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ARGUMENT IN SUPPORT OF ISSUES MUST BE TRACED TO THE ISSUES

Dictum

It must be emphasised that issues for determination in an appeal must arise from the grounds of appeal filed by the appellant. Equally arising from this statement of the law is that the arguments in support of the issues must be traced to the issues and the grounds of appeal from which such issues were framed. I say no more.

— Mohammed, JSC. C.S.S. Bookshops v. Muslim Community & Ors. (2006) – SC.307/2001

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FAILURE TO APPEAL FOR ISSUES NOT HEARD BY THE LOWER COURT

It is obvious that the respondent has not appealed against the failure of the court below to consider other issues raised before it. The inference that can rightly be made from that position is that they took a chance that the judgment of the court below would be affirmed by this court. Having regard to what I have said above on the only issue considered by the court below, it is manifest that the risk taken by the respondent has not enured in its favour. On the other hand, as already observed, the trial court had found for the plaintiff/appellant in respect of all his claims against the respondent. As those findings remained undisturbed, it would not in my humble view, be right in the circumstances to now deny the appellant of the fruits of his success by remitting the case to the court below for the consideration of the issues that the court deliberately left unconsidered in its judgment. The justice of the case demands that the appellant should be granted all his claims as found by the trial court. And it is hereby granted accordingly.

— Ejiwunmi JSC. Melwani V. Five Star Industries Limited (SC.15/1994, 25 January 2002)

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ISSUES RAISED BUT NOT RESPONDED TO IS ADMITTED

The consequence of failing to respond to the adversary’s submissions on pivotal issues was amply stated by this Court, in Alhaji M. K. Gujba V. First Bank Of Nigeria Plc & Anor (2011) LPELR 8971 (CA) per Obande Ogbuinya JCA at Pages 42-43 Para B-A, where His Lordship held: “The learned Counsel for the Respondents, in his infinite wisdom, did not respond to the submissions of the learned counsel for the Appellant on this point. In law, that is a costly failure. The telling effect of that failure to answer to the Appellant’s counsel’s submissions is that the Respondents are deemed to have admitted them. On this principle of law, I draw on the case of NWANKWO v. YAR’ADUA (2010) 12 NWLR (pt.1209) 518 at 586, where Onnoghen, JSC, held:- ‘It is clear from the issues formulated and argued by learned senior counsel for the 1st and 2nd Respondents in their brief of argument do not include argument on appellant’s said issue No. 8. It is settled law that where an opponent fails or neglects to counter any argument or issue validly raised in the brief of argument or during oral presentation, the issue not so contested is deemed conceded by the defaulting party. I therefore, in the circumstance, hold that the 1st and 2nd Respondents by not reacting to the issue in question, have conceded the issue as formulatedand argued by the learned counsel for the Appellant.’ It follows that the Respondents played into the hands of the Appellant, on this issue, when they failed to join issues with the arguments of the Appellant therein. This omission, whether intention or inadvertent, makes the appellant hold an ace on this issue.”

— O. Adefope-Okojie, JCA. Kanu v FRN (2022) – CA/ABJ/CR/625/2022

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AN ISSUE IS A POINT IN DISPUTE BETWEEN TWO PARTIES – COURT CAN REFORMULATE ISSUE

What then is “an issue”? An issue is a point in dispute between two or more parties. In an appeal, it may take the form of a separate and discrete question of law or fact or a combination of both. In other words, an issue is a point that has arisen in the pleadings of the parties which forms the basis of the dispute or litigation which requires resolution by a trial court. See Black’s Law Dictionary. Ninth (9) Edition, page 907, Metal Construction (WA) Ltd. V. Milgliore & Ors (Vice Versa) (1990) 1 NWLR (pt.126) 299; (1990) 2 SCNJ 20; Egbe V. Alhaji & 2 ors (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt.128) 546 (1990) 3 SCNJ 41, Ishola V. Ajiboye (1998) NWLR (Pt.532) 91. However, where a court finds that there is proliferation of issues or the issues formulated or posed for determination are clumsy or not clear, a court is empowered to reformulate issues in an appeal. This is to give the issue or issues distilled by a party or the parties precision and clarity. See; Okoro V. The State (1988) 12 SC 191, (1988) 12 SCNJ 1911 Latinde & Anor V. Bella Lajunfin (1989) 5 SC 59, (1989) 5 SCNJ 59, Awojugbagbe Light Industries Ltd. V. P. N. Chinukwe & Anor (1995) 4 NWLR (pt.390) 379, (1995) 4 SCNJ 162, Lebile V. The Registered Trustees of Cherubim & Seraphin Church of Zion of Nigeria, Ugola & 3 Ors (2003) 2 SCM 39, (2003) 1 SCNJ 463.

— O. Ariwoola, JSC. African Intl. Bank Ltd. v Integrated Dimensional System (2012) – SC.278/2002

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WHEN IS AN ISSUE ON APPEAL EXTRANEOUS

An issue is said to be extraneous, when it was neither raised nor canvassed at the trial court on pleadings and in the evidence of the parties.

– Ogbuagu JSC. Ogundele v. Agiri (2009) – SC

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FEWER ISSUES ARE ENCOURAGED TO BE RAISED BY PARTIES

Counsel appeared to have worked on the misapprehension that every possible slip raises an issue. The result is that he framed too many issues -nine, for six grounds of appeal. This appears to be a reversal of the usual practice whereby one or two or more grounds raise an issue one ground can never properly raise more than one issue. It must, however, be borne in mind that an “issue” in an appeal must be a proposition of law or fact so cogent, weighty and compelling that a decision on it in favour of a party to the appeal will entitle him to the judgment of the court. This is why, apart from the fact that multiplicity of issues tends to reduce most of them to trifles, experience shows that most appeals are won on a few cogent and substantial issues, well-framed, researched and presented rather than on numerous trifling slips.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Ugo v Obiekwe (1989) – SC.207/1985

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PROLIFERATION OF ISSUES IS DEPLORABLE

Undoubtedly, the Appellants have disposed themselves to the unpardonable practice of proliferation of issues. Proliferation of issues is highly deplorable. In drafting grounds of appeal and issues for determination, counsel must at all times avoid proliferation of issues and this is done by distilling a sole issue from one or more grounds of appeal, thereby avoiding multiplicity of issues from the same ground.

– Saulawa, JSC. Oko v. Ebonyi State (2021)

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