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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 HAS THE POWER TO OVERRULE ITSELF

Adegoke Motors Ltd v. Dr. Adesanya & Anor (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt. 109) 250 at 274; (1989) 5 SCNJ 80, inter alia, thus; “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 decision shall be over-ruled. This Court has the power to overrule itself (and has done so in the past) for it gladly accepts that it is far better to admit an error than to preserve an error.”

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

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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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 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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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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