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THERE WILL BE NO REFERENCE TO THE SUPREME COURT WHEN THERE IS A CASE LAW ON THE POINT

Dictum

With this principal issue resolved in favour of the appellant, the motion filed herein for reference to the Supreme Court becomes irrelevant. This is because from the argument of all learned counsel to the parties, reference to the Supreme Court can only be made by the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court under section 295(3) of the 1999 Constitution, if there have been no guidance from the apex court on the point. This is not the position in the instant case where this point sought to be referred to the Supreme Court – the application of immunity by the principal officers named in S.308 of the 1999 Constitution in election petition matters – had been resolved by the Supreme Court in the Obih v. Mbakwe and Unongo v. Aper Aku set of cases cited by the appellants counsel supra. In the light of these authorities, I hold that this is not a point for reference for clarification to the Supreme Court as the apex court had done the necessary clarification. In consequence application dated 17/12/03 and filed on 18/12/03 is hereby dismissed.

— M.A. Okunola, JCA. AD v. Fayose (2004) – CA/IL/EP/GOV/1/2004

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THE SUPREME COURT CANNOT SIT ON APPEAL OVER ITS OWN DECISION

Having said that may I state that by virtue of Section 235 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Supreme Court cannot sit on appeal over its own judgment. The provision gives a stamp of finality to any decision of the Supreme Court. There is no constitutional provision for the review of the judgment of the Supreme Court by itself. See Eleazor Obioha v. Innocent Ibero and Anor (1994) 1 NWLR (pt.322) 503. However, it has been held by this court that the Supreme Court possesses inherent power to set aside its judgment in appropriate cases but that such inherent jurisdiction cannot be converted into an appellate jurisdiction as though the matter before it is another appeal, intended to afford the losing litigants yet another opportunity to re-state or re-argue their appeal.

— J.I. Okoro JSC. Citec v. Francis (SC.116/2011, 21 February 2014)

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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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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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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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INVOKING SECTION 22 OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT 1960 ON A MATTER OF LAW ONLY

I think the issue can now be examined by this Court by virtue of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 1960. It does not require any further evidence. The existence of the depositions is not in dispute. Indeed, the nature of the depositions is open to interpretation only. The exercise therefore becomes a matter of law alone: see Orji v Zaria Industries Ltd (1992) 1 NWLR (Part 216) 124 at 141 where a similar exercise carried out by the Court of Appeal when the trial court failed to do so was approved by this Court. See also National Bank of Nigeria Ltd v Guthrie (Nigeria) Ltd (1993) 3 NWLR (Part 284) 643 at 659-660; Katto v Central Bank of Nigeria (1999) 6 NWLR (Part 607) 390 at 407-408.

— Uwaifo, JSC. Bamaiyi v State (SC 292/2000, Supreme Court, 6th April 2001)

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SUPREME COURT SHOULD INFREQUENTLY USE ITS POWERS DONATED IN SECTION 22

[W]e decided to hear counsel on both sides on the point, even though it was a point which could have been properly raised under a respondents’ notice. This course is of course permitted by the Rules (see, for example, Order 8 rule 3(6) of the Supreme Court Rules, 1985). Besides, our consideration of the point is necessary for the determination of the real question in controversy in the appeal within the meaning of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act. Indeed it is envisaged by the subsidiary issue framed for the appellants in their brief. But let me emphasize that although such powers, no doubt, exist, they are such that this court does not want to make a habit of drawing therefrom constantly so that it does not give the wrong impression that it is taking sides in matters in controversy before it. A respondent’s counsel should always make his own decision and file a respondent’s notice whenever necessary, otherwise he may find that he cannot advance a certain line of argument. I am invoking the power in this case because it is necessary for my decision in the case and has been raised by the subsidiary issue and was fully argued.

— P. Nnaemeka-Agu JSC. Gbaniyi Osafile v. Paul Odi (SC 149/1987, 4th day of May 1990)

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