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JUSTICE DOES NOT RELY IN FORMS & TECHNICALITIES

Dictum

Oputa, JSC in Bello v. Oyo State (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt 45) 826 at 886: “the picture of law and its technical rules triumphant and justice prostrate may no doubt have its admirers. But the spirit of justice does not reside in forms, formalities nor in technicalities nor is the triumph of the administration of justice to be found in successfully picking one’s way between pitfalls of technicality. Law and its technical rules ought to be a handmaid to justice…”

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TECHNICAL VS SUBSTANTIVE JUSTICE

There is also the view of some counsel that the decision in Okafor v. Nweke had to do with technical justice. I agree that the age of technical justice is gone. The current vogue is substantial justice. See: Dada v. Dosumu (2006) 12 PNJSC 115. But substantial justice can only be attained not by bending the law but by applying it as it is; not as it ought to be. There is nothing technical in applying the provisions of sections 2(1) and 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act as it is drafted by the Legislature. The law should not be bent to suit the whims and caprices of the parties/counsel. One should not talk of technicality when a substantive provision of the law is rightly invoked.

— J.A. Fabiyi, JSC. FBN v. Maiwada (2012) – SC.269/2005

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AN ERROR OF LAW COMPLAINED OF MUST HAVE CAUSED A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE

OLADEJO ADEWUYI AJUWON & ORS VS FADELE AKANNI & ORS (1993) 12 SCNJ 32 AT 52 this Court held “It is not every error of law that is committed by a trial or appellate Court that justifies the reversal of a judgment. An appellant, to secure the reversal of a judgment, must further establish that the error of law complained of did in fact occasion a miscarriage of justice and/or substantially affected the result of the decision. An error in law which has occasioned no miscarriage of justice is immaterial and may not affect the final decision of a Court. This is because what an Appeal Court has to decide is whether the decision of judge was right and not whether his reasons were, and a misdirection that does not occasion injustice is immaterial. The error in law in applying the doctrine of lis pendens complained of did not occasion any miscarriage of justice. The erroneous application of the doctrine of lis pendens notwithstanding, there was no other course that was open to the Court of Appeal in the appeal than to invalidate the sale in issue and to dismiss the appeal before it”.

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WHAT IS MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE?

Miscarriage of justice connotes decision or outcome of legal proceeding that is prejudicial or inconsistent with the substantial rights of the party. Miscarriage of justice means a reasonable probability of more favourable outcome of the case for the party alleging it. Miscarriage of justice is injustice done to the party alleging it. The burden of proof is on the party alleging that the justice has been miscarried.

– Niki Tobi JSC. Gbadamosi v. Dairo (2007)

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TOWING JUSTICE VS UPHOLDING STATUTORY PROVISIONS

A court of law cannot ignore provisions of a statute which are mandatory or obligatory and tow the line of justice in the event that the statute has not done justice. Courts of law can only do so in the absence of a mandatory or obligatory provision of a statute. In other words, where the provisions of a statute are mandatory or obligatory, courts of law cannot legitimately brush the provisions aside just because it wants to do justice in the matter. That will be adulterating the provisions of the statute and that is not my function; the Judge that I am. I must say that I will be doing justice only to the appellants if I interpret Sections 22 and 26 of the Land Use Act in the way he has urged. But that will certainly be unjust to the respondent. He too, like the appellants, needs justice: As the independent umpire that I am, I am bound to do justice in the case before me.

– Niki Tobi, JSC. Calabar CC v. Ekpo (2008)

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DOING SUBSTANTIAL JUSTICE IN ALL CASES

Niki Tobi(JSC) (Blessed memory) in Samuel Ayo Omoju v. FRN [2008]ALL FWLR (Pt.415) 1656 at1671-1672 paras. G-B; espoused on doing substantial justice in all cases quipped thus – Substantial justice, which is actual and concrete justice, is justice personified. It is secreted in the elbows of cordial and fair jurisprudence with a human face and understanding. It is excellent to follow in our law. It pays to follow it as it brings invaluable dividends in any legal system anchored or predicated on the rule of law.

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FOR REVERSAL OF AN ERROR, A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE MUST HAVE OCCURED

Again to be said is that it is not every error of law that is committed by a trial or appellate Court that justifies the reversal of a judgment. For a reversal to take place, the error must have occasioned a miscarriage of justice as it was material in the decision reached.

– M. Peter-Odili JSC. Adegbanke v. Ojelabi (2021)

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