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MARGINAL NOTE IS HELPFUL IN CONSTRUCTION OF A SECTION

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Although the marginal note in a section is not part of the section, it is helpful even if occasionally misleading to construction, as a sign post to what the section sets out to provide.

– Karibi-whyte JSC. Idehen v. Idehen (1991) – SC. 271/1989

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“MAY” MEAN “SHALL” WHERE THERE IS AN OBLIGATION IMPOSED

OMOMZUAWO & ANOR v. UGBODAGA & ORS (2021) JELR 107021 (CA): “it is now trite in law that where the word ‘may’ is used but a right or obligation is thereby conferred, then the word ‘may’ is to be interpreted as ‘shall’ and is taken as mandatory. In the instant appeal looking holistically at the provisions of Section 19 of the said law conferring an obligation or duty as well as rights on the Appellants, I hold that the use of ‘may’ in that sub – Section (2) of Section 19 of the said law amounts to ‘shall’ and is therefore, mandatory.”

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DEFINITION OF “SECONDMENT”

The term secondment is mostly used in the public service which is not the case in the instant suit. That notwithstanding, the Black’s Law Dictionary at page 1555 defines ‘secondment’ as “a period of time that a worker spends away from his or her usual job”. The court in the case of ALHAJI HAMZA DALHATU v. ATTORNEY GENERAL, KATSINA STATE & ORS (2007) LPELR-8460(CA) also reckoned the meaning of secondment as used in the Public service rules when it stated that: “SECTION 6 – TRANSFERS AND SECONDMENT 02601 – TRANSFER is the permanent release of an officer from one service to another or from one class to another within the same service. SECONDEMENT means the temporary release of an officer to the service of another Government or Body for a specified period.” Per ARIWOOLA, J.C.A. (P.34, paras. A-B).

— Z.M. Bashir, J. Gbaraka v Zenith Securities & Anor. (2020) – NICN/PHC/45/2018

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INTENTION CAN BE ASCERTAINABLE FROM THE DOCUMENT

The learned trial Judge considered the somewhat exclusive character of the occupation of the petrol station by the respondent and gave weight to some expressions used in the agreement as words indicating that a tenancy as distinct from a licence is the subject matter of the agreement. I have not the slightest doubt he was right in considering these expressions: he was right in considering the character of the occupation; but it appears to me it was his duty to do more than this. It was also his duty to consider the conduct of the parties as well as their intention, particularly when such intention is ascertainable from the document or agreement as a whole.

– Ademola, CJF. Mobil v. Johnson (1961)

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PARLIAMENT DOES NOT INTEND ALTERATION BEYOND THAT STATED

Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes 12th Ed. page 116. The statement of the law reads: “Few principles of statutory interpretation are applied as frequently as the presumption against alterations in the common law. It is presumed that the legislature does not intend to make any change in the existing law beyond that which is expressly stated in or followed by necessary implication from the language of the statute in question. It is thought to be in
the highest degree improbable that Parliament would depart from the general system of law
without expressing its intention with irresistible clearness and to give any such effect to general words merely because this would be their widest, usual, natural or literal meaning would be to place on them a construction other than that which Parliament must be supposed to have intended. If the arguments on a question of interpretation are fairly evenly balanced, that interpretation should be chosen which involves the least alteration of the existing law.”

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

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CARDINAL PRINCIPLE OF INTERPRETATION: ORDINARY MEANING

It is a fundamental and cardinal principle of interpretation of statutes that where in its ordinary meaning a provision is clear and unambiguous, effect should be given to it without resorting to external aid. See A.-G., Federation v. A.-G., Abia State & Ors. (No.2) (2002) 6 NWLR (Pt. 764) 542 at 794 paras. B – C per Uwais CJN; A-G., Bendel State v. A.-G., Federation (1983) 1 SCNLR 239.

— M. Peter-Odili, JCA. CAC v. Ayedun (2005) – CA/A/152/2004

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INTERPRETATION OF SECTION 137(1)(D) OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION

The Petitioners have centered their contention on the provisions of Section 137(1)(d) of the 1999 Constitution which reads as follows: “137(1) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if – (d) he is under a sentence of death imposed by any competent court of law or tribunal in Nigeria of a sentence of imprisonment or fine for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud by whatever name called or for any other offence imposed on him by any court tribunal or substituted by a competent authority for any other sentence imposed on him by such a court or tribunal.” A careful examination of the above provision shows that the operative words of that paragraph of the Section are “sentence”, “imprisonment or fine” and “for any offence.” … It is discernible from the above that the “fine” referred to in paragraph (d) of Section 137(1) quoted above is one which emanates from a sentence for a criminal offence involving dishonesty or fraud. The words “for imprisonment or fine” also pre-supposes that the “fine” envisaged under the section is one which is imposed as an alternative to imprisonment. In other words, the provision of Section 137(1)(d) relates to sentence of death, or sentence of imprisonment or fine imposed as a result of a criminal trial and conviction.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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