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JUSTICE MUST DELIVER OPINION IN WRITING; APPLIES TO ANY PANEL WITH MORE THAN ONE PANEL

Dictum

It is evident from this constitutional provision that the intention of the framers of the Constitution is that where a panel of justices hears a cause or matter, each of them must express and deliver his opinion in writing. Such written opinion may however be delivered by any other justice of the court on behalf of a justice who participated in the hearing but is unavoidably absent. The opinion delivered must be the opinion of the justices who participated in the hearing. Even though the provisions of section 294 (1) and (2) refers specifically to; Justices of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, it is my view that the principle is applicable to any court or tribunal that sits in a panel of two or more members.

— Kekere-Ekun, JSC. Nyesom v. Peterside (SC.1002/2015 (REASONS), 12 Feb 2016)

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TO VARY COURT JUDGEMENT, RESPONDENT NEEDS TO FILE RESPONDENT’S NOTICE

The 1st defendant cannot in the circumstances of this case, it not having appealed and not having filed a respondent’s notice, pray for a variation in the judgment in its favour.

— Obaseki, JSC. Foreign Finance Corp. v Lagos State Devt. & Pty. Corp. & Ors. (1991) – SC. 9/1988

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EVERY JUDGEMENT TAKES EFFECT ON PRONOUNCEMENT

In the case of INTERCONTRACTORS NIGERIA LTD v. U.A.C. OF NIGERIA LTD (supra) or (1988) (Pt. 1) Vol. 9 NSCC 737 at 752. This court per KARIBI WHYTE JSC stated:- “It is well settled that every judgment takes effect on pronouncement – see BANK OF WEST AFRICA LTD v. N.I.P.C LTD [1962] LLR 31; OLAYINKA v. ELUSANMI [1971] 1 NMLR 277. A judgment debtor seeking to stay the execution must show that he is challenging the judgment, or is asking for time to comply with the terms of the judgment.”

— D. Musdapher JSC. M.O. Olatunji v. Owena Bank (PLC) & Anor. (SC.349/2002, 25 April 2008)

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BECAUSE A JUDGEMENT IS A NULLITY DOES NOT MEAN IT IS NON-EXISTENT

I must observe that in trying to answer these important questions, learned counsel for the respondents tried to take umbrage under the statement of Lord Denning in Macfoy v. United African Co. Ltd. (1961) 3 W.L.R. 1405 at p.1409, P.C. where he said: Any purported exercise of any function being without any legal or Constitutional authority was null and void and of no effect. . .” If an act is void, then it is in law a nullity. It is not only bad but incurably bad. There is no need for an order of the court to set it aside. It is automatically null and void without much ado, though it is sometimes convenient to have the court declare it to be so. And every proceeding, which is founded on it, is also bad and incurably bad. You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse. With respects to the learned counsel for the respondents, it appears to me that the very eminent Lord Justice’s aim in this much misquoted and misapplied dictum was again talking of the effect in law of a judgment being declared void. It is “automatically null and void without more ado” and every proceeding which is founded on it is also bad and incurably bad.” His Lordship did not say that it ceases to exist as a fact. I agree with Chief Williams that there is a world of difference between saying that a judgment has no legal effect or consequences and saying that it is non-existent; between giving a judgment which is a nullity because, say, it was given without jurisdiction and saying that no judgment was given at all. The learned Justice of Appeal was, therefore, in error when he held that because the previous judgment of the Court of Appeal had been nullified by this court-for having been delivered more than three months of the conclusion of the final addresses, it follows that the judgment was non-existent. In my view, although, by its being declared a nullity, the judgment had no more any legal effect, it continued to exist de facto.

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

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JUDGEMENT CONFINED TO ISSUE RAISED

It is a well settled principle of judicial adjudication that the judgment in a lis must be confined to the cause of action and the issues raised on the pleadings See: Ochonma v. Asirim Unosi (1965) NMLR 321. The court cannot grant remedies or reliefs not claimed by the parties. – Karibe-Whyte JSC. Awoniyi v. AMORC (2000)

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FINAL EXERCISE OF JUDGEMENT MUST INVOLVE CONSIDERATION OF ALL THE CORRESPONDENCE ON BOTH SIDES

The final exercise of judgment must of necessity involve a consideration of all the correspondence that is properly put in evidence by both sides, all the correspondence tendered in order to establish the case and all that produced in order to disprove the existence of a contract. It is only after such detailed consideration that a tribunal can fairly come to a conclusion as to whether or not the parties actually arrived at an agreement. See Thomas Hussey v. Horne-Payne (1879) 4 App. Cas. 311. The task of analysing the several letters and attempts to reconcile the one with the other is undoubtedly a very difficult one calling for the most serious examination of each and every one of several documents until the tribunal is able to say whether a contract is indeed established.

— Coker JSC. Shell Bp Petroleum Dev. Co. v. Jammal Engineering (Nigeria) Limited (1974)

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OUT OF NOTHING, NOTHING CAN ARISE; NOTHING CAN COME FORTH OF A JUDGEMENT THAT IS A NULLITY

The aforesaid attempt by respondents’ counsel to influence this court, consisting of a different panel of Justices, by the previous but nullified conclusions-even though described as opinions-of its predecessors in respect of the same appeal is, in my view, a novel and an improper one. As rightly submitted by learned Counsel for the appellants a judgment set aside as a nullity ceases to have any effect whatsoever, for it is non-existent and as if it had never been given. I therefore agree with the conclusion of appellants’ counsel that such judgment “cannot constitute an opinion of the court that gave it, for out of nothing, nothing can arise.” Reference was specially made to the cases of Akpene v. Barclays Bank (1977)1 S.C. 47 at 59 where the Supreme Court adopted the view of Lord Denning in Macfoy v. United African Company Ltd. (1961) 3 W.L.R. (P.C.) 1405 at 1409, to the effect that: “You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse.”

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

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