT ARISE

In CAMINETTI V. UNITED STATES, 242 U.S. 470 (1917), the Court while applying the Literal rule of interpretation in its reasoning held thus: “It is elementary that the meaning of a statute must, in the first instance, be sought in the language in which the act is framed, and if that is plain… the sole function of the courts is to enforce it according to its terms.” And if a statute’s language is plain and clear, the Court further warned that “the duty of interpretation does not arise, and the rules which are to aid doubtful meanings need no discussion.”

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IT IS BETTER TO ERR IN THE SIDE OF LIBERALISM WHEN INTERPRETING CONSTITUTION

It would be safer for the courts in this country to err on the side of liberalism whenever it comes to the interpretation of the fundamental provisions in the Constitution than to import some restrictive interpretation.

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

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LEGISLATION WITH RETROSPECTIVE EFFECT

Thus, the effect of making Exhibit 7, a subsidiary legislation with retrospective effect, to take care of the appointment process of the Emirship of Suleja, which as I earlier pointed out, has the force of law and now over-rides customary law. This is the moreso, in the instant case where confusion characterising the kingmaker’s body charged with the selection process and which was not helped by declaring what role the customary law vis-a-vis Exhibit 10 (the chronicle of Abuja) played in that process needed to be formalised and codified.

— Onu JSC. Ibrahim v Barde (1996) – SC.74/1995

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DEFINITION OF “JUDICIAL” AND “JUDICIOUS”

The terms “Judicial” and “Judicious” were defined by the Supreme Court in the case of ERONINI v IHEUKO (1989) 2 NWLR (101) 46 at 60 and 61as follows: “Acting judicially imports the consideration of the interest of both sides weighing them in order to arrive at a just or fair decision. Judicious means:(a) proceeding from or showing sound judgment; (b) having or exercising sound judgment; (c) marked by discretion, wisdom and good sense.”

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