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EXERCISING SECTION 22 OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT – A CONDITION IS THAT THE TRIAL COURT SHOULD ALSO BE ABLE TO ADJUDICATE

Dictum

Now, if this court is to consider the merit of the suit, it will only be able to do so by invoking its power to step into the shoes of the trial court under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act. For this court to invoke and exercise its powers under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, one of the conditions that must be fulfilled is that the court below or the trial court, as the case may be, must have the power or jurisdiction to adjudicate over the matter. In other words, under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, this court cannot make order or exercise the power that the trial court or the lower court cannot make or exercise. See DANLADI V. UDI (2022) 9 NWLR (PT. 1834) 185; EBEBI V. OZOBO (2022) 1 NWLR (PT. 1810) 165; IDIAGBON V. A.P.C. (2019) 18 NWLR (PT. 1703) 102; ARDO V. INEC (2017) 13 NWLR (PT. 1583) 450; ADAMU V. STATE (2017) 10 NWLR (PT. 1574) 463 … While this court is conferred with wide powers by Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, the powers can only be exercised within the confines of the competence of the trial court or the lower court. Once the power of the court has ceased, the power of this court under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act also automatically ceases. Hence, this court has no power to delve into the merits of the appeal. A similar issue came up for determination in two recent decisions of this court, and it was held that this court cannot exercise its jurisdiction under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act once the trial court or the lower court as the case may be has lost its own jurisdiction. See SAMUEL V. APC & ORS (2023) LPELR – 59831 (SC); EZENWANKWO v. APGA & ORS (2022) LPELR 57884 (SC).

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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INVOKING SECTION 22 OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT 1960 ON A MATTER OF LAW ONLY

I think the issue can now be examined by this Court by virtue of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 1960. It does not require any further evidence. The existence of the depositions is not in dispute. Indeed, the nature of the depositions is open to interpretation only. The exercise therefore becomes a matter of law alone: see Orji v Zaria Industries Ltd (1992) 1 NWLR (Part 216) 124 at 141 where a similar exercise carried out by the Court of Appeal when the trial court failed to do so was approved by this Court. See also National Bank of Nigeria Ltd v Guthrie (Nigeria) Ltd (1993) 3 NWLR (Part 284) 643 at 659-660; Katto v Central Bank of Nigeria (1999) 6 NWLR (Part 607) 390 at 407-408.

— Uwaifo, JSC. Bamaiyi v State (SC 292/2000, Supreme Court, 6th April 2001)

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THERE WILL BE NO REFERENCE TO THE SUPREME COURT WHEN THERE IS A CASE LAW ON THE POINT

With this principal issue resolved in favour of the appellant, the motion filed herein for reference to the Supreme Court becomes irrelevant. This is because from the argument of all learned counsel to the parties, reference to the Supreme Court can only be made by the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court under section 295(3) of the 1999 Constitution, if there have been no guidance from the apex court on the point. This is not the position in the instant case where this point sought to be referred to the Supreme Court – the application of immunity by the principal officers named in S.308 of the 1999 Constitution in election petition matters – had been resolved by the Supreme Court in the Obih v. Mbakwe and Unongo v. Aper Aku set of cases cited by the appellants counsel supra. In the light of these authorities, I hold that this is not a point for reference for clarification to the Supreme Court as the apex court had done the necessary clarification. In consequence application dated 17/12/03 and filed on 18/12/03 is hereby dismissed.

— M.A. Okunola, JCA. AD v. Fayose (2004) – CA/IL/EP/GOV/1/2004

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THE SUPREME COURT HAS THE POWER TO OVERRULE ITSELF

Adegoke Motors Ltd v. Dr. Adesanya & Anor (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt. 109) 250 at 274; (1989) 5 SCNJ 80, inter alia, thus; “We are final not because we are infallible; rather we are infallible because we are final, Justices of this Court are human beings, capable of erring. It will certainly be short-sighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth. It is also true that this Court can do inestimable good through its wise decisions. Similarly, the Court can do incalculable harm through its mistakes. When therefore it appears to learned Counsel that any decision of this Court has been given per incuriam, such Counsel should have the boldness and courage to ask that such decision shall be over-ruled. This Court has the power to overrule itself (and has done so in the past) for it gladly accepts that it is far better to admit an error than to preserve an error.”

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NIGERIAN CASES WHERE THE SUPREME COURT OVERRULED ITSELF

Again where there is a real likelihood of injustice being perpetuated this court has, in the recent past had occasion to over-rule itself. See Bucknor-Maclean v. Inlaks Ltd. (1980) 8-11 S.C. 1) – wherein this court over-ruled its previous decision in Shell B.P. v. Jammal Engineering (1974) 1 ALL N.L.R. 543 and Owumi v. P.Z. (1974) 1 ALL N.L.R. Part 2-on the above ground.

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

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THE SUPREME COURT CANNOT SIT ON APPEAL OVER ITS OWN DECISION

Having said that may I state that by virtue of Section 235 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Supreme Court cannot sit on appeal over its own judgment. The provision gives a stamp of finality to any decision of the Supreme Court. There is no constitutional provision for the review of the judgment of the Supreme Court by itself. See Eleazor Obioha v. Innocent Ibero and Anor (1994) 1 NWLR (pt.322) 503. However, it has been held by this court that the Supreme Court possesses inherent power to set aside its judgment in appropriate cases but that such inherent jurisdiction cannot be converted into an appellate jurisdiction as though the matter before it is another appeal, intended to afford the losing litigants yet another opportunity to re-state or re-argue their appeal.

— J.I. Okoro JSC. Citec v. Francis (SC.116/2011, 21 February 2014)

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EFFECT OF SECTION 22 SUPREME COURT ACT

Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 1960, empowers this Court to amend any defect or error In the record of appeal, and gives it full jurisdiction over the whole proceedings as If the proceedings had been instituted and prosecuted in the Court as a court of first instance, which would include power to permit the amendment sought.

— Brett JSC. Benson v. Ashiru (1967) – SC. 405/1965

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