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AN APPELLATE COURT IS ONLY INTERESTED IN THE CORRECTNESS OF THE DECISION, NOT THE REASON BY WHICH IT WAS REACHED

Dictum

It is apposite to state here that it has been established by sufficient authority that an appellate Court is only interested in the correctness of a judgment/ruling or conclusion reached and not with the correctness of the reason by which the Court arrived at its decision, unless it has occasioned a miscarriage of justice, Taiwo and Ors v Sowemimo [1982] 5 SC 60, 74-75; Ibuluya v Dikibo [2011] 3 WRN 1, 23; Agbeje v Ajibola [2002] 2 NWLR (pt. 750) 127; Hillary Farms Ltd. v MV Mahtra[2007] 14 NWLR (pt. 1054) 210.

— C.C. Nweze, JSC. Uzoho v NCP (SC.141/2007, Friday, May 13, 2022)

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APPELLATE COURT IS CONCERNED MORE WITH THE DECISION REACHED, THAN REASON FOR DECISION

As rightly, submitted by learned counsel for the respondent, an appellate Court is more concerned with whether the decision reached by the lower Court is correct and not necessarily whether a wrong reason was given for reaching a right decision. See: Arisa Vs The State (1988) 3 NWLR (Pt. 83) 386; Ojengbede vs Esan & Anor. (2001) 18 NWLR (Pt. 746) 771. If the decision is right, it will be upheld notwithstanding the fact that a wrong reason was given for the decision. It is only where the misdirection has caused the Court to come to a wrong decision that it would be material. See: Oladele & Ors Vs Aromolaran II & Ors. (1996) 6 NWLR (Pt.453) 180.

— K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, JSC. MTN v. Corporate (2019) – SC.674/2014

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COURT BASES HER DECISION ON FACTS ONLY

The tribunal or court must base its conclusion on the facts before it and nothing but the facts. The tribunal or court cannot introduce facts not before it. The tribunal or court must confine itself to the facts before it. It has no jurisdiction to read into the Record facts not presented by the parties. It cannot also read out of the record facts presented by the parties. It seems I am repeating myself. Repetition is, at times, useful for emphasis and so be it.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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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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CONFLICT BETWEEN SUPREME COURT DECISION AND THAT OF COURT OF APPEAL, SUPREME COURT WILL PREVAIL

Under the rules of precedent or stare decisis it is the judgment of the Supreme Court as the final appellate court that should be binding on the Court of Appeal. Thus where there is a conflict between the Supreme Court’s decision and that of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court’s decision should prevail and be binding on the Court of Appeal or any other court, notwithstanding any error in the former.

— Adeyemo v. Ida & Ors. (1998) – CA/1/6/92

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IT IS PRINCIPLE OF A DECISION THAT APPLIES

I shall now consider what really was decided in these two cases and see if the principles of those decisions (not the dicta) apply to the facts and circumstances of the case now on appeal.

– Oputa, JSC. Green v. Green (1987)

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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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