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BASIC CRITERIA & ATTRIBUTES OF FAIR HEARING

Dictum

There are certain basic criteria and attributes of fair hearing, some of which are relevant in this case. These include: (i) that the court shall hear both sides not only in the case but also in all material issues in the case before reaching a decision which may be prejudicial to any party in the case. See Sheldon v. Bromfield Justices (1964) 2 QB. 573, at p. 578. (ii) that the court or tribunal shall give equal treatment, opportunity and consideration to all concerned. See on this: Adigun v. A.-G., Oyo State and Ors. (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt. 53) 678. (iii) that the proceedings shall be held in public and all concerned shall have access to and be informed of such a place of public hearing and (iv) that having regard to all the circumstances, in every material decision in the case, justice must not only be done but must manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to have been done: R. v. Sussex Justices, ex-parte McCarthy (1924) 1KB 256, at p. 259; Deduwa and Ors. v. Okorodudu (1976) 10 SC 329.

– Ejiwunmi JSC. Unibiz v. Lyonnais (2003)

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AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM – WHERE OPPORTUNITY NOT USED

It is also the law that the fairness of a trial can be tested by the maxim audi alteram partem. Either party must be given an opportunity of being heard, but where a party refuses to take advantage of the opportunity to traverse specific allegations made against him, the averments will be deemed admitted and the defendant cannot complain of lack of fair hearing.

— O. Oyebiola, J. Yakubu v. FRCN (2016) – NIC/LA/673/2013

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FAIR HEARING APPLIES FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END OF THE TRIAL

From its tenor, therefore, the Court is required to conduct the trial or hearing of a case with all fairness to both parties to the suit and without bias or partiality in favour of, or against either party. That is the rationale for the prescription that a complaint of breach of fair hearing is usually against the Court or Tribunal, whether the parties before the Court were afforded equal opportunity to fully ventilate their grievance. Okanlawon v. State (2015) LPELR-24838 (SC) 52-53; E-B; Peters Pam and Anor v. Mohammed and Anor (2008) 5-6 SC (Pt. 1) 83; Deduwa v. Okorodudu (1976) NMLR 236, 246; 9-10 SC 329. Such is its primacy in our administration of justice that no decision can be regarded as valid unless the trial Judge or Court has heard both sides in the conflict. State v. Onagoruwa (1992) LPELR -3228 (SC) 33; D-E; Deduwa v. Okorodudu (supra). This test of fair hearing applies once a trial has commenced, after issue has been joined, State v. Onagoruwa (supra); nay more, it applies from the beginning to the end of the trial. Oyewole v. Akande and Anor (2009) LPELR-2879 (SC) 36-37; Deduwa v. Okorodudu (1976) 9 -10 SC 329; News Watch Comm. Ltd. v. Attah (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt. 993) 144; A. G Rivers State v. Ude (2006) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1008) 436.

— C.C. Nweze JSC. Onuwa Kalu v. The State (SC.474/2011, 13 Apr 2017)

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THE VERY ESSENCE OF FAIR HEARING UNDER SECTION 36 OF THE CONSTITUTION

The court below at pages 289 to 291 of the record in its judgment examined the appellants’ complaint as to absence of fair hearing and said: “It must be noted that the court must balance its discretionary power to grant or refuse an adjournment with its duty to endeavour to give an appellant the opportunity of obtaining substantial justice in the sense of his appeal being granted a fair hearing or even in the court below. This is because of the need that in granting the hearing on the merits no injustice is done to the other party where that opportunity or fair hearing existed in the court below, the appellate court has no business interfering. See University of Lagos v. Aigoro (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1) page 142; Ogundoyin v. Adeyemi (2001) 13 NWLR (pt. 730) 403 at 421. The very essence of fair hearing under Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 is a hearing which is fair to both parties to the suit; be they plaintiffs or defendants or prosecution or defence. The section does not contemplate a standard of justice which is biased in favour of one party and to the prejudice of the other. Rather, it imposes an ambidextrous standard of justice in which the court must be fair to both sides of the conflict. The hearing must be fair and in accordance with the twin pillars of justice, read as pillars of justice, namely audi alteran partem and nemo judex in causa sua per Onu J.S.C. at 421. See also Ndu v. State (1990) 7 NWLR (pt. 164) 550. A party who will be affected by result of a Judicial inquiry must be given an opportunity of being heard, Otherwise, the action taken following the inquiry will be Unconstitutional and illegal. See Ogundijun v. Adeyemi (2001) 13 NWLR (Pt. 730) 403 at 423 per Onu J.S.C. See also Atande v. State (1988) 3 NWLR (pt. 85) 681. In the light of the above I have no difficulty in Resolving this issue of fair hearing or not against the Appellant. Therefore this appeal lacking in merit is hereby dismissed.” I agree with the views expressed by the court below above. I am unable to hold that the appellants were denied their right to fair hearing as enshrined in section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.

— A. Oguntade, JSC. Pam & Anor. V Mohammed (2008) – SC.238/2007

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SHOULD NOT RECEIVE EVIDENCE FROM ONE SIDE BEHIND THE BACK OF ANOTHER

Lord Denning in KANDA V GOVERNMENT OF MALAYA [1962] AC 322, stated thus: “If the right to be heard is to be real right which is worth anything, it must carry with it a right of the accused man to know the case which is made against him. He must know what evidence has been given and what statement had been made affecting him, and then must be given an opportunity to correct or contradict them. This appears in all the cases from the celebrated judgments of Lord Loreburn, L.G in The Board of Education v Rice down to the decision of their Lordships’ Board in Ceylon University v Fernando. It follows therefore that the judge or whoever has to adjudicate must not hear evidence or receive representation from one side behind the back of the other. The Court will not inquire whether the evidence did work his prejudice. The risk of it is enough. No one who has lost a case will believe he has been fairly treated if the other side has had access to the judge without his knowing.”

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ONE CANNOT BE A WITNESS AND A JUDGE AT THE SAME TIME

This submission is incontestible. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor cannot be a witness and a judge all at the same time. The likelihood of bias is a necessary inference from the assumption of the two positions. – Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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FAIR HEARING BEING SO FUNDAMENTAL MUST BE RAISED IN GOOD FAITH

My lords, so fundamental and crucial is the right to fair hearing of the citizen before all Courts of the land that a failure by a Court to observe it in the litigation processes would invariably vitiate both the proceedings and judgment of such a Court, notwithstanding the merit or otherwise of the cases of the parties or indeed how meticulous the proceedings were conducted or even how sound the resultant judgment was on the merit, they are all a nullity. However, it must be pointed out at once that the issue of fair hearing must be raised with all seriousness and in good faith. It must never be raised in bad faith or merely intended as a red herring to raise a storm in a teacup without any factual basis. See Agbogu V. Adiche (2003) 2 NWLR (Pt. 805) 509@ p. 531. See also Agbapuonwu V. Agbapuonwu (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt. 165) 33 @p.40; Adegbesin V. The State (2014) 9 NWLR (pt. 1413) 609 @pp. 641 – 642.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. UBA v. Ashimina (2018) – CA/L/1033/2014

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