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INTERPRETATION: SPECIFIC THINGS MENTIONED

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It is note worthy that where a Statute mentions specific things, those things not mentioned are not intended to be included. – Nwaoma Uwa, JCA. NOGA v. NICON (2007)

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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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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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EXCEPT DECLARED, STATUTES DOES NOT MAKE ALTERATION IN THE COMMON LAW

Halsbury’s Laws of England, Volume 14 paragraphs 904 and 906, which read: “Except insofar as they are clearly and unambiguously intended to do so, statutes should not be construed so as to make any alteration in the common law or to change any established principle of law, or to alter completely the character of the principle of law contained in statutes which they merely amend. There is no presumption that by legislating Parliament intended to change the law. ” “Unless it is clearly and unambiguously intended to do so, a statute should not be construed so as to interfere with or prejudice established private rights under contracts or the title to property, or so as to deprive a man of his property without his having an opportunity of being heard.”

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

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ENTIRE PROVISIONS OF THE STATUTE MUST BE READ TOGETHER TO DETERMINE INTENTION OF THE LEGISLATURE

The law is settled that in order to discover the real intention of the legislature, the entire provisions of statute must be read together as a whole. No section of a statute should be read and construed in isolation. If the entire provisions of the FIA are read together, it becomes clear that before a request for access to information relating to personal information of an individual in the custody of a public official or public institution can be granted, the applicant must show to the institution or the Court where an applicant approaches the Court for a review of decision of a public institution to deny access to personal information in its custody, the existence of any of the conditions or situations stated under Section 14(2) and (3) of the Act.

— M.O. Bolaji-Yusuff, JCA. CCB v Nwankwo (2018) – CA/E/141/2017

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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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PRINCIPLES GUIDING THE INTERPRETATION OF THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION

In FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA v MUHAMMADU MAIGARI DINGYADI (2018) LPELR-4606 (CA), in the following way at page 33: “One main guiding post is that the principles upon which the Constitution was established rather than the direct operation or literal meaning of the words used measure the purpose and scope of its provisions: See Global Excellence Communications Ltd v. Donald Duke (2007) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1059) 22 @ 41-41 (SC); Attorney General of Bendel State v. Attorney General of the Federation (1982) 3 NCLR 1; Saraki v. F.R.N. (2016) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1500) 531; Skye Bank Plc v. Iwu (2017) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1590) 124. There is always a need for the fulfilment of the object and true intent of the Constitution. Therefore, the Constitution must always be construed in such a way that it protects what it sets out to protect and guide what it is meant to guide Adeleke v. Oyo State House of Assembly (2006) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1006) 608. In interpreting the Constitution of a nation, it is the duty of the Court to ensure the words of the Constitution preserve the intendment of the Constitution Okogie v. A.G. Lagos State (1989) 2 NCLR 337, Abaribe v. Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly (2002) 14 NWLR (Pt. 788) 466, Marwa v. Nyako (2012) LPELR-7837 (SC). Every Constitution has a life and moving spirit within it and it is this spirit that forms the raison de’ entre of the Constitution without which the Constitution will be a dead piece of document. The life and moving spirit of the Constitution of this country is captured in the Preamble. It has been held that when a Constitutional provision is interpreted, the cardinal rule is to look to the Preamble to the Constitution as guiding star, and the directive principles of State Policy as the book of interpretation’, and that while the Preamble embodies the hopes and aspirations of the people, the Directive Principles set out the proximate grounds in the governance of the country Thakur v. Union of India (2008) 6 SCC 1. In other words, in interpreting the wordings of section 212(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Court should be guided by principles upon which the Constitution was established rather than by the direct operation or literal meaning of the words used in the provision, and where the literal meaning of the words used are not in consonance with the guiding principles, literal interpretation must be jettisoned for another approach that accords with the guiding principles of the Constitution Abaribe v. Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly (supra) (2002) 14 NWLR (Pt. 788) 466; Global Excellence Communications Ltd v. Donald Duke (2007) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1059) 22. The interpretation that would serve the interest of the Constitution and best carries out its objects and purpose must always be preferred – Kalu v. State (1988) 13 NWLR 531.”

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