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MARGINAL NOTES IN STATUTES

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Marginal notes, otherwise known as side notes or section heads are short notations appearing above or beside each section of a statute or regulation. While marginal notes are not part of a statute, they provide an interpretative aid to Courts and are useful in considering the purpose of a section and the mischief at which it is aimed. See per Eso, JSC in OLOYO V. ALEGBE (1983) 2 S.C.N.L.R. 35 AT 57; Per Idigbe, JSC in UWAIFO V. AG BENDEL STATE (1982) 7 SC 124 AT 187 188, OSIEC & ANOR V. AC & ORS (2010) LPELR-2818 (SC), INAKOJU & ORS V. ADELEKE & ORS (2007) LPELR 1510 (SC), YABUGBE V. C.O.P (1992) LPELR 3505 (SC).

— A. JAURO, JSC. UBA v Triedent Consulting Ltd. (SC.CV/405/2013, July 07, 2023)

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STATUTE SHOULD BE READ AS A WHOLE

It is important in the construction of a provision to read the statute as a whole. Such a method of construction enables an interpretation which brings into focus related sections which are complementary.

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

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WHERE INTERPRETATION IS CAPABLE OF TWO MEANINGS, ADOPT A NON-DEFEATIST APPROACH

It is settled that where in the interpretation of a word appearing in a particular piece of legislation, such word is capable of two meanings, the court has a duty to adopt an interpretation which would not defeat the intention of the law makers. See Mandara v. Attorney-General, Federation (1984) NSCC 221; Yabugbe v. C.O.P. (1992) 4 SCNJ 116; Lawal v. G. B. Ollivant (1972) 3 SC 124.

— Galadima, JSC. Wike Nyesom v. Peterside, APC, INEC, PDP (SC. 718/2015, 27 Oct 2015)

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WORDS SHOULD BE CONSTRUED IN ACCORDANCE TO THEIR INTENTION

Taking the first and third issues together, the central question is the interpretation to be given to Exhibit 2. I have already set it out above. The first question is what approach should be made in the interpretation of Exhibit 2? In my judgment it is crucial that Exhibit 2 should be construed in the context in which it was written. For, I believe it to be well – settled that in the interpretation of statutes we ought to bear in mind the circumstances when the Act was passed and the mischief which then existed and use them as an aid to the construction of the words which Parliament has used. See on this: Holme v. Guy (1877) 5 Ch. O. 596; River Wear Commissioners v. Adamson (1877) 2 App. Cas. 743, per Lord Blackburn; Eastman Photographic Materials Co., Ltd. v. Comptroller-General of Patents (1898) A.C. 571. Besides, words in a statute are to be construed in accordance with their intention. See Wandsworth Board of Works v. United Telephone Co. (1884) 13 Q.B.D. 904. These principles of interpretation have for a long time been applied to the interpretation of documents.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Ashibuogwu v AG Bendel State (1988) – SC.25/1986

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PERSON WHO INTERPRETED A STATEMENT MUST TENDER IT IN COURT

It is settled that the person or officer who interpreted a statement must tender it in Court so that if necessary, the interpreter can be cross examined on whether the interpreted statement is the correct interpretation of the original words as spoken by the Defendant.

– H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. State v. Ibrahim (2021) – SC.200/2016

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STATUTES ARE TO BE GIVEN THE ORDINARY MEANING

It is a settled cardinal principle of statutory interpretation that where, in their ordinary meaning the provisions are clear and unambiguous effect should be given to them without resorting to external aid. The duty of the court is to interpret the words of the statute as used. Those words may be ambiguous, but even if they are the power and duty of the court to travel outside them on a voyage of discovery are strictly limited (see for example Attorney-General of Bendel State v. Attorney-General of ‘the Federation (1981) 10S.C. 1; Abioyev.Yakubu(1991)5 NWLR (Pt. 190) 130, Lawal v. G.B. Ollivant (1972) 2 S.C. 124, Aya v. Henshaw (1972) 5 S.C. 87.

— I.L. Kutigi, JSC. Kotoye v. Saraki (1994) – S.C. 147/1993

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GIVE ORDINARY MEANING WHERE STATUTORY PROVISIONS ARE CLEAR

The above constitutional provisions are clear, plain and unambiguous and should be accorded their literal interpretation by attaching the ordinary grammatical meaning to the words used therein. It is trite law that the elementary rule of construction is that words used in a statute should be given their ordinary grammatical meaning. Where the statutory provisions are plain and unambiguous, the Court should not go beyond their clear import. See Nabhan v. Nabhan (1967) 1 All NLR 47; Adejumo v. Gov; Lagos State (1972) 2 SC 45; Ogbuanyinya v. Okudo (1979) 6-9 SC 32; Ogbonna v. A-G; Imo State (1992) 1 NWLR (Pt. 200) 647 and Skye Bank PLC v. Victor Anaemem Iwu (2017) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1590) 24 at 87, per Nweze, JSC.

— M.A.A. Adumein JCA. Anibor V. EFCC (CA/B/305/2012, 11 DEC 2017)

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