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WRONG PROCEDURE ROBS THE COURT OF JURISDICTION

Dictum

In essence therefore, initiating an action on a wrong procedure robs the court of its jurisdiction to adjudicate over such matter. The issue of jurisdiction of a court to adjudicate over a matter before it is a threshold issue that goes to the root or foundation of adjudication. This stems from the trite position of the law, that once it is discovered that a court has no jurisdiction to adjudicate over a matter, any decision/proceedings emanating from such a court regarding that matter, no matter how well rendered or conducted, is a nullity.

– Bage JCA. Ayetobi v. Taiwo (2014)

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RULES OF COURT MUST BE OBEYED

OFORKIRE VS. MADUIKE ORS. (2003) LPELR – 2269 (SC) held that: “It is elementary law that rules of Court must be obeyed or complied with, as they are not made for fun.”

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PROCEDURE FOR FILING A CLAIM MUST BE FOLLOWED

Where such statutory or constitutional provision is made for the filing of a claim, the procedure so laid down ought to be followed in making the claim and no other one. See Gbadamosi Lahan v. Attorney-General of Western Nigeria (1963) 2 SCNLR 47; (1963) 1 All NLR 226.

— Iguh JSC. Onuoha v State (1998) – SC. 24/1996

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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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WHERE A STATUTE HAS PROVIDED A PROCEDURE SUCH PROCEDURE MUST BE FOLLOWED

In Adejobi v. State (2011) 6 MJSC (Pt 1) 101 @ 119 it was held that: “It is trite that a question of law and jurisdiction can be raised at any time in the proceedings, but it is not a free for all procedure. Where a statute under which an issue or matter is to be raised has provided a procedure for raising such issues or matter, that procedure, and no other must be followed.”

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IRREGULARITY MUST BE SUBSTANTIAL TO WARRANT PROCEEDING NULL

Gabriel Madukolu and Ors v. Johnson Nkemdilim (1962) 1 All NLR 587 at 596, Bairamian F.J., said: “If the court is competent, the proceedings are not a nullity; but they may be attacked on the ground of irregularity in the conduct of the trial; the argument will be that the irregularity was so grave as to affect the fairness of the trial and the soundness of the adjudication. It may turn out that the party complaining was to blame, or had acquiesced in the irregularity… A defect in procedure is not always fatal …”

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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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