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EVERY JUDGEMENT TAKES EFFECT ON PRONOUNCEMENT

Dictum

In the case of INTERCONTRACTORS NIGERIA LTD v. U.A.C. OF NIGERIA LTD (supra) or (1988) (Pt. 1) Vol. 9 NSCC 737 at 752. This court per KARIBI WHYTE JSC stated:- “It is well settled that every judgment takes effect on pronouncement – see BANK OF WEST AFRICA LTD v. N.I.P.C LTD [1962] LLR 31; OLAYINKA v. ELUSANMI [1971] 1 NMLR 277. A judgment debtor seeking to stay the execution must show that he is challenging the judgment, or is asking for time to comply with the terms of the judgment.”

— D. Musdapher JSC. M.O. Olatunji v. Owena Bank (PLC) & Anor. (SC.349/2002, 25 April 2008)

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STAGES IN JUDGEMENT WRITING AS STATED BY OPUTA JSC

Isaac Stephen v. The State (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt.46j 978 in which Oputa J.S.C. set out the stages to be followed in writing a good judgment, particularly in criminal cases. The four stages outlined by the learned Justice are as follows:- “Stage 1: If the plea of the accused is guilty no issues arise and no evidence is required. The trial court can proceed straight to judgment. But if the plea is not guilty (as it is bound to be in murder trials) then all the constituent elements of the offence charged are put in issue. And the onus lies heavily on the prosecution to prove the offence charged beyond reasonable doubt. Stage 2: Issues are thus joined, evidence is led in proof or disproof of each issue. At this stage, the duty of the trial court is merely to record the evidence led and observe the demeanor of the witnesses called by either party. Stage 3: This is the most important and crucial stage as it deals with the perception of facts, evaluation of facts belief or disbelief of witnesses and findings and conclusions based on the evidence accepted by the trial court. At this stage, the trial court will briefly summarize the case of either party. This does not mean producing verbatim the evidence of the prosecution witnesses and of defence witnesses one by one but it does mean using such evidence to tell a coherent and connected story. Having done this, the trial court will then decide which story to believe. Here it is important to emphasize that the over worked expressions “I believe” or “I do not believe” have no extrinsic magic power or potency. There is nothing wrong in believing one side and disbelieving the other if either the belief or disbelief is in consonance with the natural drift of the evidence and the probabilities which on the totality of what evidence it is natural to expect. Stage 4: Having exercised his prerogative to believe or disbelieve having made his findings of fact, the trial court will then draw the necessary inference or conclusion from the facts, would then discuss the applicable law against the background of the facts as found. Any judge that follows the above pattern or something similar to it will be of invaluable help to the Courts of Appeal as well as to parties to the appeal. One would only wish that our trial courts do approach the difficult task of writing judgments in some methodical and orderly fashion.”

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SOME PRINCIPLES ON THE NATURE OF A COURT’S JUDGMENT

1. A judgment or ruling of a competent court ought not to be illusory, but ought to have its consequences. One consequence of the Order of the Court of Appeal dated 13/11/85 is the restoration of Chief Ojukwu to his residence at No. 29 Queen’s Drive. The applicants by their delaying tactics have so far made that order illusory.

2. A judgment once given should be accepted as correct until the contrary is proved. This can only be done by and in an appropriate higher Court of Appeal – in this case the Supreme Court. This Court has not yet over-ruled or set aside the Order of the Court of Appeal of 13/11/85.

3. He who is in defiant disobedience of the law – here an Order of court – cannot appeal to the same law to help him continue in his disobedience.

4. The Applicants in this Motion are asking the court to exercise its discretion in their favour. The exercise of discretion is equitable and the function of equity is to supplement the law never to counteract or contradict the law.

– Oputa, JSC. Military Governor v. Ojukwu (1986) – SC.241/1985

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BECAUSE A JUDGEMENT IS A NULLITY DOES NOT MEAN IT IS NON-EXISTENT

I must observe that in trying to answer these important questions, learned counsel for the respondents tried to take umbrage under the statement of Lord Denning in Macfoy v. United African Co. Ltd. (1961) 3 W.L.R. 1405 at p.1409, P.C. where he said: Any purported exercise of any function being without any legal or Constitutional authority was null and void and of no effect. . .” If an act is void, then it is in law a nullity. It is not only bad but incurably bad. There is no need for an order of the court to set it aside. It is automatically null and void without much ado, though it is sometimes convenient to have the court declare it to be so. And every proceeding, which is founded on it, is also bad and incurably bad. You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse. With respects to the learned counsel for the respondents, it appears to me that the very eminent Lord Justice’s aim in this much misquoted and misapplied dictum was again talking of the effect in law of a judgment being declared void. It is “automatically null and void without more ado” and every proceeding which is founded on it is also bad and incurably bad.” His Lordship did not say that it ceases to exist as a fact. I agree with Chief Williams that there is a world of difference between saying that a judgment has no legal effect or consequences and saying that it is non-existent; between giving a judgment which is a nullity because, say, it was given without jurisdiction and saying that no judgment was given at all. The learned Justice of Appeal was, therefore, in error when he held that because the previous judgment of the Court of Appeal had been nullified by this court-for having been delivered more than three months of the conclusion of the final addresses, it follows that the judgment was non-existent. In my view, although, by its being declared a nullity, the judgment had no more any legal effect, it continued to exist de facto.

