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DOCUMENTS SHOULD BE GIVEN THEIR ORDINARY MEANING

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See SOLICITOR-GENERAL, WESTERN NIGERIA v. ADEBONOJO (1971) 1 All NLR 1978 – what happened in the case was that the 1st respondent was granted a scholarship by the Government of Western State of Nigeria. As a result he and his guarantors executed a bond in which he undertook that upon passing the relevant examinations he would serve the Government for a period of five years in any capacity considered appropriate by the Government. The respondent passed the relevant examination and returned to Nigeria but he was not given the necessary certificate because he had not spent the stipulated period on the course. The Government gave him an appointment which, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, was considered appropriate. He was not satisfied. He resigned the appointment before the expiration of five years. The Government consequently sued him and his guarantors for the refund of the amount spent on him pursuant to the grant of the scholarship.

The learned trial Judge found that the 1st respondent committed a breach of the bond by resigning his appointment before the expiration of the period stipulated in the agreement and entered judgment for the Government. On appeal to the then Western State Court of Appeal by the respondents, the court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of the learned trial Judge. The Western State Court of Appeal held, inter alia, that to be appropriate, any capacity in which the 1st respondent was called upon to serve by virtue of the relevant clause of the agreement must be reasonable. Dissatisfied with the judgment, the Government appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment of the Western State Court of Appeal, and restored the judgment of the learned trial Judge. In allowing the appeal, the Supreme Court stated, inter alia, as follows: “Now we have already set out the provisions of clause 4(a) of exhibit C and in the events which had happened it is easy to see why a consideration of that clause has become a matter of paramount relevance. To us, this clause clearly stipulates that after qualification the first defendant could be offered employment by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Western State in a capacity considered suitable by the regional government. In his consideration of that clause and his application of it to the facts of this case, Delumo, J. had held that according to the provision of the clause it is the regional government that would decide the capacity which is appropriate. On the other hand, the Western State Court of Appeal took the view that the word ”reasonable” and (the ”concept of reasonableness”) should be imported into the contracts of the parties for the purpose of construction. Neither of the parties to Exhibit C (and Exhibit H) contemplated that the word should be included in their agreement and throughout Exhibit C (and Exhibit H) that word was not even breathed. It is obvious from the confusion that arose in the Western State Court of Appeal itself that the court was in difficulty to ascertain the real position into which the word ‘reasonable’ could or should be fixed. It is the alphabet of his study to any lawyer that in the construction of documents the words must first be given their simple and ordinary meaning and that under no circumstances may new or additional words be imported into the text unless the documents would be by the absence of that which is imported impossible to understand.”

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PROVISION OF STATUTES ARE TO BE TAKEN AS A WHOLE

The position of the law is that when interpreting statutes, the provisions of the statute are to be taken as a whole and the review of any section therein cannot be severed from other sections. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JCA. ITV v. Edo Internal Revenue (2014) – CA/B/20/2013 Was this dictum helpful? Yes 0 No 0...

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INTERPRETATION OF THE WORD “SHALL”

I return to section 146(1) of the Electoral Act. The third word in the section is “shall”. It is an obligatory and mandatory word conveying a command and compulsion. It is peremptory in nature and content. It is a word of authority imposing a duty mostly on an unnamed person. Courts of law mostly interpret...

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INTERPRETATION: SPECIFIC THINGS MENTIONED

It is note worthy that where a Statute mentions specific things, those things not mentioned are not intended to be included. – Nwaoma Uwa, JCA. NOGA v. NICON (2007) Was this dictum helpful? Yes 0 No 0...

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DEFINITION OF “SECONDMENT”

The term secondment is mostly used in the public service which is not the case in the instant suit. That notwithstanding, the Black’s Law Dictionary at page 1555 defines ‘secondment’ as “a period of time that a worker spends away from his or her usual job”. The court in the case of ALHAJI HAMZA DALHATU v. ATTORNEY GENERAL, KATSINA STATE & ORS (2007) LPELR-8460(CA) also reckoned the meaning of secondment as used in the Public service rules when it stated that: “SECTION 6 – TRANSFERS AND SECONDMENT 02601 – TRANSFER is the permanent release of an officer from one service to another or from one class to another within the same service. SECONDEMENT means the temporary release of an officer to the service of another Government or Body for a specified period.” Per ARIWOOLA, J.C.A. (P.34, paras. A-B).

— Z.M. Bashir, J. Gbaraka v Zenith Securities & Anor. (2020) – NICN/PHC/45/2018

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MARGINAL NOTES IN STATUTES

Marginal notes, otherwise known as side notes or section heads are short notations appearing above or beside each section of a statute or regulation. While marginal notes are not part of a statute, they provide an interpretative aid to Courts and are useful in considering the purpose of a section and the mischief at which...

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