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FAIR HEARING IS NOT A SPARE PART

Dictum

Adebayo v. AG, Ogun State (2008) LPELR – 80 (SC) 23 – 24 “I have seen in recent times that parties who have bad cases embrace and make use of the constitutional provision of fair hearing to bamboozle the adverse party and the Court, with a view to moving the Court away from the live issues in the litigation. They make so much weather and sing the familiar song that the constitutional provision is violated or contravened. They do not stop there. They rake the defence in most inappropriate cases because they have nothing to canvass in their favour in the case. The fair hearing provision in the Constitution is the machinery or locomotive of justice; not a spare part to propel or invigorate the case of the user. It is not a casual principle of law available to a party to be picked up at will in a case and force the Court to apply it to his advantage. On the contrary, it is a formidable and fundamental constitutional provision available to a party who is really denied fair hearing because he was not heard or that he was not properly heard in the case. Let litigants who have nothing useful to advocate in favour of their cases, leave the fair hearing constitutional provision alone because it is not available to them just for the asking.”

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NOT ALL FAILURE TO PRONOUNCE ON ALL ISSUES WILL RESULT IN BREACH OF FAIR HEARING

Now while a Court has a duty to pronounce on all the key issues in a matter, it is not every failure of a Court to pronounce on issues that would constitute a breach of fundamental right to fair hearing. See: C.N. OKPALA & SONS LTD v. NB PLC (2017) LPELR-43826(SC); FODE DRILLING (NIG) LTD v. FABBY & ORS (2017) LPELR-42822(CA); and SAIPEM CONTRACTING (NIG) LTD & ORS v. FIRS & ORS (2018) LPELR-45118(CA).

— J.Y. Tukur, JCA. Fani-Kayode v. FRN & Ors. (2019) – CA/L/722C/2018

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FAIR HEARING NOT BREACHED WHEN A DOCUMENT IS EXPUNGED BY TRIAL JUDGE

I have seen in recent times counsel forcing into cases the principles of fair hearing even when they are so distant from the case. The principles of fair hearing will not be invoked in favour of a party where the trial Judge correctly expunges an exhibit earlier admitted. It is only when the document is wrongly or wrongfully expunged from the record that a party can be heard to canvass to an appellate court that he was denied fair hearing. – Niki Tobi, JSC. Brossette v. Ilemobola (2007)

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MEANING OF “REASONABLE TIME” IN SECTION 36 OF CONSTITUTION

The operative words for our purpose in this appeal are “reasonable time”, words which in their docile content are vague, and nebulous. A reasonable time is a time justified by reason. Reasonable time in its nebulous content cannot be determined in vacuo but in relation to the fact of each case. This is because what constitutes a reasonable time in one case may riot necessarily constitute a reasonable time in another case. Reasonable time in section 36 presupposes the granting of an adjournment in cases. In dealing with the reasonable time concept in section 36, the court will take into consideration the nature of the case in terms of the magnitude, intricacies, versatilities, complexities and volume of the work involved. In this respect, the court will consider the assemblage of witnesses and documents, if any and the likely or possible time to get all these. Above all, the court will take into consideration the procurement .of exculpatory or inculpatory evidence as the case may be. A reasonable time is also a moderately and practically possible time within which a court or tribunal could complete a trial and pronounce its decision. See Effiom v. State (1995) 1 NWLR (Pt. 373) 507. Reasonable time means the period of time which, in the search for justice, does not wear out the parties and their witnesses and which is required to ensure that justice is not only done but appears to reasonable person to be done. See Ariori v. Elemo (1983) 1 SCNLR 1; Chief Atejioye v. Ayeni (1998) 6 NWLR (Pt. 552) 132.

— Niki Tobi JSC. Pam & Anor. V Mohammed (2008) – SC.238/2007

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FAIR HEARING INCLUDES SUFFICIENT TIME GIVEN TO PRESENT DEFENCE

Here is a case where the panel has three months within which to conduct and conclude its investigation of impeachable allegations against appellant but appellant requested for a four days adjournment on health grounds and to enable two of his witnesses attend and testify on his behalf but the panel refused the request, closed the case of appellant and prepared its report which was submitted to the Taraba House of Assembly the next day. The said House proceeded on the same day of receipt of the report to remove appellant from office. In all, the proceedings lasted a period of about six days out of the three months assigned. Why all the rush one may ask. The rush in this case has obviously resulted in a breach of the right to fair hearing of appellant which in turn nullifies the proceedings of the panel. Appellant was, in the circumstances of the case not given sufficient time or opportunity to present his defence to the charges leveled against him.

– Onnoghen, J.S.C. Danladi v. Dangiri (2014)

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NATURE OF AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM

The audi alteram partem rule stipulates that each party must be given an opportunity of stating his case and answering if he can any arguments put forward against it. See Cooper v. Wandsworth Board of Works 14 C.B. (N.S.) 180. The rule requires that a person liable to be directly affected by proposed administrative acts, decisions or proceedings be given adequate notice of what is proposed so as to give him an opportunity to make representations, and effectively prepare his own case and to answer the case he has to meet. It is therefore essential that the person involved be given prior notice of the case against him so that he can prepare to meet that case. – Nnamani, JSC. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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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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