— P. Nnaemeka-Agu JSC. Gbaniyi Osafile v. Paul Odi (SC 149/1987, 4th day of May 1990)

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TIMELINESS OF JUDGEMENT RENDERING

But, all the same, certainty of the law is not all that easy as it sounds. Certainty, however, goes along with timeliness. The parties come before either court, with rival or opposing propositions of law. The duty of a Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court is heavier therefore when determining certainty of law from that of the court of first instance. In any case, what is uppermost is timeliness and certainty. Whatever research is necessary, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court judgment should be delivered within the time limit. It is, therefore, advisable that the date of judgment should be fixed on the conclusion of argument. The Court will, therefore, not lose sight of the necessary time factor. The parties will also be satisfied that their rights will be determined on a date within a limited period. This will give more credibility and sanctity to a judgment.

— Sowemimo, JSC. Odi v Osafile (1985) – SC.144/1983

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JUDGEMENT IN REM

In Oni & Anor V Oyebanji & Ors( SC/CV/398/2023 on 6-4-2023) this court Per Agim JSC restated the law on this concept thusly “As this Court held in Ogboru & Anor v. Uduaghan & Ors (2011) LPELR-8236 (SC) “A judgement in rem may be defined as the judgement of a court of competent jurisdiction determining the status of a person or thing as distinct from the particular interest of a party to the litigation. Apart from the application of the term to persons, it must affect the “res” in the way of condemnation, forfeiture, declaration, status or title. (a) Examples are judgment of a Court over a will creating the status of administration. (b) Judgment in a divorce by a Court of competent jurisdiction dissolving a marriage declaring the nullity or affirming its existence. (c) Judgment in an election petition. The feature of a judgment in rem is that it binds all persons – 36 whether a party to the proceedings or not. It stops anyone from raising the issue of the status of persons or persons or things, or the rights or title to properly litigated before a competent Court. It is indeed conclusive against the entire world in whatever it settles as to status of the person or property. All persons whether party to the proceedings or not are stopped from averring that the status of persons is other than the Court has by such judgement declared or made it to be.” Okpalugo vs. Adeshoye (t996) 10 NELR pt. 476, pg. 77, Fan trades Ltd. vs Uni Association Co. Ltd. (2002) 8 NWLR Pt. 770, pg. 699., Ogbahon vs. Reg. Trustees CCCG (2002) 1 NWLR Pt. 749, pg. 675, Olaniyan vs Fatoki (2003) 13 NWLR pt. 837, Pg. 273.

— E.A. Agim, JSC. Oyetola v INEC & Ors. (2022) – SC/CV/508/2023

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COURT CANNOT TAKE JUDICIAL NOTICE OF A NULLIFIED JUDGEMENT NOT PRODUCED BEFORE IT

Whether the record and contents of a nullified judgment ought formally be produced in court or extract thereof be placed before the court before the opinions expressed therein could be countenanced; or whether the Court of Appeal could have taken notice of their existence and contents by the mere fact that the nullified judgment was probably in the archives of the court. In Attorney-General v. Silem L.R. 10 H.L. Cas. 704, it was held that S.26 of the Queens Remembrance Act, 1859, which empowered the Barons of Exchequer to frame rules for making “the process, practice and mode of pleading” on the revenue side of the court uniform with that of the plea side, did not give the Judges the power of entertaining appeals on revenue cases, as they assumed. It is always necessary to exercise powers conferred by an enabling statute within the four comers of the statute: see Australian cases of Tavcar v. Tavcar (1950) A.L.R. 260; White v. White (1947) A.L.R. 342. It therefore appears to me that the power, conferred by S.73(1) of the Evidence Act, for a court to take judicial notice of its course of proceedings and rules of practice cannot rightly be invoked to take judicial notice of the contents of a nullified judgment, which the members had not earlier had an opportunity of seeing. For, true, it existed as a fact, being devoid of any legal consequences, it was then like any other opinion, say, in a textbook. I do not think that anybody can suggest that such a textbook opinion should be judicially noticed.

— P. Nnaemeka-Agu JSC. Gbaniyi Osafile v. Paul Odi (SC 149/1987, 4th day of May 1990)

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