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INTERPRETATION SHOULD NOT DEFEAT THE ULTIMATE DESIGN OF THE STATUTE

Dictum

It is now trite law that in the quest to interpret or construe the provisions of a statute or the Constitution, the Court or Tribunal must construe or interpret the statute or the Constitution in order to bring out plainly the real intention of the Lawmaker or the framers of the Constitution and thus enhance its purpose. The Court or Tribunal has a bounden duty to consider as a whole the entire provisions of the law or the Constitution involved. The Statute or the Constitution in question must not be construed in a manner that will do violence to the provisions being interpreted and must not be interpreted to defeat the ultimate design or purpose of the Constitution or statute that calls for interpretation.

– OLABISI IGE, JCA. Petroleum Resources v. SPDC (2021)

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STATUTES ARE TO BE INTERPRETED LITERALLY, WHETHER HARSH OR NOT

In the matter of the interpretation of statutes, Courts have been well guided over the years with the clear boundary beyond which Courts cannot enter. Thus, while Courts have the power to interpret the law, it has no licence to veer into the legislative arena or constitute itself into the legislator, however harsh or distasteful the piece of legislation may be. Once the words are plain and unambiguous, the Court is duty bound to give effect to it. In other words, in the interpretation of statutes, words should always be given their ordinary meaning. Where the words are clear, unambiguous and to the point, any addition or subtraction will be sequel to introducing an illegal backdoor amendment. See Setraco Nig Ltd V Kpaji (2017) LPELR-41560(SC) 25-26, paras D-A, per Peter-Odili, JSC; & Skye Bank Plc V Iwu (2017) LPELR-42595(SC) 118 paras B-C, per Ogunbiyi, JSC.

— J.H. Sankey, JCA. Zangye v Tukura (2018) – CA/MK/175/2017

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DEFINITION OF “SECONDMENT”

The term secondment is mostly used in the public service which is not the case in the instant suit. That notwithstanding, the Black’s Law Dictionary at page 1555 defines ‘secondment’ as “a period of time that a worker spends away from his or her usual job”. The court in the case of ALHAJI HAMZA DALHATU v. ATTORNEY GENERAL, KATSINA STATE & ORS (2007) LPELR-8460(CA) also reckoned the meaning of secondment as used in the Public service rules when it stated that: “SECTION 6 – TRANSFERS AND SECONDMENT 02601 – TRANSFER is the permanent release of an officer from one service to another or from one class to another within the same service. SECONDEMENT means the temporary release of an officer to the service of another Government or Body for a specified period.” Per ARIWOOLA, J.C.A. (P.34, paras. A-B).

— Z.M. Bashir, J. Gbaraka v Zenith Securities & Anor. (2020) – NICN/PHC/45/2018

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LIBERAL CONSTRUCTION SHOULD BE GIVEN TO CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION

It is that the provisions of the Constitution are to be given liberal construction so as to best carry out the intention of the founding fathers. Their construction is not to be guided by the construction of other constitutions in other common law jurisdictions unless similar provisions in pari materia were in question. This Court will not give to any provision of the Constitution a construction, which will defeat its obvious intention. – Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS ARE TO BE READ AS A WHOLE TO DISCOVER THEIR OBJECTS

The provisions in the 1979 Constitution are thus unique in the sense that they are intended to deal with the peculiar circumstances of Nigeria. A foray into the Constitutions of other nations, useful, though it may be, cannot be of much assistance. It is therefore of paramount importance when construing the Constitution, that one should look closely at the provisions themselves, in order to discover their object. This approach cannot be dogmatic and I seem to be in agreement with the versatile approach advocated by UDOMA, J.S.C. when in RABIU v. THE STATE (1980) 8/11 SC. 130 he had this to say:- “Where the question is whether the Constitution has used an expression in the wider or in the narrower sense the court should always lean where the justice of the case so demands to the broader interpretation unless there is something in the content or in the rest of the Constitution to indicate that the narrower interpretation will best carry out its object and purpose.”

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

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WE SHOULD AVOID INTERPRETATION WHICH WOULD REDUCE THE LEGISLATIVE TO FUTILITY

Nokes v. Doncaster Amalgamated Collieries, Limited (1940) A,C, 1014, Viscount Simon, L.C, staled at page 1022: “If the choice is between two interpretations, the narrower of which will fail to achieve the manifest purpose of the legislation, we should avoid a construction which would reduce the legislation to futility and should rather accept the bolder construction based on the view that Parliament would legislate only for the purpose of bringing about an effective result.”

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STATUTES SHOULD BE READ IN WHOLESOMENESS

Furthermore, it is the law that in construing any provision of a statute, a court ought, and is indeed bound, to consider any other parts of the statute which throw light upon the intention of the legislature and which may serve to show that the particular provision ought not to be construed as it would if considered alone without reference to such other parts of the statute.

– Katsina-Alu, JSC. Dantsoho v. Mohammed (2003)

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