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INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 137(1)(D) OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION

Dictum

The Petitioners have centered their contention on the provisions of Section 137(1)(d) of the 1999 Constitution which reads as follows: “137(1) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if – (d) he is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria of a sentence of imprisonment or fine for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud by whatever name called or for any other offence imposed on him by any court tribunal or substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on him by such a court or tribunal.” A careful examination of the above provision shows that the operative words of that paragraph of the Section are “sentence”, “imprisonment or fine” and “for any offence.” … It is discernible from the above that the “fine” referred to in paragraph (d) of Section 137(1) quoted above is one which emanates from a sentence for a criminal offence involving dishonesty or fraud. The words “for imprisonment or fine” also pre-supposes that the “fine” envisaged under the section is one which is imposed as an alternative to imprisonment. In other words, the provision of Section 137(1)(d) relates to sentence of death, or sentence of imprisonment or fine imposed as a result of a criminal trial and conviction.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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GIVE ORDINARY MEANING WHERE STATUTORY PROVISIONS ARE CLEAR

The above constitutional provisions are clear, plain and unambiguous and should be accorded their literal interpretation by attaching the ordinary grammatical meaning to the words used therein. It is trite law that the elementary rule of construction is that words used in a statute should be given their ordinary grammatical meaning. Where the statutory provisions are plain and unambiguous, the Court should not go beyond their clear import. See Nabhan v. Nabhan (1967) 1 All NLR 47; Adejumo v. Gov; Lagos State (1972) 2 SC 45; Ogbuanyinya v. Okudo (1979) 6-9 SC 32; Ogbonna v. A-G; Imo State (1992) 1 NWLR (Pt. 200) 647 and Skye Bank PLC v. Victor Anaemem Iwu (2017) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1590) 24 at 87, per Nweze, JSC.

— M.A.A. Adumein JCA. Anibor V. EFCC (CA/B/305/2012, 11 DEC 2017)

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PROVISION OF STATUTES ARE TO BE TAKEN AS A WHOLE

The position of the law is that when interpreting statutes, the provisions of the statute are to be taken as a whole and the review of any section therein cannot be severed from other sections. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JCA. ITV v. Edo Internal Revenue (2014) – CA/B/20/2013

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PURPOSEFUL INTERPRETATION OF A STATUTE

For the purposeful interpretation of a statute, the law requires that the sections of the statute be read and considered in community, wholistically or together and not some or individual sections in isolation of the others.

– Garba, JCA. Dunlop v. Gaslink (2018)

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NOT FUNCTION OF COURT TO SUIT SOCIAL THINKING IN INTERPRETATION OF LEGISLATIONS

It is not the function of the court to apply the canon of interpretation to invalidate a valid and legal legislation for the only reason that such a legislation is not in line with its social thinking or is not liked by a fractional section of the Nigerian people.

— Wali JSC. Onuoha v State (1998) – SC. 24/1996

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COURT DEAL WITH LAW AS IT IS

The duty of the court is not to deal with the law as it ought to be but as it is. – Onnoghen, J.S.C. GEC v. DUKE (2007)

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DATE OF COMMENCEMENT: IF STATUTE IS TO HAVE AN EARLIER APPLICATION, IT IS TO BE STATED EXPLICITLY

The date of commencement of the Decree, as stated in the marginal note in it, was 20th June, 1991. The date of commencement of a statute is the date that it comes into operation. In the circumstance, the date on which the Decree itself, which included section 11 thereof, came into operation was the 20th June, 1991. There was nothing in the Decree to the effect that the Decree or any part or section thereof shall be deemed to have come into operation on a date earlier than the date of commencement stated in the Decree. Also, there was no provision in the Decree that actions or proceedings on matters to which the provision of section 11 of the Decree applied, which were pending in courts on the date of commencement of the decree, should abate or be discontinued. If it is intended by the lawmaker that any part or section of a statute should come into operation on a date earlier than the date of commencement of the statute itself provision to that effect will be made in clear term.

— Y.O. Adio. Kotoye v. Saraki (1994) – S.C. 147/1993

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