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HEADINGS OF A STATUTE SHOULD BE LOOKED AT TO CLARIFY AMBIGUITY

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My Lords, I am persuaded that we must look at the heading of both sections of the statute to clarify any ambiguity. See OGBONNA v. A. G. IMO STATE (1992) 1 NWLR Pt. 220 Pg. 647, OYO STATE BOARD OF INTERNAL REVENUE v. UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN (2013) LPELR 2215.

— H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. UBA v Triedent Consulting Ltd. (SC.CV/405/2013, July 07, 2023)

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EXCEPT STATED, STATUTE DOES NOT MAKE ANY ALTERATION IN THE LAW BEYOND

Crais on Statute Law 7th edition, the statement of the law reads at pages 121 to 122. “To alter any clearly established principle of law a distinct and positive legislative enactment is necessary. “Statutes” said the Court of Common Pleas in Arthur v. Bokenham are not presumed to make any alteration in the common law further or otherwise than the Act does expressly declare”.

– Cited in Abioye v. Yakubu (1991) – SC.169/1987

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PROVISIONS OF STATUTE MUST BE GIVEN THEIR SIMPLE & PLAIN MEANING

The cardinal principle of law of interpretation is that a court when interpreting a provision of a statute must give the words and the language used their simple and ordinary meaning, and not to venture outside it by introducing extraneous matters that may lead to circumventing or giving the provision an entirely different interpretation to what the law maker intended it to be. – A.M. Mukhtar, JSC. Unipetrol v. Edo State Internal Revenue (2006) – S.C. 286/2001

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DEFINITION OF “JUDICIAL” AND “JUDICIOUS”

The terms “Judicial” and “Judicious” were defined by the Supreme Court in the case of ERONINI v IHEUKO (1989) 2 NWLR (101) 46 at 60 and 61as follows: “Acting judicially imports the consideration of the interest of both sides weighing them in order to arrive at a just or fair decision. Judicious means:(a) proceeding from or showing sound judgment; (b) having or exercising sound judgment; (c) marked by discretion, wisdom and good sense.”

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STATUTES ARE TO BE INTERPRETED LITERALLY, WHETHER HARSH OR NOT

In the matter of the interpretation of statutes, Courts have been well guided over the years with the clear boundary beyond which Courts cannot enter. Thus, while Courts have the power to interpret the law, it has no licence to veer into the legislative arena or constitute itself into the legislator, however harsh or distasteful the piece of legislation may be. Once the words are plain and unambiguous, the Court is duty bound to give effect to it. In other words, in the interpretation of statutes, words should always be given their ordinary meaning. Where the words are clear, unambiguous and to the point, any addition or subtraction will be sequel to introducing an illegal backdoor amendment. See Setraco Nig Ltd V Kpaji (2017) LPELR-41560(SC) 25-26, paras D-A, per Peter-Odili, JSC; & Skye Bank Plc V Iwu (2017) LPELR-42595(SC) 118 paras B-C, per Ogunbiyi, JSC.

— J.H. Sankey, JCA. Zangye v Tukura (2018) – CA/MK/175/2017

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BY INTERPRETATION ACT, SINGULAR MEANS PLURAL IN ANY LEGISLATION

Let me hasten to state that even if the phrase any person denotes singular, by Section 14 of the Interpretation Act, in construing enactments, words in the singular include the plural and words in the plural include the singular. See COKER v. ADETAYO (1996) 6 NWLR (PT 454) 258 at 266, UDEH v. THE STATE (1999) LPELR (3292) 1 at 16-17 and APGA v. OHAZULUIKE (2011) LPELR (9175) 1 at 24-25.

— U.A. Ogakwu, JCA. ITDRLI v NIMC (2021) – CA/IB/291/2020

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EXCEPT DECLARED, STATUTES DOES NOT MAKE ALTERATION IN THE COMMON LAW

Halsbury’s Laws of England, Volume 14 paragraphs 904 and 906, which read: “Except insofar as they are clearly and unambiguously intended to do so, statutes should not be construed so as to make any alteration in the common law or to change any established principle of law, or to alter completely the character of the principle of law contained in statutes which they merely amend. There is no presumption that by legislating Parliament intended to change the law. ” “Unless it is clearly and unambiguously intended to do so, a statute should not be construed so as to interfere with or prejudice established private rights under contracts or the title to property, or so as to deprive a man of his property without his having an opportunity of being heard.”

– Cited in Abioye v. Yakubu (1991) – SC.169/1987

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