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FAILURE TO GIVE FAIR HEARING DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY LEAD TO A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE

Dictum

On whether the court below was right when it failed to consider and pronounce upon all the issues submitted to it by the appellant for its determination, I agree with the submission of the appellant’s Counsel that the court below failed to consider and pronounce upon the second issue for determination submitted by the appellant in that court. However, I am unable to hold that the failure to do so led to any miscarriage of justice in the circumstances of the case. There was also no denial of fair hearing as enshrined in Section 33 of 1979 Constitution. Failure to consider and pronounce on all issues submitted to a court or tribunal will not, per se, amount to a denial of a right to fair hearing having regard to the judicial decisions on the principle. In some cases, it may occasion failure of justice which amounts to denial of fair hearing and in others as is the case in the present proceedings, it will not. See Kotoye v Central Bank of Nigeria & others (1989) 1 NWLR (Part 98) 419.

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

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NATURE OF FAIR HEARING

Pam v. Mohammed (2008) LPELR-2895(SC), 26-27, per Oguntade, J.S.C., held as follows – “The question of fair hearing is not just an issue of dogma. Whether or not a party has been denied of his right to fair hearing is to be Judged by the nature and circumstances surrounding a particular case; the crucial determinant is the necessity to afford the parties equal opportunity to put their case to the Court before the Court gives its judgment … It is wrong and improper to approach the meaning of fair hearing by placing reliance on any a priori assumptions as to its technical requirements. The simple approach is to look at the totality of the proceedings before the Court and then form an opinion on objective standards whether or not an equal opportunity has been afforded to parties to fully ventilate their grievances before a Court. The principle of fair hearing cannot be applied as if it were a technical rule based on prescribed prerequisites. It seems a sufficient satisfaction of the principle if parties were afforded an equal opportunity without any inhibition to put across their case.”

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FAIR HEARING INCLUDES A PARTY’S RIGHT TO CROSS-EXAMINE

There is no doubt that the well-settled position is that in order to be fair, “hearing” or “opportunity to be heard” must, inter alia, encompass a party’s right to cross-examine or otherwise confront or contradict all the witnesses who testified against him.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Junaidu v. State (2021)

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FAIR HEARING MUST BE OBSERVED – FAIR HEARING IS A MATTER OF FACT

My lords, in considering these issues, I bear in mind that they deal frontally with the fundamental issue of the observance of the right to fair hearing in the determination of the civil rights and obligations of the citizen, including corporate legal entity, by Courts and tribunals and even quasi judicial bodies to ensure that decisions are not reached without a due hearing of the parties. However, an allegation of denial of the right to fair hearing, as grave as it could be and the dire consequences it could have on the proceedings and decision of a Court if proved, does not operate in a vacuum but is dependent on the facts and circumstances of each given case. In other words, whether the right to fair hearing was breached or not is a question of facts to be determined squarely on the facts and circumstances placed before the appellate Court since the law is that each case of allegation of breach of the right to fair hearing must be decided on the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case. This is so because fair hearing is primarily a matter of fact. It is only when the facts are ascertained that the law would be applied to the facts so established to see whether or not such established facts constitute a breach of the party’s right to fair hearing. See Newswatch Communications Limited V. Alhaji Ibrahim Atta (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt. 993) 144.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. UBA v. Ashimina (2018) – CA/L/1033/2014

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AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM – WHERE OPPORTUNITY NOT USED

It is also the law that the fairness of a trial can be tested by the maxim audi alteram partem. Either party must be given an opportunity of being heard, but where a party refuses to take advantage of the opportunity to traverse specific allegations made against him, the averments will be deemed admitted and the defendant cannot complain of lack of fair hearing.

— O. Oyebiola, J. Yakubu v. FRCN (2016) – NIC/LA/673/2013

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CARDINAL PRINCIPLE OF FAIR HEARING IS SACROSANCT

My lords, the point needs to be re-iterated again and again that the cardinal principle of fair hearing whether in relation to a civil or criminal matter is so sacroscent. The Latin maxim puts it this way: “Audi Alteram Partem” i.e. let the other party be heard. It simply means: hear the other side(s) in a dispute before reaching a decision. It is a constitutional requirement (Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). This Court made several pronouncements that the principle of fair hearing has been incorporated in our jurisprudence that a man cannot be condemned without being heard. The principle is applicable in all cases in which a decision is to be taken in any matter, whether in a judicial, quasijudicial or even in purely administrative proceeding involving a person’s interest in a property, right or personal liberty. Let the other party be heard! See: Adigun v. AG Oyo State (1997) ? NWLR (Pt. 678) page; Oyeyemi v. Commissioner of Local Government, Kwara State & Ors (1993) 6 NWLR (Pt. 299) 344.

— I.T. Muhammad, JSC. FRN v Maishanu (2019) – SC.51/2015

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FAIR HEARING APPLIES TO QUASI JUDICIAL BODIES

It is the very antithesis of justice to agree to the suggestion that a quasi-judicial body like the LPDC should not obey the rules of fair hearing.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Gbenoba v. LPDC (2021)

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