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WHERE RULES OF COURT MUST BE COMPLIED WITH

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Rules of Court are purposely made to be obeyed and followed, therefore all procedure set by the rules must be complied with. However, where in the course of following the rules some errors or mistakes are committed or omitted, such error or mistakes would not out rightly render the proceedings a nullity. Depending on the circumstance of each particular case, where the noncompliance has occasioned miscarriage of justice or where the right of the adverse party will be affected, the Court shall not treat the non-compliance as a mere irregularity and as such mandate the rules to be followed or nullify the proceedings as the case may be. But in a situation where it has not occasioned miscarriage of justice it shall be treated as a mere irregularity and should not vitiate the proceedings. This is because all rules of Court are made in aid of justice and that being so, the interest of justice will have to be given priority over any rule, compliance of which will lead to outright injustice. The Rules are not sine quo non in the determination of a case and therefore not immutable.

– Abba Aji JCA. Usman v. Tamadena (2015) – CA/K/95/2009

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LAWS ARE MADE TO BE OBEYED

In the interpretation of the above provision, it must be borne in mind that prima facie the Laws are made to be obeyed. All persons, authorities, agencies of government and government must obey the laws of the land. It is the degree of obedience accorded to the laws of the land that distinguishes the state of development in a given country. When laws are not obeyed, anarchy sets in.

— Oguntade, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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CRIMINAL TRIAL IS FROM ARRAIGNMENT TO CONVICTION; THE FINAL ADDRESS IS PART OF THE TRIAL

I make haste to state here that the criminal trial of every accused person begins with arraignment and culminates with conviction and sentence in judgment. In the precedent relied upon by the Respondent’s learned Counsel, STATE v. LAWAL (2013) 7 NWLR (FT. 1354) AT PP.586, Mohammad, JSC, defined criminal trial to mean “the whole of the proceedings including the judgment and sentence” This therefore has been the constitutionally inalienable right enjoyed by every accused person. It is the Respondent’s constitutional right to be heard through his written/oral address or Counsel’s address on his behalf. Section 294(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) contemplated written address or Counsel’s address to be part of the criminal trial or proceedings, when it provides that: Section 294 (1) Every Court established under this Constitution shall deliver its decision in writing not later than ninety days after the conclusion of evidence and final addresses and furnish all parties to the cause or matter determined with duly authenticated copies of the decision within seven days of the delivery thereof. Per NNAEMEKA-AGU, JSC in NDU v. STATE (1990) LPELR-1975(SC) (P. 45, PARAS. A-C) relying on Obodo v. Olomu and Anor (1987) 3 N.W.L.R. (Pt.59) 111, at p. 123-124, re-iterated this point thus: …this Court has stated before, the addresses of Counsel are an essential part of the trial. That can be the only possible inference from the fact that the constitution itself used the conclusion of addresses as a very important determinant of the time limit for delivery of judgments under Section 258 of the Constitution of 1979. See also STATE v. LAWAL (2013) 7 NWLR (PT. 1354) AT PP.585, wherein this Honourable Court held that “addresses by parties or their Counsel are an integral part of the hearing or trial of an accused person.”

— U.M. Abba Aji, JSC. State v. Andrew Yanga (SC.712/2018, 15 Jan 2021)

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BREACH OF PROCEDURE IS MERE IRREGULARITY

Samuel Osigwe v. PSPLS Management Consortium Ltd & Ors. (2009) 3 NWLR 378 SC: “Breach of a rule of practice and procedure does not render the proceedings a nullity but merely an irregularity.”

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DISTINCTION BETWEEN SUBSTANTIVE & PROCEDURAL LAW

“24, Mr, Onuora rightly set out the distinction between substantive and procedural laws when he said that ‘as a general rule, laws which fix duties, establish rights and responsibilities among and for persons natural or otherwise are substantive laws in character while those which merely prescribe the manner in which such rights and responsibilities may be exercised and enforced in a Court are procedural law.’”

— Ukor v Laleye (2005) – ECW/CCJ/APP/01/04

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RULES OF COURT ARE MADE FOR COURT’S BENEFIT, NOT OTHERWISE

The Rules of Court made to regulate the practice and procedure in the Supreme Court and indeed Rules made for the regulation of practice and procedure in the various courts in Nigeria have not been made for or to lie only in the statute books. They are made for the benefit of courts on the one hand and the legal practitioners and litigants in our courts on the other hand being guidelines for steps to be taken in any proceeding they must be followed.

– Obaseki, JSC. Ekpan v. Agunu (1986)

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MUST USE OF A PARTICULAR COMMENCEMENT PROCEDURE

This is an out-flow of the elementary principle of law that where a specific procedure is provided for commencing an action, a party seeking to use the procedure must bring his case within those covered by that procedure otherwise his action will be incompetent.

– Abiru, JCA. Okoli v. Gaya (2014)

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