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INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 82 CFRN 1999

Dictum

It appears rather from the resolution, exhibit A, and the proceedings of the house, exhibit C, that the purposes is the decision of the house to show resentment for the respondent’s affront in daring to publish something about highly placed legislators rather than a plan for the investigation of the members for abuse. This should not be. The essence of section 82(2) of the Constitution is invalid (sic). No power exists under the section for general investigation nor for the aggrandizement of the house. So, the [respondents] were not entitled to have invited the [appellant] in the first instance.

– Oguntade, JCA. El-Rufai v. House of Representatives (2003)

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PARLIAMENT DOES NOT INTEND ALTERATION BEYOND THAT STATED

Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes 12th Ed. page 116. The statement of the law reads: “Few principles of statutory interpretation are applied as frequently as the presumption against alterations in the common law. It is presumed that the legislature does not intend to make any change in the existing law beyond that which is expressly stated in or followed by necessary implication from the language of the statute in question. It is thought to be in
the highest degree improbable that Parliament would depart from the general system of law
without expressing its intention with irresistible clearness and to give any such effect to general words merely because this would be their widest, usual, natural or literal meaning would be to place on them a construction other than that which Parliament must be supposed to have intended. If the arguments on a question of interpretation are fairly evenly balanced, that interpretation should be chosen which involves the least alteration of the existing law.”

– Cited in Abioye v. Yakubu (1991) – SC.169/1987

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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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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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CONSTITUTIONAL DOCUMENTS & STATUTES ARE TO BE GIVEN THEIR ORDINARY MEANING

I think it is trite that in construing a constitutional document there is the need to look at its provisions as a whole and where possible, give such provisions their ordinary and natural meaning. See BANK OF ENGLAND v. VAGLIANO BROS. (1891) AC. 107 at 144 where Lord Herschell put the position thus:- “I think the proper course is in the first instance to examine the language of the statute and to ask what is its natural meaning, uninfluenced by any considerations derived from the previous state of the law, and not to start with inquiring how the law previously stood, and then, assuming that it was probably intended to leave it unaltered, to see if the words of the enactment will bear an interpretation in conformity with this view.”

– A.G. Irikefe JSC. AG Kaduna State v. Hassan (1985) – SC.149/1984

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EFFECT ORDINARY MEANING WHERE WORDS OF STATUTES ARE CLEAR

The law is settled that where the words of a statute are clear, precise and unambiguous; the law mandates the Court to give such words their ordinary and literal meaning without any interpolation as there is nothing to interpret. The rationale behind this being that the cardinal function of the Courts is to declare the law and not to make law – jus dicere not jus dare. See Nwude V FRN (2015) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1506) 471; Raji v State (2012) LPELR-7968(CA) 75-78, paras F-F; Amoshima V State (2011) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1268) 530; & Tanko V State (2009) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1131) 430.

— J.H. Sankey, JCA. Brila Energy Ltd. v. FRN (2018) – CA/L/658CA/2017

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STATUTES SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED TO TAKE AWAY RIGHTS PRIOR EXTANT

In Re Cuno (1889) 43 Ch D 12, 17, Bowen, LJ. said: “In the construction of statutes, you must not construe the words so as to take away rights which already existed before the statute was passed unless you have plain words which indicate that such was the intention of the legislature in order to take away away, it is not sufficient to show that the thing sanctioned
by the Act, if done, will of sheer physical necessity put an end to the right; it must also be shown that the legislature have authorized the thing to be done at all events, and irrespective of its possible interference with existing rights.”

– Cited in Abioye v. Yakubu (1991) – SC.169/1987

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