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“MAY” MEAN “SHALL” WHERE THERE IS AN OBLIGATION IMPOSED

Dictum

OMOMZUAWO & ANOR v. UGBODAGA & ORS (2021) JELR 107021 (CA): “it is now trite in law that where the word ‘may’ is used but a right or obligation is thereby conferred, then the word ‘may’ is to be interpreted as ‘shall’ and is taken as mandatory. In the instant appeal looking holistically at the provisions of Section 19 of the said law conferring an obligation or duty as well as rights on the Appellants, I hold that the use of ‘may’ in that sub – Section (2) of Section 19 of the said law amounts to ‘shall’ and is therefore, mandatory.”

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SPECIAL PROVISIONS DEROGATE FROM GENERAL PROVISIONS

The law is settled that in the interpretation of statutes, special things derogate from general things (generalibus specialia derogat). Where there is a conflict between two legislations one of which is special on a subject and the other legislation is general in nature, the legislation that is special in nature shall supersede.

– H.M. Ogunwumiju, JCA. ITV v. Edo Internal Revenue (2014) – CA/B/20/2013

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PERSON WHO INTERPRETED A STATEMENT MUST TENDER IT IN COURT

It is settled that the person or officer who interpreted a statement must tender it in Court so that if necessary, the interpreter can be cross examined on whether the interpreted statement is the correct interpretation of the original words as spoken by the Defendant.

– H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. State v. Ibrahim (2021) – SC.200/2016

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STATUTE SHOULD BE READ AS A WHOLE

It is important in the construction of a provision to read the statute as a whole. Such a method of construction enables an interpretation which brings into focus related sections which are complementary.

– Karibi-whyte JSC. Idehen v. Idehen (1991) – SC. 271/1989

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MEANING OF THE WORD “SHALL” – IT IS A COMMAND

At para. 2.19: In the case of Dr. Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo and Ors V. Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Ors. (2010) LPELR-2109(SC), the apex Court held as follows on the interpretation to be accorded the word ‘shall’ in a statute, “The word shall when used in a statutory provision imports that a thing must be done. It is a form of command or mandate. It is not permissive, it is mandatory. The word shall in its ordinary meaning is a word of command which is normally given a compulsory meaning as it is intended to denote obligation. Bamaiyi V. A.G. Federation (2001) 12 NWLR Pt. 722 pg. 468 Ifezue V. Mbadugha (1984) 1 SCNLR pg. 427 Chukwuka V. Ezulike (1986) 5 NWLR pt. 45 pg. 892, Ngige V. Obi (2006) 14 NWLR pt. 991, pg. 1.” See also Chika Madumere and Anor V. Barrister Obinna Okwara and Anor (2013) LPELR-20752(SC).

— (Relied upon in FRN v ASUU (2022) – NICN/ABJ/270/2022)

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WHERE PROVISIONS ARE UNAMBIGUOUS, MUST BE GIVEN ORDINARY MEANING

ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION VS. THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER (1999) 9 N.W.L.R. (PART. 618), page 187 wherein IGU, JSC at page 264, paragraph G – H of the report had this to say – : “…And where the words used or the provision of any section the law are clear and unambiguous, they must be given their ordinary meaning unless, of course, this would lead to absurdity or be in conflict with other provisions of the law.”

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INTERPRETATION: SPECIFIC THINGS MENTIONED

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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