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THE JUDGEMENT OF A COURT REMAINS BINDING UNTIL SET ASIDE BY AN APPELLATE COURT

Dictum

It is the law that a ruling or judgment of the court remains valid until it is set aside by an appellate court. The Ruling of Taiwo, J. of the Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti of 13/12/16 defroze the account of Ayodele Fayose from which the sum of N75,000,000.00 (Seventy Five Million Naira) being the professional fees paid to the Respondent for services rendered remains the extant decision. The said decision which the Appellant alleged to be perverse has not been set aside, it therefore remains the law, valid and binding, vacating an earlier order made by Idris, J. of the Lagos Division was the extant law as at the time the payment of N75,000,000.00 was made to the Respondent for services rendered. As rightly argued by the learned counsel to the Respondent, at the time the order was made by the lower court defreezing the account of the Respondent’s Chambers, the decision of Taiwo, J. was valid and subsisting until set aside by an appeal court or by the lower court itself if it acted without jurisdiction or in the absence of an aggrieved party. See, ROSSEK & ORS VS. ACB LTD & ORS (1993) LPELR – 2955 (SC) P. 104, PARAS. A – D, OKEZIE VICTOR IKPEAZU VS. ALEX OTTI & ORS (2016) LPELR – 40055 (SC) P. 20, PARAS. A – C, FIDELITY BANK VS. THE M.T. TABORA & ORS (2018) LPELR – 44504 (SC) PP. 6 – 14, PARAS. B – D. In OJIAKO & ORS VS. OGUEZE & ORS (1962) LPELR – 25 116 (SC) P. 31 PARAS. D – E, his lordship Brett, JSC on the validity of a subsisting judgment held that: “Where no question of nullity arises, once the judgment of any competent court is perfected it is valid until set aside by competent authority, and there can be no presumption against the validity of such a judgment.” See, also BEMDOO MINDI VS. THE STATE (2020) LPELR – 52897 (SC) P. 53, PARAS. B – E.

— C.N. Uwa, JCA.FRN v Ozekhome (2021) – CA/L/174/19

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JUDICIAL OFFICER WHO DID NOT HEAR A CASE CANNOT GIVE A JUDGEMENT OR JOIN IN GIVING OPINION ON IT

The genesis of what brought about the improper constitution of the tribunal when it sat and delivered a ruling on 9 September 2015, has been clearly set out in the lead reasoning. I only re-iterate the position of the law that a judicial officer of whatever jurisdiction, who did not participate in court in taking proceedings in respect of the suit/case in question, has no legal right or capacity to express an opinion in determining dispute between parties in that suit/case where he did not participate at the hearing level of the suit/case. If he does so, the decision delivered in which such a judicial officer participated is a nullity as the court/tribunal was not properly constituted. See Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR 341; Adeigbe v. Kushimo (1965) All NLR 260 at 263, Sokoto State Govt. v. Kamdex (Nig.) Ltd (2007) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1034) 492 at 497; Ubwa v. Tiv Area Traditional Council (2004) 11 NWLR (Pt. 884) at 4361. If a decision is a nullity, it cannot confer jurisdiction on same court/ tribunal or any other court or tribunal. One cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand. It will collapse. See Macfoy v. United African Company Ltd (1961) 3 WLR 1405 at 1409, (1962) 5 SCNLR 152.

— I.T. Muhammad, JSC. Nyesom v. Peterside (SC.1002/2015 (REASONS), 12 Feb 2016)

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TIMELINESS OF JUDGEMENT RENDERING

But, all the same, certainty of the law is not all that easy as it sounds. Certainty, however, goes along with timeliness. The parties come before either court, with rival or opposing propositions of law. The duty of a Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court is heavier therefore when determining certainty of law from that of the court of first instance. In any case, what is uppermost is timeliness and certainty. Whatever research is necessary, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court judgment should be delivered within the time limit. It is, therefore, advisable that the date of judgment should be fixed on the conclusion of argument. The Court will, therefore, not lose sight of the necessary time factor. The parties will also be satisfied that their rights will be determined on a date within a limited period. This will give more credibility and sanctity to a judgment.

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

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DURING JUDGEMENT DELIVERING, IT IS NOT NECESSARY FOR ALL PANEL MEMBERS TO BE PRESENT

Now, the Committee is a Tribunal and not a regular court. Even in a court that a Panel is constituted including the two Appellate Courts in this country, it has been held that, it is not necessary for all the Justices that heard the matter, to be present during the delivery of their judgment. Indeed, one of them can read out and deliver the judgment of the Court in the open court. (See the case of Okino v Obanabira & 4 others (1999) 12 SCNJ 27).

— Ogbuagu JSC. Ndukwe v LPDC [2007] – SC 48/2003

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TO VARY COURT JUDGEMENT, RESPONDENT NEEDS TO FILE RESPONDENT’S NOTICE

The 1st defendant cannot in the circumstances of this case, it not having appealed and not having filed a respondent’s notice, pray for a variation in the judgment in its favour.

— Obaseki, JSC. Foreign Finance Corp. v Lagos State Devt. & Pty. Corp. & Ors. (1991) – SC. 9/1988

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NOT EVERY ERROR IN A JUDGEMENT WILL VITIATE IT

It is not every mistake or error in a judgment or decision that could vitiate such a decision as the mistake has to be shown to have led to a miscarriage of justice or materially or substantially affected the decision making to have such impact. See Owhonda v Ekpechi (2003) 9-10 SC 1 at 21; Mrs. Jumbo v R. S. H. P. A. D. A. (2005) 5 SC (Pt.11) 102 at 112. — M.U. Peter-Odili, JSC. Kwara Judicial Commission v Tolani (2019) – SC.63/2010

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COURT JUDGEMENT IS VALID UNTIL APPEALED AGAINST

The law is settled that the judgment of any competent Court, once perfected, and not appealed against, is valid and subsisting until it is set aside by competent Court or authority.

– Kekere-ekun JSC. Adegbanke v. Ojelabi (2021)

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