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A COURT OF RECORDS HAS THE INHERENT POWERS TO SET ASIDE ITS DECISION WHERE

Dictum

The Supreme Court, and any other superior court of record, possesses inherent power to set aside its judgment in appropriate cases. Such circumstances include: a. When the judgment is obtained by fraud or deceit b. When the judgment is a nullity and a person affected by the order is entitled ex debito justitiae to have it set aside. c. When the court was misled into giving judgment under the mistaken belief that the parties had consented to it. d. Where judgment was given in the absence of jurisdiction. e. Where the procedure adopted was such as to deprive the decision or judgment of the character of a legitimate adjudication. See: Adegoke Motors Ltd. v. Adesanya (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt.109) 250; A.D.H. Ltd. v. Amalgamated Trustees Ltd, (2007) ALL FWLR (Pt.392) 1781 @ 1840 C – F; Alao v. A.C.B. Ltd. (2000) FWLR (Pt. 11) 1858; (2000) 9 NWLR (Pt.672) 264; Igwe v. Kalu (2002) 14 NWLR (Pt.787) 435; Madukolu v. Nkemdilim (1962) SCNLR 341; Obimonure v. Erinosho (1966) All NLR 245.

— K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun JSC. Citec v. Francis (SC.116/2011, 21 February 2014)

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ONLY MATTERS DECIDED IN THE COURT OF APPEAL CAN BE ENTERTAINED BY THE SUPREME COURT

By canvassing in this court matters decided in the trial Court and not adverted to in the Court of Appeal, without leave having been obtained to argue matters not argued in the Court of Appeal, such matters or issues are incompetently before this court and will be discountenanced. This Court is only competent to entertain appeals from the Court of Appeal and not from any court below the Court of Appeal. Ogoyi v. Umagba (1995) 9 NWLR (Pt.419) 283, 293; Oduntan v. General Oil Ltd. (1995) 4 NWLR (Pt. 387) 1, 101. Similarly the appellate court will deal only with matters duly canvassed at the trial court and appealed against. The issues of fair-hearing or breach of Sections 20,21 and 22(6) of the Chiefs Law never came into argument at the trial Court nor at the Court of Appeal, and no leave having been obtained to argue them as novel issues not raised in the courts below, are not competent for argument in this court. There was no pronouncement on these issues at the trial court, and no appeal was lodged on this failure in the Court of Appeal, it is therefore incompetent in this court for the appellants to start raising issues of lack of fair hearing, or breach of natural justice in the conduct of investigation into the selection of Baale of Isundunrin. In the absence of a decision on a point, and that point has been canvassed at the trial court, the course open to the party aggrieved is to appeal against that non-decision. Saude v. Abdullahi (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 116) 387, 433, 434; Adesokan v. Adetunji (1994) 5 NWLR (Pt.346) 540, 575, 576.

— Belgore, JSC. Ogundare v Ogunlowo (1997) – SC.25/1994

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APPELLATE COURT APPROACH TO REVIEWING CUSTOMARY COURT DECISION

This court in the case of Odofin v. Oni (2001) 1 SCNJ 130 handed down the principles to be adopted in interpreting the records of proceedings of a Native or Customary Courts. At page 149 of the report Achike JSC of blessed memory stated the principles thus:- “In order to appreciate the real effect of the lower courts strong criticism of the statement of the customary court that the respondent “failed to prove ownership of the land in dispute” it is important to stress that greater latitude and broader interpretation must be accorded to decision of customary courts as it is trite that the proceedings in the customary courts are not subject to the application of the Evidence Act. It is important that superior appellant courts in relation to matters relating to customary courts should focus their attention to the substance of the judgments or decisions in those courts rather than the forms. This is so because customary courts be they Area Courts or whatever name they are christened in our judicial jurisdiction are generally presided over by laymen without even rudimentary exposure to legal principles. An Appellate Court should in all circumstances strive to get the bottom of the decision of a customary court. This can only be achieved by considering the input of a decision of a customary court not in fragments or in isolation of excerpts thereof but must be read harmoniously as a whole in order to capture its imports. In other-words when greater latitude is accorded to the interpretation of the decisions of customary court it will be sufficient if such decisions are seen to accord with the view of person of good common sense and reason completely devoid of legalistic encrustments”.

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UNLESS DECISION IS PERVERSE, FINDING OF TRIAL COURT IS UPHELD

In Ebba vs. Ogodo (1984) 4 SC 372. The apex court had this to say:- “Unless the Court of Appeal finds that the decision is perverse, the Court of Appeal, whose opportunity is confined to printed record, is obliged to, and must accord to the finding of fact, by the trial court, the greatest weight and due respect.”

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MATTERS TO BE DECIDED AT SUBSTANTIVE CASE SHOULD NOT BE COMMENTED ON AT THE PRELIMINARY

The law is settled that a court should not comment or decide at preliminary stage matters or issues which are supposed to be decided in the substantive case. See NWANKWO & ORS V YAR’ADUA & ORS (2010) LPELR-2109 (SC) at page 71 paras B-F per Coomassie JSC; and OCHOLI ENOJO JAMES, SAN V INEC & ORS (2015) LPELR-24494 (SC) at pg.92 para G, per Okoro JSC.

— K.M. Akano, J. Edeoga v Mbah (2023) – EPT/EN/GOV/01/2023

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DECISION OF THE TRIAL COURT IS PERVERSE IF IT DOES NOT FLOW FROM THE ESTABLISHED FACTS

C.S.S Book Shop Ltd. v. The Regd. Trustees of Muslim Community in Rivers State (2006) 4 SCM 310 “A decision of a Court is perverse when it ignores the facts or evidence adduced and admitted before it and when considered as a whole amount to miscarriage of justice. In such a case, an appellate Court is bound to interfere with such a decision and to set it aside.”

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DECISION OF COURT SHOULD BE READ IN WHOLE

Now, it is abecedarian law that the decision of a Court is not to be read in convenient instalments. The decision must be read as a whole in order to appreciate the ratio decidendi in the case.

– Ogakwu, J.C.A Fijabi v. FBN (2021)

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