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PREAMBLE OF A STATUTE MAY BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION TO DETERMINE THE MISCHIEF IT SEEKS TO CORRECT

Dictum

The general principle of interpretation of statute is that the preamble or explanation note to a statute is not part of the statute. However it is permissible to take into consideration the explanatory note to a statute in determining the purpose of the statute and the mischief it seeks to correct. See YABUGBE v. C. O. P (1992) LPELR 3505 (SC) AT 28 (F-G) (1992) 4 NWLR (PT. 234) 152 AT 171 (A-C). INAKOJU and ORS. v. ADELEKE and ORS. (2007) LPELR 1510 (SC). OGBONNA v. A. G. OF IMO STATE and ORS. (1992) LPELR 2287 (SC) (1992) 1 NWLR (PT. 220) 647 AT 672(C-); FRN v. IBORI and ORS. (2014) LPELR 23214 (CA) 67 (A-D).

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

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STATUTES SHOULD NOT BE INTERPRETED TO DEFEAT THE INTENTION OF THE LEGISLATURE

It will in my view, be absurd, especially if one takes into account that there was no Chief Judge or Customary Court of Appeal President in Rivers State as at the time of constituting the tribunal. It is trite law that provisions of statutes should not be construed in a way as would defeat the intention of the legislature or to defeat the ends it was meant to serve or where it will cause injustice. The law is well settled too, that where the A interpretation of a word in a statute is capable of being given two meanings, the court saddled with the responsibility of interpreting such word shall adopt and use the interpretation which would not defeat the intention of the law makers. See Yabugbe v. C.O.P. (1992) 4 SCNJ 116; Lawal v. GB Ollivant (1972) SC 124.

— Sanusi, JSC. Wike Nyesom v. Peterside, APC, INEC, PDP (SC. 718/2015, 27 Oct 2015)

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SPECIAL PROVISION OVERRIDES GENERAL PROVISION; ANALYSING SECTION 137(1) (D) & (E)

As regards to whether paragraph (e) of Section 137(1) should be read together with paragraph (d) of that subsection, the settled rule of interpretation of the Constitution or statute is that where the court is faced with two or more differing provisions over the same subject matter, the judicial attitude is to treat the special provision as overriding the general provision, on the principle that by enacting a separate provision for a part of the general class intends that the said part shall not be treated the same with the general class. See: IWUCHUKWU & ANOR v A.G. ANAMBRA STATE & ANOR (2015) LPELR-24487(CA) at pages 62 64, paras. E – A, perAgim, JCA; MARTIN SCHROEDER & CO. v MAJOR & CO. NIG. LTD (1989) LPELR-1843(SC) at page 13, paras. E – A, per Wali, JSC; and F.M.B.N. v OLLOH (2002) 4 S.C. (Pt. 11) 177. Since in both paragraphs (d) and (e) of Section 137(1) “a sentence for the offence involving dishonesty” is mentioned but in paragraph (e) a limitation of ten years has been introduced, then it means in respect of sentence for offence of dishonesty, the two paragraphs must be read together, such that for conviction and sentence for an offence involving dishonesty, it must be within a period of less than ten years before the date of the election in order for such a conviction and sentence to be used for disqualifying a Presidential candidate from contesting the election. It is also a cardinal principle of interpretation of the Constitution that relevant provisions must be read together and not disjointly. See STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY & ORS (2015) ABEGUNDE v THE ONDO LPELR-24588(SC) at pages 28 – 29, paras. D – B, per Muhammad, JSC.

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

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A STATUTE IS AN EXPRESSION OF THE LEGISLATIVE WILL

In UGWU VS ARARUME (2007) 12 NWLR (pt. 1048) 367 at 498 this Court stated thus: – “A statute, it is always said, is ‘the will of the legislature’ and any document which is presented to it as a statute is an authentic expression of the legislative will. The function of the Court is to interpret that document according to the intent of those who made it. Thus, the Court declares the intention of the legislature.”

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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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NEXT LAW IN HIERARCHY TO THE CONSTITUTION

The law next in hierarchy to the Constitution is, an Act of the National Assembly. — A.O. Obaseki-Adejumo, JCA. FRSC v Ehikaam (2023) – CA/AS/276/2019

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FORMS IN STATUTES ARE PLACED MERELY AS A GUIDE OR EXAMPLE; THOUGH MAY BE STRICTLY FOLLOWED

It should be remembered that as a general rule forms in Schedule to enactments are inserted merely as examples and guides and are meant to be followed implicitly only so far as circumstances permit. As far back as 1843, Trindal, C.l. in a case relating to the use of forms relevant to the compliance of Voters List observed: “. . . we think that the decision of this question ought not to depend upon a crucial examination of the forms in the schedule, which are inserted merely as examples, and are to be followed implicitly, so far as the circumstances of each case admit. . .” – see Barlett v. Gibbs (1843) 5 Man. And G. 81 at 96 also 13 4 E.R. 490 at 496. This, however, is not to say that the use of forms is never imperative as, indeed, they sometimes have to be strictly followed if the language and the scheme of the enactment providing for their use so dictate.

— Idigbe JSC. Bucknor-Maclean and Anor. v. Inlaks Limited (SC.83/1979, 29th August 1980)

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