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NATURE OF A GROUND OF APPEAL

Dictum

Grounds of appeal are meant to attack findings of a court that have bearing on the case put up by a litigant. In other words, it should be related to a decision of the court and contain complaints an appellant rely on to succeed in setting aside a decision, the ratio decidendi of a judgment, not just observations and passing remarks of a Judge in the course of writing a judgment.

– Mukhtar JSC. Nwankwo v. Ecumenical (2007)

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WHEN GROUNDS OF APPEAL ARE ONE OF LAW

In NNPC v. FAMFA OIL LTD. (2012) 17 N.W.L.R. (Part 1328) S.C. 148, this Court, while faced with a similar objection to the grounds of appeal, went ahead to deal extensively with the criteria for identifying when a ground of appeal is one of law, of fact, or of mixed fact and law. Rhodes-Vivours J.S.C., at Pp. 175 – 176, Paragraphs C – H, as follows: “…. In Nwadike v. Ibekwe (Supra), this Court explained further that: (a) It is an error in law if the adjudicating Tribunal took into account some wrong criteria in reaching its conclusion. (b) Several issues that can be raised on legal interpretation of deeds, documents, terms of arts and inference drawn there from are grounds of law. (c) Where a ground deals merely with a matter of inference, even if it be inference of fact, a ground framed from such is a ground of law. (d) Where a tribunal states the law in point wrongly, it commits an error in law. (e) Where the complaint is that there was no evidence or no admissible evidence upon which a finding or decision was based, same is regarded as a ground of law. (f) If a Judge considers matters which are not before him and relies on them for the exercise of his discretion, he will be exercising same on wrong principles and this will be a question of law…..”

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GROUNDS OF APPEAL SHOULD NOT BE LESS THAN THE ISSUES FORMULATED

A principle of formulation of issues in appeal is that the grounds of appeal should in no circumstance be less than the issues for determination. While the Court may tolerate equal number of grounds of appeal and issues framed therefrom, as in this case, a situation where there are less grounds of appeal than issues for determination will not be tolerated. See Agu v. Ikewibe (1991) 3 NWLR (pt. 180) 385; A-G Bendel State v. Aideyan (1989) 4 NWLR (pt. 118) 646; Ugo v. Obiekwe & Anor (1989) 1 NWLR (pt. 99) 566.

— N.S. Ngwuta, JSC. Odogwu v State (2013) – SC.122/2009

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A GROUND OF APPEAL CANNOT BE BASED ON AN OBITER DICTUM

The law is trite that a ground of appeal cannot be based on an obiter dictum. A ground of appeal is based on a ratio decidendi. An obiter dictum is, as a general principle of law, not binding on courts; a ratio decidendi is.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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USE MOTION ON NOTICE TO CHALLENGE SOME OF THE GROUNDS OF APPEAL

Inspector Isa Sarki V. John Lamela (2016) LPELR — 40338 (CA), the Court of Appeal stated, “It is the law that where the purpose of an objection is merely to challenge some of the grounds of appeal and not the competence of the entire appeal, the best procedure is by way of a motion on notice since its success would not in any way terminate the entire appeal in limine. On the other hand, where the purpose of an objection is to terminate in limine the entirety of the appeal, the best procedure is by way of a notice of preliminary objection challenging the competence of the entire appeal.”

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ISSUE MUST HAVE A GROUND OF APPEAL SUPPORTING IT

Issues for determination numbers (1), (3), (4) and (6) are based on no grounds of appeal at all or upon grounds 4 and 5 which had already been struck out. This should not be. Counsel will do well to remember that issues for determination must arise from and relate to the grounds of appeal filed, and no more. Conversely, any issue for determination which has no ground of appeal to support it is worse than useless: See on this Osinupebi v Saibu & ors. (1982) 7 S.C. 104 at pp. 110-111; also Western Steel Works Limited & Anor. v. Iron & Steel Workers Union of Nigeria (1987) 1N. W.L.R. (Part 49) 284, at p. 304.

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

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FAILURE TO CONSIDER COMPETENT GROUND OF APPEAL WILL RESULT IN LACK OF FAIR HEARING

In Union Bank of Nigeria Ltd v Nwaokolo (1995) 6 NWLR (Part 400) 127: “The appellants, as clearly depicted on the Record and in the brief of argument they filed, had identified three issues for the consideration of the court below. It is also on record that appellants argued fully all three issues and by implication, the eight grounds, to which they related. At the hearing of the appeal by the court below, it is common ground that the appellants adopted their brief of argument. However, without justification the majority judgment of that court now assailed before this Court, failed to pronounce on Grounds 4, 5 and 6 covered by appellants’ Issues 2 and 3 thereat, both of which have prompted Ground 2 in the appeal to this Court which incidentally, is covered by Issue 2 now under consideration. The judgment of the majority in the court below neither adverted to nor pronounced on these grounds (4, 5 and 6 respectively).” “Having considered the grounds (4, 5 and 6) which the court below failed to consider or pronounce upon, the next logical question to ask is, what are the consequences of such a failure? Failure to consider grounds of appeal, it is now established by decisions of this Court, amount to lack of fair hearing and a miscarriage of justice. (See Atano v AG Bendel (1988)2 NWLR (Part 75) 201). See also Kotoye v CBN (1989) 1 NWLR (Part 98) 419 where Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC held at page 448 of the Report thus:- ‘For the rule of fair hearing is not a technical doctrine. It is one of substance. The question is not whether a party entitled to be heard before deciding had in fact been given an opportunity of hearing. Once an appellate court comes to the conclusion that the party was entitled to be heard before a decision was reached but was not given the opportunity of a hearing the order/judgment thus entered is bound to be set aside.’ Fair hearing within the meaning of Section 33(1) of the 1979 Constitution means a trial conducted according to all legal rules formulated to ensure that justice is done to the parties vide Ntukidem v Oko (1986) 5 NWLR (Part 45) 909.”

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