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NATIVE CUSTOM IS A QUESTION OF FACT

Dictum

Native law and custom being a question of fact in an action in the High Court, it is true that the findings in these cases are not binding as precedents, and it is also true, as has been pointed out by Mr Oseni on behalf of the respondents, that however learned and experienced the Judges whose judgments are relied on may have been, they could only act on the evidence which the parties in the cases concerned chose to call before them.

Odunsi Lasisi Ajibola v. Aminu Akindele Ajani Ojora (1961)

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FACTS ACCEPTED AND NOT CONTROVERTED WILL LEAD TO CONVICTION

In Peter Igho v. The State (1978) 3 SC 87 the facts as set out in the judgment were that the deceased, lfoto Oboluke, left her house on Sunday 20th August, 1972 for a religious service but never returned alive. When the mother did not see her return in the evening she made a report and a search party was organised by the villagers. Those who saw her last said she was riding at the back of a bicycle. The corpse of the deceased was later found that night. This Court per Eso JSC upholding the verdict of the trial court on the conviction of the appellant said: “The only irresistible inference from the circumstances presented by the evidence in this case is that the appellant killed the deceased. We can find no other reasonable inference from the circumstances of the case. The facts which were accepted by the learned trial Judge amply supported by the evidence before him, called for an explanation and beyond the untrue denials of the appellant (as found by the learned trial Judge) none was forthcoming. See R. v. Mary Ann Nash (1911) 6 C.A.R. 225 at page 228. Though this constitutes circumstantial evidence, it is proof beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the appellant.”

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ONLY IN EXCEPTIONAL CASES WILL COURT INTERFERE IN FINDINGS OF FACT

When the appeal is predicated on the question of facts, concurrently found by the Courts below, the attitude of this Court is well settled. This Court will not interfere with those findings of facts except when appellant shows special or exceptional circumstances justifying the interference. Such special or exceptional circumstances include the showing either that there was miscarriage of justice; or a serious violation of some principles of substantive or procedural law; or that the findings of fact are perverse, in the sense that they do not at all flow from the totality of the evidence at the trial and or that the findings are unreasonable. See ENANG v. ADU (1981) 11-12 SC 25 at 42; LOKOYI v. OLOJO (1983) 8 SC 61 at 73; OJOMU v. AJAO (1983) 9 SC 22 at 53; IBODO v. ENAROFIA (1980) 5-7 SC 42; AKAYEPE v. AKAYEPE (2009) 11 NWLR (pt. 1152) 217 SC. Notwithstanding this stance of this Court, this Court is still being perpetually inundated by appeals predicated solely on concurrent findings of facts by Courts below to this Court. The connivance of legal practitioners in this regard cannot be ruled out; particularly by those desperately wanting to make up their qualifying appearances in this Court to enable them apply for the award of the privilege of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The sooner the balance between this privilege and the congestion in, or the work load of, this Court was struck the better for this Court and those seeking to be conferred the privilege. I say no more for now.

— E. Eko, JSC. Galadima v. State (2017) – SC.70/2013

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PATERNITY ACKNOWLEDGED CHILD WILL SHARE IN ESTATE

Alake v. Pratt (1955) 15 W.A.C.A. 20, to the effect that if paternity of children is acknowledged by a man during his lifetime they are to be regarded as legitimate and entitled to share in his estate with his children born of a marriage contracted under the Marriage Ordinance.

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EACH CASE MUST BE DETERMINED ON ITS MERIT

As the Respondent rightly submitted, each case must be determined upon its own peculiar circumstances as no two cases are identical; they may be similar but not identical – see Admin/Exec., of the Estate of Gen. Abacha V. Eke-Spiff & Ors. (supra).

— A.A. Augie, JCA. Elias v Ecobank (2016) – CA/L/873/2013

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WHAT JUDGE MAY DO WHEN CUSTOMARY LAW IS NOT PLEADED

When the learned trial Judge felt convinced that the fact of the customary law of Enugu-Ukwu relevant and material to the case ought to have been pleaded and proved, but was not, he could not have suggested to the respondents (plaintiffs before the court) to amend their pleadings. To have done so would have meant that he was aiding them to establish their case. But he could have advised himself that unless pleadings were duly amended, he could not raise the lack of proof of the fact, material as it was, suo motu, and proceeded to make an order of striking out on that ground. He could have properly called on counsel on both sides at the address stage of the proceedings to address him on the propriety of a non-suit as, unlike in Lagos State, for which see Anyakwo v. A.C.B. Ltd. (1976) 2 S.C. 41, pp. 55-65; Lawal v. National Electric Power Authority (1976) 3 S.C. 109, p.135, a decree of non-suit is still available in Anambra.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Ugo v Obiekwe (1989) – SC.207/1985

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