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HOUSE OF LORD MAY EVEN DEPART FROM HIS PREVIOUS DECISION WHERE IT SEES FIT

Dictum

As far back as 1898 the House of Lords finally agreed to be bound, and decided that it was bound, by its own decisions (see London Street Tramways v. London County Council (1898) A.C. 375). This has been the position for almost a century until 1966 when it had to qualify its stand by the following statement made by Lord Gardner, L.C. on behalf of the House (i.e. on behalf of himself and The Lords of Appeal in Ordinary): “Their Lordships regard the use of precedent as an indispensable foundation upon which to decide what is the law and its application to individual cases. It provides at least some degree of certainty upon which individuals can rely in the conduct of their affairs, as well as a basis for orderly development of legal rules. Their Lordship nevertheless recognise that too rigid adherence to precedent may lead to injustice in a particular case and also unduly restrict the proper development of the law. They propose therefore to modify their present practice and, while treating former decisions of this House as normally binding, to depart from a previous decision when it appears right to do so. In this connection they will bear in mind the danger of disturbing retrospectively the basis on which contracts, settlements of property and fiscal arrangements have been entered into and also the special need for certainty as to the criminal law. . .” see (1966) AIIE.R. 77.

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EACH CASE IS ONLY AN AUTHORITY FOR WHAT IT DECIDES

Let me emphasise here, and it is important to always bear in mind that the decision of a court must always be considered in the light of its own peculiar facts and circumstances. No one case is identical to another though they may be similar. Thus, each case is only an authority for what it decides. It cannot be applied across board. The case of Nwosu (supra) is different in all expects from the instant appeal and cannot be applied without more. See Skye Bank Plc & Anor. Vs. Chief Moses Bolanle Akinpelu (2010) 9 NWLR (Pt.1198), Okafor Vs. Nnaife (1987)4 NWLR (Pt.64)129, Peoples Democratic Party Vs. INEC (2018) LPELR-44373 (SC).

— J.I. Okoro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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LACK OF A PRECEDENT ON A POINT CANNOT DENY JUSTICE

What is the argument on the other side? Only this: that no case has been found in which it has been done before. That argument does not appeal to me in the least. If we never do anything which has not been done before, we shall never get anywhere. The law will stand still whilst the rest of the world goes on: and that will be bad for both. – Packer v Packer [1954] P 15 at 22

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[DS] IT IS EMBARRASSING FOR A LOWER COURT TO SET ASIDE A DECISION OF A HIGHER COURT

It is also not in dispute that following the order of 19 th March, 09 which had been carried out, the respondents appealed to this court against the grant of same and followed up with an application for an injunction restraining the receiver appointed from acting in that office. It is when this application and the appeal were in existence that the respondents orally applied to have the Court of Appeal order of 19/3/09 discharged. Thus when this order was discharged on 1/7/09 it completely rendered ineffective and nugatory the motion and the appeal pending before the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. This situation, with tremendous respect to the learned senior counsel to the respondents’ is extremely embarrassing to our judicial system and the order of seniority of the court of record in Nigeria. In the first place, the trial court is bound by the orders of the Court of Appeal and I therefore wonder where the trial court conjured its jurisdiction to discharge the higher court’s order, not being a court of co-ordinate jurisdiction without any reference to the higher court. This is to dis-organise the constitutionally well arranged seniority of courts Hierarchy of courts and staire decises brushed aside. My Lords, a trial court may not be satisfied with the orders or findings of the Court of Appeal, there is nothing it can do about it, its constitutional and judicial role is either to obey or enforce that order, any act or process challenging the said order would have to be referred to the Court of Appeal any act to the contrary would amount to a breach of the constitutional provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The same applies to the Court of Appeal where the Supreme Court’s order is in question. By granting the order of discharge not made by it but by a higher court the trial court has in effect knocked off the substratum or lis of the appeal against the grant of that order now pending before this court.

— Mutaka-Coomassie, JSC. Shinning Star Nig. Ltd. v. AKS Steel Nigeria Ltd. (2011) – SC. 101/2010

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STARE DECISIS ON SIMILAR FACTS

It is settled that Courts, including this Court are bound by the earlier decisions of the apex Court on same or similar facts determined on the basis of same or similar legislations in their subsequent determination of cases in respect of same or similar facts and on the basis of same or similar legislations. See ATOLAGBE & ANOR V. AWUNI & ORS (1997) LPELR – 593 (SC) and DR. UMAR V. ADMIRAL MURTALA NYAKO & ORS (2014) LPELR – 22878 (SC).

– M.D. Muhammad JSC. Odey v. Alaga (2021) – SC.9/2021

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STARE DECISIS MAKES THE LAW CERTAIN

It is a policy of Courts to stand by established precedent for the certainty of the law. Agreed, no two cases have identical facts. Where, however, the facts of the decided case are substantially the same with the case at hand, the principle of stare decisis enjoins a Court to follow the earlier judicial decisions when the same points arose again in litigation. It is also a rule of law that ensures certainty in the state of the law and its application.

– E. Eko JSC. Mailantarki v. Tongo (2017) – SC.792/2015

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THERE ARE TIMES WHEN DEPARTURE FROM PRECEDENT IS IN THE INTEREST OF THE LAW

✓ In Bucknor Maclean v. Inlaks Limited (1980) 8-11 S.C. 1, the decisions overruled were clearly shown to become vehicles of injustice and this Court could not allow such state of affairs to continue and my late learned brother, Idigbe, J.S.C. fully gave expression to this when reading the lead judgment at page 25, he said. “I share the view of Lord Morris in Conway v. Rimmer that “though precedent is an indispensable foundation on which to decide what is the law, there may be times when a departure from precedent is in the interest of justice and the proper development of the law.” . . . I see no more justification for perpetuating recent error than for retaining any uncorrected error in much older decisions of this court.”

✓ In Golak Nath v. State of Punjab Air (1967) S.C. 1643, Subba R. CJ. (on behalf of himself, Shah, Sikri, Shelat and Vaidialingam, JJ. said at page 1670: “A final appeal is made to us that we shall not take a different view as the decision in Sankari Prasads case (1952) SCR 89-AIR 1951 S.C. 458 held the field for many years. While ordinarily this court will be reluctant to reverse its previous decisions, it is its duty in the constitutional field to correct itself as early for otherwise the future progress of the country and the happiness of the people will be at stake. As we are convinced that the decision in Sankari Prasad’s case 1952 SCR 89-(AIR 1951 S.C. 458) is wrong it is pre-eminently a typical case where the court should overrule it.

✓ Instances of this are to be found in the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. In Planny v. Ferguson (1896) 163 V.S. 537, the Court, in a segregation case, held that once, in public facilities accommodation was separate but equal it was constitutional to compel segregation of races in the use thereof. In Brown v. Topeka (1954) 347 V.S. 483, that is sixty years later, the court gave a decision in direct opposition to its view in Planny v. Ferguson. Times had changed and the court’s view was that attitude must change with them.

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