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SUPREME COURT IS NOT BOUND BY THE DECISION OF THE LOWER COURT

Dictum

The Supreme Court being the highest court in the country is not bound by the decision of the High Court and it is free to interprete the decisions of the lower court in its own way. The Supreme Court as an appellate court has the right or power to do what a trial court ought to do but failed to do.

— Adeyemo v. Ida & Ors. (1998) – CA/1/6/92

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EXERCISING SECTION 22 OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT – A CONDITION IS THAT THE TRIAL COURT SHOULD ALSO BE ABLE TO ADJUDICATE

Now, if this court is to consider the merit of the suit, it will only be able to do so by invoking its power to step into the shoes of the trial court under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act. For this court to invoke and exercise its powers under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, one of the conditions that must be fulfilled is that the court below or the trial court, as the case may be, must have the power or jurisdiction to adjudicate over the matter. In other words, under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, this court cannot make order or exercise the power that the trial court or the lower court cannot make or exercise. See DANLADI V. UDI (2022) 9 NWLR (PT. 1834) 185; EBEBI V. OZOBO (2022) 1 NWLR (PT. 1810) 165; IDIAGBON V. A.P.C. (2019) 18 NWLR (PT. 1703) 102; ARDO V. INEC (2017) 13 NWLR (PT. 1583) 450; ADAMU V. STATE (2017) 10 NWLR (PT. 1574) 463 … While this court is conferred with wide powers by Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, the powers can only be exercised within the confines of the competence of the trial court or the lower court. Once the power of the court has ceased, the power of this court under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act also automatically ceases. Hence, this court has no power to delve into the merits of the appeal. A similar issue came up for determination in two recent decisions of this court, and it was held that this court cannot exercise its jurisdiction under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act once the trial court or the lower court as the case may be has lost its own jurisdiction. See SAMUEL V. APC & ORS (2023) LPELR – 59831 (SC); EZENWANKWO v. APGA & ORS (2022) LPELR 57884 (SC).

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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SUPREME COURT HAS THE POWER TO OVERRULE ITSELF

My simple answer is that it is not part of the jurisdiction or duties of this Court to go on looking for imaginary conflicts. We are final not because we are infallible; rather we are infallible because we are final. Justices of this Court are human-beings, capable of erring. It will certainly be short sighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth. It is also true that this Court can do inestimable good through its wise decisions. Similarly, the Court can do incalculable harm through its mistakes. When therefore it appears to learned counsel that any decision of this Court has been given per incuriam, such counsel should have the boldness and courage to ask that such a decision be over-ruled. This Court has the power to over-rule itself (and has done so in the past) for it gladly accepts that it is far better to admit an error than to persevere in error. Learned counsel has not asked us to over-rule either Skenconsult or Ezomo supra. If that was what was wanted, the Briefs should have said so specifically and the Chief Justice of the Federation would have gladly empanelled a Full Court.

– Oputa, JSC. Adegoke v. Adesanya (1989)

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THE SUPREME COURT AS A POLICY COURT HAS TO PREVENT VEXATIOUS APPEALS

This court is a policy court and it has a responsibility of ensuring that vexatious or manifestly incompetent appeals and actions are not brought before it or before any court at all. The Supreme Court as an institution must strongly stand against and discourage the filing of suits that ridicule the judiciary as a whole. The instant appeal and the suit that gave rise to it are a colossal and an unnecessary fool’s errand. Counsel should do better to advise and discourage their clients against filing these sort of actions in the future.

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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MORE AUTHORITIES WILL NOT MAKE THE COURT DEPART FROM HIS EARLIER STANCE

It seems to me that the authority could justify the stance taken by Chief Williams in the presentation of his arguments when he seemed, with respect, to have presented the same arguments as he did in the Ifezue case, but now with more authorities and emphasis. However I am of the clear view that for this Court to depart from its decision in a previous case, the arguments must bring some fresh elements not just more authorities which had not been adverted to in the earlier proceedings, or that there have been new developments, even in the socio-economic or political stance of the country, especially when the matter under consideration is a matter that is provided for by the Constitution, to warrant the Court to change its earlier stand. In this case, I have gone through the profound submissions of Chief Williams and it seems to me, with utmost respect, that all the learned senior advocate has succeeded in doing is to re-argue the Ifezue case with more authorities on the same points as earlier canvassed or at least to regard the present case as an appeal over the Ifezue case. I do not think that would be sufficient to persuade me to reconsider my earlier stand in the Ifezue case.

— Eso, JSC. Odi v Osafile (1985) – SC.144/1983

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SUPREME COURT CANNOT DEAL ON ISSUES DIRECTLY FROM THE HIGH COURT

Another point worthy of mentioning in passing is that the issues for determination as formulated by the respondent’s Counsel indicate discussions on the treatment of the matters raised as dealt with by the trial High Court. This court has clearly and obviously no jurisdiction to hear and consider appeals from the decisions of the High Court. The jurisdiction of this Court is limited to a complaint on a decision of the Court of Appeal and the issues formulated by the respondent are only concerned with the decision of the trial High Court. It is for the above, that I consider the respondent’s brief incompetent and is accordingly struck out by me. I shall discuss this appeal by reference only to the appellant’s brief argument.

— Musdapher, JSC. Shittu & Ors. v Fashawe [2005] – SC 21/2001

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SUPREME COURT CANNOT HEAR APPEALS DIRECTLY FROM THE HIGH COURT

However, grounds two and three of the appellants’ amended notice of appeal from which the appellants distilled issue number two for determination are incompetent. The two grounds of appeal are complaints against the decision of the learned trial Judge and are proper grounds of appeal in the court below. This court has no jurisdiction to hear appeals direct from the High Court. Grounds two and three of the grounds of appeal being incompetent are hereby struck out together with arguments on issue number two in the appellants’ brief. The court is therefore left with the first, third and fourth issues formulated by the appellants and issues one, four and five identified by the respondents.

— Ogwuegbu, JSC. Kele & Ors. v Nwererebere & Ors. (1998) – SC. 76/1991

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