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WHAT IS AN OMNIBUS GROUND?

Dictum

In plethora of decided cases, a ground of appeal that postulates that the decision of the trial Court is against the weight of evidence or cannot be supported by the weight of evidence is christened an Omnibus Ground. It also implies that there is no evidence which if accepted would support the finding of the trial Court.

— M.N. Oniyangi, JCA. Jos Met. Dev. v. Umealakei (2020) – CA/J/481/2019

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FAILURE TO CONSIDER COMPETENT GROUND OF APPEAL WILL RESULT IN LACK OF FAIR HEARING

In Union Bank of Nigeria Ltd v Nwaokolo (1995) 6 NWLR (Part 400) 127: “The appellants, as clearly depicted on the Record and in the brief of argument they filed, had identified three issues for the consideration of the court below. It is also on record that appellants argued fully all three issues and by implication, the eight grounds, to which they related. At the hearing of the appeal by the court below, it is common ground that the appellants adopted their brief of argument. However, without justification the majority judgment of that court now assailed before this Court, failed to pronounce on Grounds 4, 5 and 6 covered by appellants’ Issues 2 and 3 thereat, both of which have prompted Ground 2 in the appeal to this Court which incidentally, is covered by Issue 2 now under consideration. The judgment of the majority in the court below neither adverted to nor pronounced on these grounds (4, 5 and 6 respectively).” “Having considered the grounds (4, 5 and 6) which the court below failed to consider or pronounce upon, the next logical question to ask is, what are the consequences of such a failure? Failure to consider grounds of appeal, it is now established by decisions of this Court, amount to lack of fair hearing and a miscarriage of justice. (See Atano v AG Bendel (1988)2 NWLR (Part 75) 201). See also Kotoye v CBN (1989) 1 NWLR (Part 98) 419 where Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC held at page 448 of the Report thus:- ‘For the rule of fair hearing is not a technical doctrine. It is one of substance. The question is not whether a party entitled to be heard before deciding had in fact been given an opportunity of hearing. Once an appellate court comes to the conclusion that the party was entitled to be heard before a decision was reached but was not given the opportunity of a hearing the order/judgment thus entered is bound to be set aside.’ Fair hearing within the meaning of Section 33(1) of the 1979 Constitution means a trial conducted according to all legal rules formulated to ensure that justice is done to the parties vide Ntukidem v Oko (1986) 5 NWLR (Part 45) 909.”

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A SINGLE GROUND OF APPEAL CAN SUSTAIN AN APPEAL

It is further regular even if one only of the four grounds of appeal is found to involve a question of law, as that ground can on its own sustain the appeal. – Adekeye JSC. Nwaolisah v. Nwabufoh (2011)

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ISSUE NOT RELATED TO A GROUND OF APPEAL IS INCOMPETENT

Actually, one is at sea where this issue was lifted or distilled from as it does not have any relationship with any of the grounds of Appeal. It is trite that an issue for determination must flow from the ground of Appeal filed. Where an issue for determination in an appeal is not related to or based on ground of appeal filed, it is incompetent, valueless and must be ignored by the Court. See Akese v. Government Oyo State (2012) ALL FWLR (Pt. 634) Page 53, Madukolum v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR Page 34. Omo v. JSC Delta State (2000) 12 NWLR (Pt. 682) page 444.

— P.O. Elechi, JCA. Onoeyo v UBN (2014) – CA/C/66/2007

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RESPONDENT RESTRICTED TO GROUNDS OF APPEAL

It is settled law that where a respondent filed neither cross-appeal nor respondent’s notice, he does not have an unrestrained or unbridled freedom to raise issues for determination which have no bearing or relevance to the ground(s) of appeal filed. – Onnoghen JSC. Chami v. UBA (2010)

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OMNIBUS GROUND OF APPEAL REQUIRES LEAVE OF COURT

It is also trite that an Omnibus Ground of appeal is a general ground of fact complaining against the totality of the evidence adduced at the trial, see IREJU NWOKIDU AND 3 ORS V MARK OKANU AND ANOR (2010) 1 SC (Pt. 1) 136, ODOEMENA NWAIGWE AND ORS V NZE EDWIN OKERE (2008) 5-6 SC (Pt. 11) 93. Put in another way, an Omnibus Ground of Appeal is a complaint on evaluation of evidence which encompasses a complaint that the trial Court failed to properly evaluate the evidence before the Court, see AJIBONA V KOLAWOLE (1996) 12 SCNJ 270.

— M.N. Oniyangi, JCA. Jos Met. Dev. v. Umealakei (2020) – CA/J/481/2019

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ISSUE DERIVED FROM BOTH COMPETENT & INCOMPETENT GROUND

It is also settled law that an issue for determination can only be distilled from a competent ground or competent grounds of appeal. As observed earlier, in a situation where an issue for determination is derived from both competent and incompetent grounds, the issue is liable to be struck out for incompetence.

– Kekere-Ekun JSC. CITEC v. Francis (2021) – SC.720/2017 CITEC v. Francis (2021) – SC.720/2017

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