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FAIR HEARING IS TRIAL ACCORDING TO ALL LEGAL RULES

Dictum

The law is indeed well settled that fair hearing within the meaning of Section 36(1) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), means a trial or hearing conducted according to all legal rules formulated to ensure that justice is done to the parties. It requires the observation or observance of the twin pillars of the rules of natural justice, namely audi alterem partem and nemo judex in causa sua. These rules, the obligation to hear the other side of a dispute or the right of a party in dispute to be heard, is so basic and fundamental a principle of our adjudicatory system in the determination of disputes that it cannot be compromised on any ground. See Per PETER-ODILI, JSC in EYE v. FRN (2018) LPELR-43599(SC) (P. 28-30, PARA. A).

— U.M. Abba Aji, JSC. State v. Andrew Yanga (SC.712/2018, 15 Jan 2021)

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FAIR HEARING APPLIES FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END OF THE TRIAL

From its tenor, therefore, the Court is required to conduct the trial or hearing of a case with all fairness to both parties to the suit and without bias or partiality in favour of, or against either party. That is the rationale for the prescription that a complaint of breach of fair hearing is usually against the Court or Tribunal, whether the parties before the Court were afforded equal opportunity to fully ventilate their grievance. Okanlawon v. State (2015) LPELR-24838 (SC) 52-53; E-B; Peters Pam and Anor v. Mohammed and Anor (2008) 5-6 SC (Pt. 1) 83; Deduwa v. Okorodudu (1976) NMLR 236, 246; 9-10 SC 329. Such is its primacy in our administration of justice that no decision can be regarded as valid unless the trial Judge or Court has heard both sides in the conflict. State v. Onagoruwa (1992) LPELR -3228 (SC) 33; D-E; Deduwa v. Okorodudu (supra). This test of fair hearing applies once a trial has commenced, after issue has been joined, State v. Onagoruwa (supra); nay more, it applies from the beginning to the end of the trial. Oyewole v. Akande and Anor (2009) LPELR-2879 (SC) 36-37; Deduwa v. Okorodudu (1976) 9 -10 SC 329; News Watch Comm. Ltd. v. Attah (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt. 993) 144; A. G Rivers State v. Ude (2006) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1008) 436.

— C.C. Nweze JSC. Onuwa Kalu v. The State (SC.474/2011, 13 Apr 2017)

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FAIR HEARING BEING SO FUNDAMENTAL MUST BE RAISED IN GOOD FAITH

My lords, so fundamental and crucial is the right to fair hearing of the citizen before all Courts of the land that a failure by a Court to observe it in the litigation processes would invariably vitiate both the proceedings and judgment of such a Court, notwithstanding the merit or otherwise of the cases of the parties or indeed how meticulous the proceedings were conducted or even how sound the resultant judgment was on the merit, they are all a nullity. However, it must be pointed out at once that the issue of fair hearing must be raised with all seriousness and in good faith. It must never be raised in bad faith or merely intended as a red herring to raise a storm in a teacup without any factual basis. See Agbogu V. Adiche (2003) 2 NWLR (Pt. 805) 509@ p. 531. See also Agbapuonwu V. Agbapuonwu (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt. 165) 33 @p.40; Adegbesin V. The State (2014) 9 NWLR (pt. 1413) 609 @pp. 641 – 642.

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

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FAIR HEARING IS NOT A SPARE PART

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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NATURAL JUSTICE ENTAILS BEING ALLOWED TO REBUT ALLEGATIONS ALLEGED

However, the requirement that a person should be offered opportunity to defend himself after being charged need not necessarily be in the form of a trial involving oral testimonies i.e. examination-in-chief and cross examination. What is required is to afford him the opportunity to rebut, correct or contradict what is alleged against him. The principle of natural justice is satisfied if the person accused is allowed to correct or rebut what is prejudicial to him in writing.

– Muhammad JCA. Osumah v. EBS (2004)

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ONE CANNOT BE A WITNESS AND A JUDGE AT THE SAME TIME

This submission is incontestible. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor cannot be a witness and a judge all at the same time. The likelihood of bias is a necessary inference from the assumption of the two positions. – Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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ONE MUST BE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO EXCULPATE HIMSELF

It is my considered view that after the Disciplinary Investigation Panel had completed its investigation, each of such students against who disciplinary action was contemplated must be informed of the available evidence against him and in addition given reasonable opportunity of exculpating himself. It is essential that in the exercise, the Vice Chancellor must observe the principles of impartiality and fairness. – Coker, J.S.C. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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