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COURT DEAL WITH LAW AS IT IS

Dictum

The duty of the court is not to deal with the law as it ought to be but as it is. – Onnoghen, J.S.C. GEC v. DUKE (2007)

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CONSTRUCTION OF STATUTE SHOULD NOT DEFEAT ITS’ INTENT

Generally, where the words of a statute are plain, clear and unambiguous, the Court should give them their literal meaning. So the golden or literal rule of interpretation of statutes or even a Constitution, is to give the words used therein, their ordinary and plain meaning without importation. The Court should construe the words of a statute, to save it and so avoid making a mockery of the statute, to defeat its manifest intent.

– Yahaya, JCA. Petroleum Resources v. SPDC (2021)

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WHERE PROVISIONS ARE UNAMBIGUOUS, MUST BE GIVEN ORDINARY MEANING

ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION VS. THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER (1999) 9 N.W.L.R. (PART. 618), page 187 wherein IGU, JSC at page 264, paragraph G – H of the report had this to say – : “…And where the words used or the provision of any section the law are clear and unambiguous, they must be given their ordinary meaning unless, of course, this would lead to absurdity or be in conflict with other provisions of the law.”

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COURT SHOULD AVOID CONSTRUCTION THAT WILL CAUSE CHAOS

In Okotie Eboh v. Manager (supra) Pats-Acholonu, JSC (of blessed memory) pronounced as follows: ‘An interpretation that seeks to emasculate should be avoided as it would do disservice to the citizenry and confine everyone into a legal container or labyrinth from which this court may not easily extricate itself ——– I believe that though justice is blind, it is nevertheless rooted in the nature of society and therefore the court should avoid constructions that could cause chaos and disenchantment. Justice must be applied in a way that it embraces and optimizes social engineering that is for the welfare of society. Enlightened society should expect a highly refined and civilized justice that reflects the tune of the time.’

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“MAY” MEANS MANDATORY WHERE A DUTY IS IMPOSED

UDE V. NWARA & ANOR. (1993) JELR 43303 (SC): “I agree with Chief Umeadi that although section 28(1) of the Law states that the lessor “may enter a suit”, “may” should be construed as mandatory i.e. as meaning “shall” or “must”. I believe that it is now the invariable practice of the courts to interpret “may” as mandatory whenever it is used to impose a duty upon a public functionary the benefit of which enures to a private citizen.”

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LEAN TO BROADER INTERPRETATION IN STATUTES; INTERPRETATION SHOULD NOT DEFEAT PURPOSE OF STATUTE

In Rabiu v. State (1980) 8-11 SC. 130 at 148-149; Udoma JSC opined: In my view, this Court should whenever possible, and in response to the demands of justice, lean to the broader interpretation; unless there is something in the text or in the rest of the Constitution to indicate that the narrower interpretation will best carry out the objects and purposes of the Constitution…I do not conceive it to be the duty of this Court to construe any of the provisions of the Constitution as to defeat the obvious ends the Constitution was designed to serve where another construction equally in accord and consistent with the words and sense of such provisions will serve to enforce and protect such ends.”

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