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A DECISION IS PRESUMED CORRECT UNTIL THE ERROR ON APPEAL IS CORRECTED

Dictum

Under our judicial system In this country, every party not satisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal has a constitutional right to appeal against the decision. See section 213 (2) and (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979. This right, under the Constitution, the Supreme Court Rules and the Supreme Court Act has to be exercised In the manner prescribed and within the time prescribed by the Act or extended by the Court. Where the right is not exercised, it is presumed that the parties have accepted the judgment given without question and are not aggrieved. Even where a party has appealed against a decision, the decision is presumed correct until the error complained of is established. See Odiase v. Agho (1972) 1 All N.L.R. See Folorunsho v. Adeyemi (1975) 1 N.M.L.R. 128; See Williams v. Johnson (1973) 2 WA.C.A 253. The presumption of correctness of the decision is stronger where there is no appeal against the decision.

— Obaseki, JSC. Foreign Finance Corp. v Lagos State Devt. & Pty. Corp. & Ors. (1991) – SC. 9/1988

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COURT OF APPEAL IS BOUND BY HER PREVIOUS JUDGEMENT

This is a hypothetical and an academic question but my answer to the question is in the affirmative, i.e., that the Court of Appeal is bound by its previous judgments. It is also bound by the judgments of the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal has not contended the contrary. Since the Court of Appeal sits in divisions, now there exists the danger of decisions delivered in one division conflicting with decisions in another division.

— Obaseki, JSC. Foreign Finance Corp. v Lagos State Devt. & Pty. Corp. & Ors. (1991) – SC. 9/1988

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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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A SEPARATE PANEL CANNOT TAKE JUDICIAL NOTICE OF NULLIFIED JUDGEMENT OF ANOTHER EARLIER PANEL

In argument, we were not referred to any decided case that appeared to have answered the basic problem in the above questions. I shall therefore attempt to answer them inferentially from some decided cases and from general principles. In the case of Craven V. Smith (1869) L.R. 4 Exch. 146 which was referred to in argument, it is clear from a careful reading of the report that what the court was held to be entitled to look at was the lawful record of the same panel of the court in the same case. It cannot, therefore, be regarded as supporting a case like this in which the question is whether a separate panel can take notice of the nullified judgment of an earlier panel. Even though the courts in England took judicial notice of the law of England as administered in the Court of Chancery (for which see e.g. Sims v. Marryatt 17 Q.B. 281), yet the practice of that court was earlier proved by oral evidence before it would be noticed. Hence in Dicas v. Brougham Ltd M. & Rob, 309, Lord Eldon had to be called as a witness to prove that practice. In Tucker V. Inman 4 M & Gr 1049 an equity counsel was called for the same purpose. In Place V. Potts 8 Exch. 705 at the invitation of counsel, the court made its own inquiry and informed itself as to the jurisdiction of the Court of Admiralty. See also Williams V. Lloyd 1 M & Gr. 671.

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

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COURT JUDGEMENT IS VALID UNTIL APPEALED AGAINST

The law is settled that the judgment of any competent Court, once perfected, and not appealed against, is valid and subsisting until it is set aside by competent Court or authority.

– Kekere-ekun JSC. Adegbanke v. Ojelabi (2021)

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STAGES IN JUDGEMENT WRITING AS STATED BY OPUTA JSC

Isaac Stephen v. The State (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt.46j 978 in which Oputa J.S.C. set out the stages to be followed in writing a good judgment, particularly in criminal cases. The four stages outlined by the learned Justice are as follows:- “Stage 1: If the plea of the accused is guilty no issues arise and no evidence is required. The trial court can proceed straight to judgment. But if the plea is not guilty (as it is bound to be in murder trials) then all the constituent elements of the offence charged are put in issue. And the onus lies heavily on the prosecution to prove the offence charged beyond reasonable doubt. Stage 2: Issues are thus joined, evidence is led in proof or disproof of each issue. At this stage, the duty of the trial court is merely to record the evidence led and observe the demeanor of the witnesses called by either party. Stage 3: This is the most important and crucial stage as it deals with the perception of facts, evaluation of facts belief or disbelief of witnesses and findings and conclusions based on the evidence accepted by the trial court. At this stage, the trial court will briefly summarize the case of either party. This does not mean producing verbatim the evidence of the prosecution witnesses and of defence witnesses one by one but it does mean using such evidence to tell a coherent and connected story. Having done this, the trial court will then decide which story to believe. Here it is important to emphasize that the over worked expressions “I believe” or “I do not believe” have no extrinsic magic power or potency. There is nothing wrong in believing one side and disbelieving the other if either the belief or disbelief is in consonance with the natural drift of the evidence and the probabilities which on the totality of what evidence it is natural to expect. Stage 4: Having exercised his prerogative to believe or disbelieve having made his findings of fact, the trial court will then draw the necessary inference or conclusion from the facts, would then discuss the applicable law against the background of the facts as found. Any judge that follows the above pattern or something similar to it will be of invaluable help to the Courts of Appeal as well as to parties to the appeal. One would only wish that our trial courts do approach the difficult task of writing judgments in some methodical and orderly fashion.”

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ONLY COURT OF LAW CAN PASS GUILT OF AN OFFENCE

A university student is a priceless asset and as he is on the threshold of useful service to the nation, we cannot afford to destroy him by stigmatising him with offences unless proved guilty before a Court. – Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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