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INVOKING SECTION 22 OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT 1960 ON A MATTER OF LAW ONLY

Dictum

I think the issue can now be examined by this Court by virtue of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 1960. It does not require any further evidence. The existence of the depositions is not in dispute. Indeed, the nature of the depositions is open to interpretation only. The exercise therefore becomes a matter of law alone: see Orji v Zaria Industries Ltd (1992) 1 NWLR (Part 216) 124 at 141 where a similar exercise carried out by the Court of Appeal when the trial court failed to do so was approved by this Court. See also National Bank of Nigeria Ltd v Guthrie (Nigeria) Ltd (1993) 3 NWLR (Part 284) 643 at 659-660; Katto v Central Bank of Nigeria (1999) 6 NWLR (Part 607) 390 at 407-408.

— Uwaifo, JSC. Bamaiyi v State (SC 292/2000, Supreme Court, 6th April 2001)

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EXERCISING SECTION 22 OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT – A CONDITION IS THAT THE TRIAL COURT SHOULD ALSO BE ABLE TO ADJUDICATE

Now, if this court is to consider the merit of the suit, it will only be able to do so by invoking its power to step into the shoes of the trial court under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act. For this court to invoke and exercise its powers under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, one of the conditions that must be fulfilled is that the court below or the trial court, as the case may be, must have the power or jurisdiction to adjudicate over the matter. In other words, under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, this court cannot make order or exercise the power that the trial court or the lower court cannot make or exercise. See DANLADI V. UDI (2022) 9 NWLR (PT. 1834) 185; EBEBI V. OZOBO (2022) 1 NWLR (PT. 1810) 165; IDIAGBON V. A.P.C. (2019) 18 NWLR (PT. 1703) 102; ARDO V. INEC (2017) 13 NWLR (PT. 1583) 450; ADAMU V. STATE (2017) 10 NWLR (PT. 1574) 463 … While this court is conferred with wide powers by Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, the powers can only be exercised within the confines of the competence of the trial court or the lower court. Once the power of the court has ceased, the power of this court under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act also automatically ceases. Hence, this court has no power to delve into the merits of the appeal. A similar issue came up for determination in two recent decisions of this court, and it was held that this court cannot exercise its jurisdiction under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act once the trial court or the lower court as the case may be has lost its own jurisdiction. See SAMUEL V. APC & ORS (2023) LPELR – 59831 (SC); EZENWANKWO v. APGA & ORS (2022) LPELR 57884 (SC).

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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THERE WILL BE NO REFERENCE TO THE SUPREME COURT WHEN THERE IS A CASE LAW ON THE POINT

With this principal issue resolved in favour of the appellant, the motion filed herein for reference to the Supreme Court becomes irrelevant. This is because from the argument of all learned counsel to the parties, reference to the Supreme Court can only be made by the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court under section 295(3) of the 1999 Constitution, if there have been no guidance from the apex court on the point. This is not the position in the instant case where this point sought to be referred to the Supreme Court – the application of immunity by the principal officers named in S.308 of the 1999 Constitution in election petition matters – had been resolved by the Supreme Court in the Obih v. Mbakwe and Unongo v. Aper Aku set of cases cited by the appellants counsel supra. In the light of these authorities, I hold that this is not a point for reference for clarification to the Supreme Court as the apex court had done the necessary clarification. In consequence application dated 17/12/03 and filed on 18/12/03 is hereby dismissed.

— M.A. Okunola, JCA. AD v. Fayose (2004) – CA/IL/EP/GOV/1/2004

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SUPREME COURT SHOULD INFREQUENTLY USE ITS POWERS DONATED IN SECTION 22

[W]e decided to hear counsel on both sides on the point, even though it was a point which could have been properly raised under a respondents’ notice. This course is of course permitted by the Rules (see, for example, Order 8 rule 3(6) of the Supreme Court Rules, 1985). Besides, our consideration of the point is necessary for the determination of the real question in controversy in the appeal within the meaning of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act. Indeed it is envisaged by the subsidiary issue framed for the appellants in their brief. But let me emphasize that although such powers, no doubt, exist, they are such that this court does not want to make a habit of drawing therefrom constantly so that it does not give the wrong impression that it is taking sides in matters in controversy before it. A respondent’s counsel should always make his own decision and file a respondent’s notice whenever necessary, otherwise he may find that he cannot advance a certain line of argument. I am invoking the power in this case because it is necessary for my decision in the case and has been raised by the subsidiary issue and was fully argued.

— P. Nnaemeka-Agu JSC. Gbaniyi Osafile v. Paul Odi (SC 149/1987, 4th day of May 1990)

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MORE AUTHORITIES WILL NOT MAKE THE COURT DEPART FROM HIS EARLIER STANCE

It seems to me that the authority could justify the stance taken by Chief Williams in the presentation of his arguments when he seemed, with respect, to have presented the same arguments as he did in the Ifezue case, but now with more authorities and emphasis. However I am of the clear view that for this Court to depart from its decision in a previous case, the arguments must bring some fresh elements not just more authorities which had not been adverted to in the earlier proceedings, or that there have been new developments, even in the socio-economic or political stance of the country, especially when the matter under consideration is a matter that is provided for by the Constitution, to warrant the Court to change its earlier stand. In this case, I have gone through the profound submissions of Chief Williams and it seems to me, with utmost respect, that all the learned senior advocate has succeeded in doing is to re-argue the Ifezue case with more authorities on the same points as earlier canvassed or at least to regard the present case as an appeal over the Ifezue case. I do not think that would be sufficient to persuade me to reconsider my earlier stand in the Ifezue case.

— Eso, JSC. Odi v Osafile (1985) – SC.144/1983

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SOME CASES WHERE THE SUPREME COURT HAS OVERRULED ITSELF

Counsel then referred first to American authorities to indicate that the Supreme Court of the US has frequently overruled itself. These cases are: Brown v. Board of Education 98 L Ed 873, 38A LR 2nd 1180 (overruling Plessy v. Fergusson 41 L Ed 216 on racial segregation matters) Girouard v. U.S. 90 L Ed 1084 (overruling US v. Schwimmer 73 L Ed 889) West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette 87 L Ed 1628, 147 A.L.R. 674 (overruling Minersville School Dist. v. Gobitis 84 L. Ed. 1375, 127 A.L.R. 1493 as to constitutionality of requirements to salute the flag of USA).

— Obaseki, JSC. Odi v Osafile (1985) – SC.144/1983

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THE SUPREME COURT AS A POLICY COURT HAS TO PREVENT VEXATIOUS APPEALS

This court is a policy court and it has a responsibility of ensuring that vexatious or manifestly incompetent appeals and actions are not brought before it or before any court at all. The Supreme Court as an institution must strongly stand against and discourage the filing of suits that ridicule the judiciary as a whole. The instant appeal and the suit that gave rise to it are a colossal and an unnecessary fool’s errand. Counsel should do better to advise and discourage their clients against filing these sort of actions in the future.

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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