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COURT SHOULD PROVIDE REMEDY WHERE THERE IS A RIGHT

Dictum

Both lower courts agreed that the factual situation in the transaction between the parties reveals a right vested in the appellant. The law is that the court must provide a remedy where the plaintiff has established a right. The court is also to look into the substance of an action and not the form. The appellant is entitled to a remedy and justice.

— O.O. Adekeye, JSC. BFI v. Bureau PE (2012) – SC.12/2008

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RIGHT VS PRIVILEGE

I hold that when a claim of right metamorphoses into one of supplication, it ceases to wear the clothe of a right but a mere privilege. In this case the appellant was literally begging the respondent for mercies.

– Pats-Acholonu, JSC. ADECENTRO v. OBAFEMI (2005)

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TWO WRONGS DO NOT MAKE A RIGHT – GARBA’S CASE

As the students were wrong in going on a rampage, the University Authorities will on their own part be wrong in using means other than those allowed them by law in dealing with the disturbance. Two wrongs, they say, do not make one right. – Oputa, J.S.C. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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WHEN A LACUNA IN LAW MEETS WITH THE RIGHT OF A CITIZEN

A lacuna is said to exist in law when there is a lack of specific and or general law or a law which is of universal application which can be applied in a matter or situation before the Court. Where there is no specific law but there are existing general laws enacted in respect of similar matters, the general principle is that the general law enacted in respect of similar matters or a law which is of universal application and which has provisions relating to a similar situation before the Court must be applied to resolve the situation. Even, where in very rare cases, there is no existing law regulating or relating to a particular situation brought before the Court, a citizen who has a genuine grievance and has approached the Court for a solution will not be left without a remedy. That is the purport of the Supreme Court’s decision in PDP v. INEC (SUPRA) AT 241 (D-F) where the Court per Uwais JSC held as follows: “For this Court to perform its function under the Constitution effectively and satisfactorily, it must be purposive in its construction of the provisions of the Constitution. Where the Constitution bestows a right on the citizen and does not expressly take away nor provide how the right should be lost or forfeited in the circumstance, we have the duty and indeed the obligation to ensure that the enured right is not lost or denied the citizen by construction that is narrow and not purposive. To this end the established practice of this Court is where the constitutional right in particular, and indeed any right in general, of a citizen is threatened or violated, it is for the Court to be creative in its decisions in order to ensure that it preserves and protects the right by providing remedy for the citizen.”

— M.O. Bolaji-Yusuff, JCA. CCB v Nwankwo (2018) – CA/E/141/2017

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WHAT IS A LEGAL RIGHT?

In the case of AG of Lagos State Vs. AG FEDERATION (2004) LPELR – SC 70/2004, this Court aptly postulated: What is legal right? A legal right in my view, is a right recognisable in law. It means a right recognised by law and capable of being enforced by the plaintiff. It is a right of a party recognised and protected by a rule of law, the violation of which would be a legal wrong done to the interest of the plaintiff; even though no action is taken. The determination of the existence of a legal right is not whether the action will succeed at the trial but whether the action denotes such a right by reference to the enabling law in respect of the commencement of the action. Per Niki Tobi, JSC @ 97-98 paragraphs G — B.

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CHANGE IN LAW DOES NOT NULLIFY RIGHTS BASED ON THE OLD LAW

When the Supreme Court departs from its earlier decision on a point, the departure does not operate to generally overrule and nullify all previous decisions that followed the earlier decision it has departed from. The departure serves to chart a new direction to be followed without affecting the previous status quo. If the new decision is one on procedure including venue, pending and new cases at all levels will now be decided in accordance with the new decision. If the new decision applies the law on the existence of rights, interests and obligations differently, new and pending cases will be decided according to it depending on when the cause action arose or when the right, interest or obligation came into being. The general principle of law is that a change in law does not result in the nullification of rights and interests based on the previous law. That is why amending or repealing legislations provide for the saving of such rights and interests including ongoing situations that originated on the basis of the old law. On the basis of this general principle, it is the law prevailing at the time the right or interest accrued or at the time a situation arose and not the new law that determines its validity. In the light of the foregoing, I hold that the Learned respondent’s counsel reliance on the principle of ex nihilo nihil fit as espoused by the Legendary Lord Denning in MACFOY v. UAC (1962) AC, has no basis here.

– E.A. Agim, JCA. Ogidi v. Okoli [2014] – CA/AK/130/2012

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IMPROPER & IRREGULAR EXERCISE OF RIGHTS CONSTITUTES ABUSE

As I have observed, it is not the exercise of the right, per se, but its improper and irregular exercise which constitutes an abuse. Essentially, it is the inconvenience, inequities, involved in the aims and purposes of the application which constitute the abuse. Otherwise, where there is a right to bring an action the state of mind of the person exercising the right cannot affect the validity or propriety of its exercise. The proposition has been aptly expressed by Lord Halsbury in Mayor & City of Bradford v. Pickles (1895) AC at p.594 when he said, “If it was a lawful act, however, ill the motive might be, he had a right to do it. If it was an unlawful act however good his motive might be, he would have no right to do it. Motives and intentions in such a question as is now before your Lordships seem to me absolutely irrelevant.”

— A.G. Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) – S.C. 250/1991

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