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MEANING OF “REASONABLE TIME” IN SECTION 36 OF CONSTITUTION

Dictum

The operative words for our purpose in this appeal are “reasonable time”, words which in their docile content are vague, and nebulous. A reasonable time is a time justified by reason. Reasonable time in its nebulous content cannot be determined in vacuo but in relation to the fact of each case. This is because what constitutes a reasonable time in one case may riot necessarily constitute a reasonable time in another case. Reasonable time in section 36 presupposes the granting of an adjournment in cases. In dealing with the reasonable time concept in section 36, the court will take into consideration the nature of the case in terms of the magnitude, intricacies, versatilities, complexities and volume of the work involved. In this respect, the court will consider the assemblage of witnesses and documents, if any and the likely or possible time to get all these. Above all, the court will take into consideration the procurement .of exculpatory or inculpatory evidence as the case may be. A reasonable time is also a moderately and practically possible time within which a court or tribunal could complete a trial and pronounce its decision. See Effiom v. State (1995) 1 NWLR (Pt. 373) 507. Reasonable time means the period of time which, in the search for justice, does not wear out the parties and their witnesses and which is required to ensure that justice is not only done but appears to reasonable person to be done. See Ariori v. Elemo (1983) 1 SCNLR 1; Chief Atejioye v. Ayeni (1998) 6 NWLR (Pt. 552) 132.

— Niki Tobi JSC. Pam & Anor. V Mohammed (2008) – SC.238/2007

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FAIR HEARING, NATURAL JUSTICE

Fair hearing within the meaning of section 33(1) of the 1979 Constitution means a trial conducted according to all the legal rules formulated to ensure that justice is done to the parties. It requires the observance of the twin pillars of the rules of natural justice namely a udi alteram partem and nemo judex in causa sua.

– Muhammad JCA. Osumah v. EBS (2004)

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FAIR HEARING IS SYNONYMOUS WITH FAIR TRIAL

Fair hearing has been interpreted by the courts to be synonymous with fair trial and as implying that every reasonable and fair minded observer who watches the proceedings should be able to come to the conclusion that the court or other tribunal has been fair to all the parties concerned.

– Ejiwunmi JSC. Unibiz v. Lyonnais (2003)

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AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM – WHERE OPPORTUNITY NOT USED

It is also the law that the fairness of a trial can be tested by the maxim audi alteram partem. Either party must be given an opportunity of being heard, but where a party refuses to take advantage of the opportunity to traverse specific allegations made against him, the averments will be deemed admitted and the defendant cannot complain of lack of fair hearing.

— O. Oyebiola, J. Yakubu v. FRCN (2016) – NIC/LA/673/2013

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FAILURE TO OBSERVE FEAR HEARING VITIATES THE ENTIRE PROCEEDINGS

The law is now well settled that failure of a Court, such as the Court below in the instant appeal, to observe the right to fair hearing of a party in any proceedings before it, vitiates both the proceedings and the resultant decision of the Court whose proceedings is afflicted by the deadly, incurable and highly contagious virus of denial of fair hearing and this is notwithstanding the merit or otherwise of the respective cases of the parties or indeed how meticulous the proceedings were or even how sound the resultant decision is, they are all a nullity. This, in my finding, is the sure but unfortunate fate of the proceedings and ruling of the Court below as it affects the petition filed by the Appellant against the Respondent in this appeal, which ruling was clearly reached in flagrant breach of the Appellant’s right to fair hearing. This is so because in law the principles of fair hearing are not only fundamental to adjudication but they are also constitutional requirements which cannot be legally wished away. It is indeed a fundamental right of universal application. See Agbapuonwu V. Agbapuonwu (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt. 165) 33 @ p. 40. See also Agbogu V. Adiche (Supra) @p. 531; J.O.E. Co. Ltd V. Skye Bank Plc (2009) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1138) @p.518; Robert C. Okafor & Ors V. AG and Commissioner for Justice Anambra State (1991) 6 NWLR (PT.200) 659.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. UBA v. Ashimina (2018) – CA/L/1033/2014

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FAILURE TO USE FAIR HEARING OPPORTUNITIES GIVEN

It is settled law that when a party is given the opportunity (and in this case opportunities) to be heard and such party fails to utilize it, such party cannot hide under the umbrella of the fair hearing rule. He will fail. Again, I agree with Olu Daramola (SAN) that the position of the law is that where a party has been afforded the opportunity to be heard (in this case several opportunities) and such party fails to utilize it, the party cannot approach an appellate court and claim to have been denied fair hearing.

– H.M. Ogunwumiju, JCA. ITV v. Edo Internal Revenue (2014) – CA/B/20/2013

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FAILURE TO GIVE FAIR HEARING DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY LEAD TO A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE

On whether the court below was right when it failed to consider and pronounce upon all the issues submitted to it by the appellant for its determination, I agree with the submission of the appellant’s Counsel that the court below failed to consider and pronounce upon the second issue for determination submitted by the appellant in that court. However, I am unable to hold that the failure to do so led to any miscarriage of justice in the circumstances of the case. There was also no denial of fair hearing as enshrined in Section 33 of 1979 Constitution. Failure to consider and pronounce on all issues submitted to a court or tribunal will not, per se, amount to a denial of a right to fair hearing having regard to the judicial decisions on the principle. In some cases, it may occasion failure of justice which amounts to denial of fair hearing and in others as is the case in the present proceedings, it will not. See Kotoye v Central Bank of Nigeria & others (1989) 1 NWLR (Part 98) 419.

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

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