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A JUDGEMENT IN A CIVIL CASE IS MADE UP OF FIVE DISTINCT PARTS

Dictum

I belief it is useful to begin my consideration of the main issue for determination in this appeal by advising myself that a judgment in a civil case is made up more or less of five distinct parts. These are the introduction of the issue in controversy between the parties, the cases of either side to the litigation as revealed on the pleadings, the evidence called by either side in support of its case, the resolution of the issues of fact and of law put forward by each party, and the court’s conclusions based on the resolution of the issues and the claims before the Court.

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

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PAYMENT OF JUDGEMENT ENTERED IN FOREIGN CURRENCY

The present practice is that where an award is made in foreign currency, the judgment will be for the payment of the amount in foreign currency or its naira equivalent converted for the purposes of the enforcement of the judgment at the time of the payment.

— Ayoola, JSC. Saeby v. Olaogun (1999) – SC.261/1993

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ERROR CANNOT SET-ASIDE JUDGEMENT

An error of the lower court will not result in appeal being allowed unless it is substantial and miscarriage of justice is occasioned thereby.

– Ogunwumiju JCA. NBC v. Olarewaju (2006) – CA/IL/43/2004

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CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE COURT MAY SET ASIDE ITS OWN JUDGEMENT

Circumstances in which a court may invoke its inherent power to set aside its judgment or order are:- (1) To correct any clerical error or mistakes arising from accidental slip or omission or to vary the judgment or order so as to give effect to its meaning or intention under the Rules of Court Order 5 rule 3 Court of Appeal Rules, 1981. (2) Until a court pronounces a judgment on merit or by consent of the parties a court retains the power to set aside its default judgment obtained in the absence of one of the parties or default of pleadings – The power to do so is however discretionary and has to be exercised judiciously. Mohammed v. Husseini (1998) 14 NWLR (Pt.584) 130; paragraphs D-E. Williams v. Hope Rising Voluntary Funds Society (1982) 1-2 SC 145; (3) Where a judgment has been obtained as a result of fraud practiced by one of the parties Ojiaka v. Ogueze(1962) 1 SCNLR 112, (1962) 1 All NLR 58; Ekerete v. Eke (1925) 6 NLR 118; Craig v. Kanseen (1943) K.B. 256; Agunbiade v. Okunoga (1961) 1 All NLR 110. (4) Where a judgment is a nullity, due to a fundamental defect which goes to the issue of jurisdiction and competence of the court. J. A. Folorunso v. Shaloub (1994) 3 NWLR (Pt.333) 413 at 422, paragraphs G-H; Skenconsult (Nig.) Ltd. Ukey (1981) 1 SC 6.

— O.O. Adekeye, JCA. Omotunde v. Omotunde (2000) – CA/I/M.57/2000

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BECAUSE A JUDGEMENT IS A NULLITY DOES NOT MEAN IT IS NON-EXISTENT

I must observe that in trying to answer these important questions, learned counsel for the respondents tried to take umbrage under the statement of Lord Denning in Macfoy v. United African Co. Ltd. (1961) 3 W.L.R. 1405 at p.1409, P.C. where he said: Any purported exercise of any function being without any legal or Constitutional authority was null and void and of no effect. . .” If an act is void, then it is in law a nullity. It is not only bad but incurably bad. There is no need for an order of the court to set it aside. It is automatically null and void without much ado, though it is sometimes convenient to have the court declare it to be so. And every proceeding, which is founded on it, is also bad and incurably bad. You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse. With respects to the learned counsel for the respondents, it appears to me that the very eminent Lord Justice’s aim in this much misquoted and misapplied dictum was again talking of the effect in law of a judgment being declared void. It is “automatically null and void without more ado” and every proceeding which is founded on it is also bad and incurably bad.” His Lordship did not say that it ceases to exist as a fact. I agree with Chief Williams that there is a world of difference between saying that a judgment has no legal effect or consequences and saying that it is non-existent; between giving a judgment which is a nullity because, say, it was given without jurisdiction and saying that no judgment was given at all. The learned Justice of Appeal was, therefore, in error when he held that because the previous judgment of the Court of Appeal had been nullified by this court-for having been delivered more than three months of the conclusion of the final addresses, it follows that the judgment was non-existent. In my view, although, by its being declared a nullity, the judgment had no more any legal effect, it continued to exist de facto.

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

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OUT OF NOTHING, NOTHING CAN ARISE; NOTHING CAN COME FORTH OF A JUDGEMENT THAT IS A NULLITY

The aforesaid attempt by respondents’ counsel to influence this court, consisting of a different panel of Justices, by the previous but nullified conclusions-even though described as opinions-of its predecessors in respect of the same appeal is, in my view, a novel and an improper one. As rightly submitted by learned Counsel for the appellants a judgment set aside as a nullity ceases to have any effect whatsoever, for it is non-existent and as if it had never been given. I therefore agree with the conclusion of appellants’ counsel that such judgment “cannot constitute an opinion of the court that gave it, for out of nothing, nothing can arise.” Reference was specially made to the cases of Akpene v. Barclays Bank (1977)1 S.C. 47 at 59 where the Supreme Court adopted the view of Lord Denning in Macfoy v. United African Company Ltd. (1961) 3 W.L.R. (P.C.) 1405 at 1409, to the effect that: “You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse.”

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

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DISSENTING JUDGEMENT IS NOT BINDING

Learned counsel for the Appellant has urged this Court to adopt the dissenting view of Agbaje JSC as it is more in accord with the law that creates trust. In alternative learned counsel invited this Court to look further into this matter and if necessary depart from the relevant holding, especially the dictum of Olatawura JSC. I wish to state clearly that the views expressed by my lord Agbaje JSC was raised in a dissenting judgment. A dissenting judgment, however powerful, learned and articulate is not the judgment of the Court and therefore not binding. The judgment of the Court is the majority judgment which is binding. See Orugbo v Una (2002) 16 NWLR (Pt. 792) 175 at 208 Paragraphs B-C. The law under which the case of Ogunola & Ors v Eiyekole (supra) was decided, that is the Land Use Act 1978, has not been repealed or altered. It is still the extant law that regulates land administration in this country. The call therefore on this Court to depart from the said decision is without merit.

— P.A. Galumje, JSC. Huebner v Aeronautical Ind. Eng. (2017) – SC.198/2006

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