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FAILURE TO CONSIDER COMPETENT GROUND OF APPEAL WILL RESULT IN LACK OF FAIR HEARING

Dictum

In Union Bank of Nigeria Ltd v Nwaokolo (1995) 6 NWLR (Part 400) 127: “The appellants, as clearly depicted on the Record and in the brief of argument they filed, had identified three issues for the consideration of the court below. It is also on record that appellants argued fully all three issues and by implication, the eight grounds, to which they related. At the hearing of the appeal by the court below, it is common ground that the appellants adopted their brief of argument. However, without justification the majority judgment of that court now assailed before this Court, failed to pronounce on Grounds 4, 5 and 6 covered by appellants’ Issues 2 and 3 thereat, both of which have prompted Ground 2 in the appeal to this Court which incidentally, is covered by Issue 2 now under consideration. The judgment of the majority in the court below neither adverted to nor pronounced on these grounds (4, 5 and 6 respectively).” “Having considered the grounds (4, 5 and 6) which the court below failed to consider or pronounce upon, the next logical question to ask is, what are the consequences of such a failure? Failure to consider grounds of appeal, it is now established by decisions of this Court, amount to lack of fair hearing and a miscarriage of justice. (See Atano v AG Bendel (1988)2 NWLR (Part 75) 201). See also Kotoye v CBN (1989) 1 NWLR (Part 98) 419 where Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC held at page 448 of the Report thus:- ‘For the rule of fair hearing is not a technical doctrine. It is one of substance. The question is not whether a party entitled to be heard before deciding had in fact been given an opportunity of hearing. Once an appellate court comes to the conclusion that the party was entitled to be heard before a decision was reached but was not given the opportunity of a hearing the order/judgment thus entered is bound to be set aside.’ Fair hearing within the meaning of Section 33(1) of the 1979 Constitution means a trial conducted according to all legal rules formulated to ensure that justice is done to the parties vide Ntukidem v Oko (1986) 5 NWLR (Part 45) 909.”

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WHAT IS A GROUND OF APPEAL?

It is settled law that a ground of appeal is basically a highlight of the error of law or fact or mixed law and fact made by the court in the decision sought to be set aside in the appeal. It is the sum total of the reason(s) why the decision on appeal is considered by learned counsel for the appellant to be wrong and liable to be set aside. It follows therefore that for a ground of appeal to be capable of achieving the purpose of setting aside the decision appealed against, it has to be very substantial and must relate to the ratio of the decision, not directed at the obiter dictum of the court or in the judgment.

– Mukhtar JSC. Nwankwo v. Ecumenical (2007)

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ISSUE NOT TIED TO A GROUND OF APPEAL IS OF NO MOMENT

Issue 1 was formulated from ground 1 while Issue 2 does not flow from any of the seven grounds of Appeal. No Issue or Issues were formulated or argued in respect of grounds 2-7 of his Notice of Appeal. A fortiori, the Appellant appears to have abandoned grounds 2-7 of his Notice of Appeal. In the same vein, Issue No. 2 is not tied to any ground of Appeal and therefore is of no moment. See Yadis Nigeria Ltd v. Great Nigeria Insurance Coy Ltd (2007) 30 NSQR (Pt. 1) page 495.

— P.O. Elechi, JCA. Onoeyo v UBN (2014) – CA/C/66/2007

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USING BOTH SIMILAR GROUNDS FROM ORIGINAL NOTICE OF APPEAL AND AMENDED NOTICE OF APPEAL

Equity follows the law and does always look at the substance and not the form. The 3rd Respondent on this point of his preliminary objection appears to be blighted by the form, and not the substance. Upon my careful perusal of grounds 1, 2, 3 & 6 of the Amended Notice of Appeal they appear to be substantially the replication of grounds 1, 2 & 3 of the original notice of appeal, grounds 4 in the original notice of appeal and the amended notice of appeal and the amended notice of appeal are identical. Similarly, ground 5 in the original notice of appeal was replicated, in ground 5 of the amended notice of appeal. The two grounds are identical. I do not, therefore, think that the respondents in the appeal have been misled, embarrassed or in any way prejudged by the Appellants merely indicating that their issue 1 has been formulated from original grounds 1, 2 & 3 as well as grounds 1, 2, 3 & 6 in the Amended Notice of Appeal. The Respondents similarly are not misled and prejudiced by the Appellants indicating that issues 2 & 3 are issues the subject of identical grounds 4 & 5 in both the original notice of appeal and the Amended Notice of Appeal respectively. Therefore, using blue pencil rule to discountenance, references, in the Appellants’ issues for determination of the appeal in their brief, to grounds 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 in the original notice of appeal filed on 9th August, 2016 will, in the peculiar facts of this case, meet the ends of substantial justice. Courts these days strive to doing substantial justice as they now turn away from arcane technicality.

— Ejembi Eko, JSC. Oboh & Anor v. NFL (SC.841/2016, January 28, 2022)

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MANY GROUNDS OF APPEAL MAY MAKE ONE ISSUE

It is trite law that one issue can contain many consistent grounds of appeal, but a single ground of appeal cannot give rise to two or more issues.

– Denton West JCA. Salaja v. Salaja (2013)

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GROUNDS OF APPEAL ARE EXPLANATORY NOTES OF WHAT IS IN CONTEST

In Waziri v Geidam (2016) 11 NWLR (Pt.1523) 230 at 256, I had in this Court stated that:- “The functions which particulars to a ground of appeal are required to perform are to highlight the grouse of the appellants against the judgement on appeal. They are specifications of errors and misdirection which show the complaint the appellants are screaming about and the line of thought the appellants are going to canvass in their brief of argument. What is fundamental is that the ground of appeal are really explanatory notes on what is in contest and the particulars which open and exposed so that there is no attempt at an ambush or giving of room to which the respondent would say he was left in the dark of what he was to defend on appeal or that they are unable to understand or appreciate the complaint in the said ground.”

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