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FINAL VS INTERLOCUTORY DECISIONS: DISTINCTION

Dictum

In Clement C. Ebokam vs. Ekwenibe & Sons Trading Company Ltd. (1999) 7 SCNJ 77, Kalgo, JSC held at page 87 that: “…Where the decisions of the Court under consideration clearly and wholly disposes of all the rights of the parties in the case, that decision is final. But where the decision only disposes of an issue or issues in the case, leaving the parties to go back to claim other rights in the Court, then that decision is interlocutory. And in order to determine whether the decision is final or interlocutory, the decision must relate to the subject matter in dispute between the parties and not the function of the Court making the order.”

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DECISION OF A COURT OF LAW OF COMPETENT JURISDICTION IS TO BE OBEYED

The true position of the law is that an order of a court whether it is to preserve the status quo or an executory order as such as the instant interim order to restore the name of the 1st respondent in the list of candidates for the aforesaid election clearly being an interim order with a mandatory character cannot be determined simply by looking at the form of the application or cause (from which it is generated) in order conclusively to say whether it is final or interlocutory but has further to be scrutinized from the view point of its intrinsic nature that is to say the nature of the order itself vis-a-vis the rights of the parties in the suit. It is furthermore my view that whether or not the instant order is final or interlocutory does not affect it being all the same a decision of a court of competent jurisdiction to be obeyed.

— C.M. Chukwuma-Eneh, JSC. Kubor v. Dickson (2012) – SC.369/2012

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WHEN THE SUPREME COURT WILL DEPART FROM HIS EARLIER DECISION

As departure from a decision of a court or overruling a decision of a court is a very major judicial exercise, which if done often will ruin or jeopardise the stable rules of judicial precedent, and particularly the rules of stare decisis, courts of law, even the highest court of the land, will not yield to the invitation of counsel just for the asking, in the sense that the case sought to be overruled is not in favour of the party. In asking for a case to be overruled, the party should take into account or consideration, the totality of the decision, meaning that the ratio decidendi must be considered along with the facts of the case. The party should also make a distinction, if any, in the case between a ratio decidendi and an obiter dictum. If a party’s worry is an obiter dictum, a court of law will not depart from its earlier judgment or overrule it because obiter does not ipso facto have or possess any force in the judgment. And when I say this I am not ignorant of the law that obiter dictum of this Court followed by this Court in certain instances could ripen into a ratio decidendi by frequent adoption.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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APPELLATE COURT APPROACH TO REVIEWING CUSTOMARY COURT DECISION

This court in the case of Odofin v. Oni (2001) 1 SCNJ 130 handed down the principles to be adopted in interpreting the records of proceedings of a Native or Customary Courts. At page 149 of the report Achike JSC of blessed memory stated the principles thus:- “In order to appreciate the real effect of the lower courts strong criticism of the statement of the customary court that the respondent “failed to prove ownership of the land in dispute” it is important to stress that greater latitude and broader interpretation must be accorded to decision of customary courts as it is trite that the proceedings in the customary courts are not subject to the application of the Evidence Act. It is important that superior appellant courts in relation to matters relating to customary courts should focus their attention to the substance of the judgments or decisions in those courts rather than the forms. This is so because customary courts be they Area Courts or whatever name they are christened in our judicial jurisdiction are generally presided over by laymen without even rudimentary exposure to legal principles. An Appellate Court should in all circumstances strive to get the bottom of the decision of a customary court. This can only be achieved by considering the input of a decision of a customary court not in fragments or in isolation of excerpts thereof but must be read harmoniously as a whole in order to capture its imports. In other-words when greater latitude is accorded to the interpretation of the decisions of customary court it will be sufficient if such decisions are seen to accord with the view of person of good common sense and reason completely devoid of legalistic encrustments”.

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AS LONG AS A DECISION HAS NOT BEEN SET ASIDE, THE JUDGEMENT OF COURT MUST BE OBEYED

The point must be rammed home that an order issuing from any court, a fortiori an order of the Court of Appeal, the penultimate court in the judicial ladder, must be obeyed to the letters. It is of no moment that such order is wrongly made as long as it has not been set aside by an appellate court. Obedience to order of court is part and parcel of rule of law, which, in turn, is sina qua non for orderliness and development of democracy in any society. Contrariwise, disobedience of court order, as amply demonstrated by the respondent’s unrepentant conduct, is capable of igniting chaos and anarchy in any country. The respondent, erroneously, think that the court is a toothless bulldog which can bark without biting. By his aberrant desecration of the order of this court, made on 10/06/2010, he has insulted the law and he must incur its wrath.

— O. Ogbuinya, JCA. Ogunleye v. Aina (2012) – CA/IL/22/2011

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CORRECTNESS OF DECISION IS THE FOCUS, NOT THE REASONS

Even though the learned trial Judge seemed to have rejected the respondent’s defence of acquiescence, I cannot ignore it. The lower court and this court need not agree on the reasons for arriving at the same conclusion. The focus of an appellate court is the correctness of the decision of the lower court and not the reasons given for it.

– Ogunwumiju JCA. Awure v. Iledu (2007)

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COURT MUST CONFINE ITS DECISION TO THE PARTIES AND CLAIMS

The law is settled that a Court can only exercise its jurisdiction or power over parties before it and strictly in respect of the case between them upon issues raised and reliefs sought. It cannot do so concerning, and to the extent it may affect persons who are not parties before it and must resist the temptation to make pronouncement to that end. The Court must confine its decision to the parties and their claims. See Ojogbue v Nnubia (1972) 1 ALL NLR (Pt.2) 226; Ochonma v Unosi (1965) NMLR 321; Labide v Regd. Trustee Cherubim & Seraphim (2003) FWLR (Pt. 142) 89 at 105 Paragraphs G-H; Intercontractors (Nig) Ltd v UAC of (Nig) Ltd (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt. 76) 303; Green v Green (1987) NWLR (Pt 61) 481.

— P.A. Galumje, JSC. Huebner v Aeronautical Ind. Eng. (2017) – SC.198/2006

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