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WRITING OF JUDGEMENT IS A MATTER OF STYLE OF THE JUDGE

Dictum

One major and central complaint of counsel is in respect of the way the learned trial Judge wrote his judgment vis-à-vis his evaluation of the totality of the evidence before him. While I agree that a judgment should have certain vital features and characteristics, I do not believe that a trial Judge must be regimented to a strictly laid down pattern beyond which he can only go on pain of punishment by way of setting his judgment aside on appeal. A trial Judge is not a child in a kindergarten class who must be led by the nose and the hands to write or recite a rhyme in unison or in union to the strictest details of the words and the letters and the punctuation marks. It should not be so. A trial Judge, the highly respected professional that he is should be given some freedom in the method of writing his own judgment. After all, writing of judgment is a matter of the personal style of the individual Judge. A Judge can develop his own “house” style and as long as that style is not outrageous, an appellate court cannot raise its eyebrows. Although it is neater to follow some generally set down pattern and methodology in the judgment writing process, an appellate court, in my humble view, is not competent to throw out a judgment of a trial Judge merely because it failed to follow the set down procedure. What an appellate court should be interested in, is whether from the entire judgment, justice has been done to the parties and in considering this package of justice, an appellate court should not be myopically interested in pockets of irregularities in the judgment but the totality of it all. I should perhaps go further to make the point that once the trial Judge has been able to bring out clearly the issues for determination, the case of the parties adequately summarised without any detestable embellishments, the argument of counsel and a careful and unbiased evaluation of the evidence, a judgment should not be subjected to an appellate attack to the extent that it must be thrown out.

— Tobi, JCA. Abraham v Olorunfunmi (1990) – CA/L/83/89

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MEANING OF OPINION IN A CASE/JUDGEMENT

I must not, I believe, confuse it with the meaning attached to the word in England where it refers to the speech or a whole judgment of a Law Lord delivered in the Rouse of Lords, or in the United States where it refers to the entire judgment of a superior court. It is in the context of the use of the word with reference to the United States and House of Lords’ decision that Black’s Law Dictionary (5th Edn.) at p.985 defined “opinion” as- The statement by a Judge or Court of the decision reached in regard to a cause tried or argued before them expounding the law as applied to the case and detailing the reasons upon which the judgment is based. This equates an “opinion” to the entire decision, which would include other parts of a judgment. But clearly the appellants are not saying that the Court of Appeal on the second hearing should have simply rubber-stamped and handed down again the previous decision of that court differently constituted. A more relevant definition of the word “opinion” in the sense it is used in this appeal is to be found in Words and Phrases Permanent Edition Vol. 29A at pp. 495-496 where “opinion” was defined thus: “An ‘opinion’ of the court is a statement by the court of its reasons for its findings, conclusions, or judgment. I adopt this, and only add that it also includes not only the reasons but also such findings or conclusions in such a judgment. So, an “opinion” is the reasoning and conclusion of a Judge on the issue or issues in contention before him. It is in this context that I shall consider the real points raised by this appeal.

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

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NATURE OF A CONCURRING JUDGEMENT

In Ziakade Akpobolokemi v Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho (2016) LPELR -40563(CA) thus: “A concurring judgment complements, edifies and adds to the leading judgment. It could at times be an improvement of the leading judgment when the justices add to it certain aspects which the writer of the leading judgment did not remember to deal with. In so far as a concurring judgment performs some or all the above functions, it has equal force with or as the leading judgment in so far as the principles of stare decisis are concerned.”

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JUDGEMENT OF COURT REMAINS VALID UNTIL SET ASIDE; COURT OF COORDINATE JURISDICTION CANNOT SET ASIDE COORDINATE COURT JUDGEMENT

It is now settled firstly, that a judgment or order of a court of competent jurisdiction, remain valid and effective, unless it is set aside by an appeal court or by the lower court itself if it found that it acted without jurisdiction. See the cases of Ogueze v. Ojiako (1962),SCNLR 112; (1962) 11 All NLR 58 at 61; Williams v. Sanusi (1961) All NLR 334 at 337; Odiase v. Agbo (1972) 1 All NLR (Pt.1) 170 at 176; Melifonwu v. Egbuyi (1982) 9 SC 145; Ajao v. Alao (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt. 45) 802 at 823 and many others. Secondly, in the absence of statutory authority or except where the judgment or order is a nullity, one Judge, has no power, to set aside or vary the order of another Judge of concurrent and co-ordinate jurisdiction. See the cases of Amanabu v. Okafor (1966) 1 All NLR 205 at 207; Okorodudu v. Ejuetami (1967) NMLR 282 at 283; Akporue & Anor v. Okei (1973) 12 SC 137; Uku v. Okumagba (1974)1 All NLR (Pt. 1)475; Wimpey(Nig.)Ltd. v. Balogun (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt. 28) 324 at 331 and Orthopaedic Hospital Management Board v. B. B. Apugo & Sons Ltd. (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt.129) 652 at 657 just to mention but a few. The rationale or reason for this, is because, it is now firmly established that there is only one High Court in a State.

— I.F. Ogbuagu, JSC. Witt Ltd. v Dale Power (2007) – SC.240/2000

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ONCE A COURT DELIVERS JUDGEMENT IT IS FUNCTUS OFFICIO; EXCEPTIONS THAT EXISTS

It is settled law that once a Court has delivered its decision on a matter, it becomes functus officio with regard to that matter. What this means is that a Court cannot sit as an appellate Court over its decision; once it has decided a matter, it ceases to be seized of it, and it cannot re-open it for any purpose whatsoever – see Ogboru V. Ibori (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 942) 319 Sun Insurance V. LMBS Ltd. (2005) 12 NWLR (Pt 940) 608, Ukachukwu V. Uba (2005) 18 NWLR (Pt 956) 1, Ubeng V. Usua (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt 994) 244 and Onyekweli V. INEC (2009) 6 NWLR (Pt 1136) 13. But the law also says that Courts of record have the inherent jurisdiction to set aside their Judgments/decision/order, in appropriate cases. When a. The Judgment is obtained by fraud or deceit either in the Court or of one or more of the Parties; b The Judgment is a nullity; c. It is obvious that the Court was misled into giving Judgment under a mistaken belief that the parties consented to it; d. The Judgment was given in the absence of jurisdiction; e. The proceedings adopted was such as to deprive the decision or Judgment of the character of a legitimate adjudication; or f. Where there is fundamental irregularity. See Alao V. ACB (2000) 9 NWLR (Pt 672) 264, Tomtec (Nig.) Ltd. V. FHA. (2009) 16 NWLR (Pt 1173) 358 SC, and Jev V. lyortom (supra).

— A.A. Augie, JCA. Elias v Ecobank (2016) – CA/L/873/2013

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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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MAGISTRATE COURT IS TO DELIVER JUDGEMENT WITHIN TIMEFRAME SET BY THE CONSTITUTION

In any case, section 294(1) of the Constitution is intended to ensure that a court delivers its judgment before the lapse of human memory. Those who preside over the Magistrates’ Court have no claim to better and longer memory than the Judges of Superior Courts, nor can there be a double standard of justice delivery, one in the lower and the other in the High Courts.

— Ngwuta JSC. The State v. Monsurat Lawal (SC. 80/2004, 15 Feb 2013)

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