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CAUTIOUSNESS IN APPLYING FOREIGN DECISIONS TO NIGERIAN SITUATIONS

Dictum

This Court had earlier on in Oruakpor Okokor v. The State (1967) NMLR 889 at 191 (per Idigbe, JSC) sounded the following note of warning:- “Trial Courts should be a little more cautious in the application of principles of English law in the face of specific provisions in our local statutes”. It is the duty of every Nigerian Court not only to uphold but to apply Nigerian Laws and rules of Court. As Obaseki, JSC rightly put it in Bendel State v. The Federation (1981) 10 SC 115:- “Just as Australian Courts apply Australian law and American Courts apply American law, be they State or Federal, Nigerian Courts are enjoined to by the Nigerian Constitution to follow Nigerian law…” Eso, JSC at pages 187-188 of the above Report stated that:- “Gone should be those days if ever they were, when the decisions of other Courts in any common law country are to be accepted in this country as precedents in the like of the Delphic Oracle.” See also Uyanne v. Asika (1975) 4 SC 233 and Esan v. Olowa (1974) 3 SC 125.”

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STARE DECISIS MAKES THE LAW CERTAIN

It is a policy of Courts to stand by established precedent for the certainty of the law. Agreed, no two cases have identical facts. Where, however, the facts of the decided case are substantially the same with the case at hand, the principle of stare decisis enjoins a Court to follow the earlier judicial decisions...

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CONDITION FOR WHICH A DECISION CAN BE USED AS A PRECEDENCE IN ANOTHER CASE

The principles laid down in the cases cited by the lower Court will be applicable to the instant case only where the accented facts of this matter are the same as the facts that induced the decision in those cases, due regard being had to the statutes and the Rules of Court governing the different...

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HOUSE OF LORD MAY EVEN DEPART FROM HIS PREVIOUS DECISION WHERE IT SEES FIT

As far back as 1898 the House of Lords finally agreed to be bound, and decided that it was bound, by its own decisions (see London Street Tramways v. London County Council (1898) A.C. 375). This has been the position for almost a century until 1966 when it had to qualify its stand by the...

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LACK OF A PRECEDENT ON A POINT CANNOT DENY JUSTICE

What is the argument on the other side? Only this: that no case has been found in which it has been done before. That argument does not appeal to me in the least. If we never do anything which has not been done before, we shall never get anywhere. The law will stand still whilst the rest of the world goes on: and that will be bad for both. – Packer v Packer [1954] P 15 at 22

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THERE ARE TIMES WHEN DEPARTURE FROM PRECEDENT IS IN THE INTEREST OF THE LAW

✓ In Bucknor Maclean v. Inlaks Limited (1980) 8-11 S.C. 1, the decisions overruled were clearly shown to become vehicles of injustice and this Court could not allow such state of affairs to continue and my late learned brother, Idigbe, J.S.C. fully gave expression to this when reading the lead judgment at page 25, he said. “I share the view of Lord Morris in Conway v. Rimmer that “though precedent is an indispensable foundation on which to decide what is the law, there may be times when a departure from precedent is in the interest of justice and the proper development of the law.” . . . I see no more justification for perpetuating recent error than for retaining any uncorrected error in much older decisions of this court.”

✓ In Golak Nath v. State of Punjab Air (1967) S.C. 1643, Subba R. CJ. (on behalf of himself, Shah, Sikri, Shelat and Vaidialingam, JJ. said at page 1670: “A final appeal is made to us that we shall not take a different view as the decision in Sankari Prasads case (1952) SCR 89-AIR 1951 S.C. 458 held the field for many years. While ordinarily this court will be reluctant to reverse its previous decisions, it is its duty in the constitutional field to correct itself as early for otherwise the future progress of the country and the happiness of the people will be at stake. As we are convinced that the decision in Sankari Prasad’s case 1952 SCR 89-(AIR 1951 S.C. 458) is wrong it is pre-eminently a typical case where the court should overrule it.

✓ Instances of this are to be found in the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. In Planny v. Ferguson (1896) 163 V.S. 537, the Court, in a segregation case, held that once, in public facilities accommodation was separate but equal it was constitutional to compel segregation of races in the use thereof. In Brown v. Topeka (1954) 347 V.S. 483, that is sixty years later, the court gave a decision in direct opposition to its view in Planny v. Ferguson. Times had changed and the court’s view was that attitude must change with them.

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THE RULE AND THE PRINCIPLE – STARE DECISIS

Per Oputa, JSC. in Chief Gani Fawehinmi v Nigerian Bar Association & ors. (No.2) (1989) 2 N.W.L.R. (Pt.105) 558 at page 650. “Our law is the law of the practitioner rather than the law of the philosopher. Decisions have drawn their inspiration and their strength from the very facts which framed the issues for decision....

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