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NIGERIAN CASES WHERE THE SUPREME COURT OVERRULED ITSELF

Dictum

Again where there is a real likelihood of injustice being perpetuated this court has, in the recent past had occasion to over-rule itself. See Bucknor-Maclean v. Inlaks Ltd. (1980) 8-11 S.C. 1) – wherein this court over-ruled its previous decision in Shell B.P. v. Jammal Engineering (1974) 1 ALL N.L.R. 543 and Owumi v. P.Z. (1974) 1 ALL N.L.R. Part 2-on the above ground.

— Irikefe, JSC. Odi v Osafile (1985) – SC.144/1983

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SUPREME COURT CANNOT DEAL ON ISSUES DIRECTLY FROM THE HIGH COURT

Another point worthy of mentioning in passing is that the issues for determination as formulated by the respondent’s Counsel indicate discussions on the treatment of the matters raised as dealt with by the trial High Court. This court has clearly and obviously no jurisdiction to hear and consider appeals from the decisions of the High Court. The jurisdiction of this Court is limited to a complaint on a decision of the Court of Appeal and the issues formulated by the respondent are only concerned with the decision of the trial High Court. It is for the above, that I consider the respondent’s brief incompetent and is accordingly struck out by me. I shall discuss this appeal by reference only to the appellant’s brief argument.

— Musdapher, JSC. Shittu & Ors. v Fashawe [2005] – SC 21/2001

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INVOKING SECTION 22 OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT 1960 ON A MATTER OF LAW ONLY

I think the issue can now be examined by this Court by virtue of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 1960. It does not require any further evidence. The existence of the depositions is not in dispute. Indeed, the nature of the depositions is open to interpretation only. The exercise therefore becomes a matter of law alone: see Orji v Zaria Industries Ltd (1992) 1 NWLR (Part 216) 124 at 141 where a similar exercise carried out by the Court of Appeal when the trial court failed to do so was approved by this Court. See also National Bank of Nigeria Ltd v Guthrie (Nigeria) Ltd (1993) 3 NWLR (Part 284) 643 at 659-660; Katto v Central Bank of Nigeria (1999) 6 NWLR (Part 607) 390 at 407-408.

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

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SUPREME COURT SHOULD INFREQUENTLY USE ITS POWERS DONATED IN SECTION 22

[W]e decided to hear counsel on both sides on the point, even though it was a point which could have been properly raised under a respondents’ notice. This course is of course permitted by the Rules (see, for example, Order 8 rule 3(6) of the Supreme Court Rules, 1985). Besides, our consideration of the point is necessary for the determination of the real question in controversy in the appeal within the meaning of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act. Indeed it is envisaged by the subsidiary issue framed for the appellants in their brief. But let me emphasize that although such powers, no doubt, exist, they are such that this court does not want to make a habit of drawing therefrom constantly so that it does not give the wrong impression that it is taking sides in matters in controversy before it. A respondent’s counsel should always make his own decision and file a respondent’s notice whenever necessary, otherwise he may find that he cannot advance a certain line of argument. I am invoking the power in this case because it is necessary for my decision in the case and has been raised by the subsidiary issue and was fully argued.

— P. Nnaemeka-Agu JSC. Gbaniyi Osafile v. Paul Odi (SC 149/1987, 4th day of May 1990)

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EXERCISING SECTION 22 OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT – A CONDITION IS THAT THE TRIAL COURT SHOULD ALSO BE ABLE TO ADJUDICATE

Now, if this court is to consider the merit of the suit, it will only be able to do so by invoking its power to step into the shoes of the trial court under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act. For this court to invoke and exercise its powers under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, one of the conditions that must be fulfilled is that the court below or the trial court, as the case may be, must have the power or jurisdiction to adjudicate over the matter. In other words, under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, this court cannot make order or exercise the power that the trial court or the lower court cannot make or exercise. See DANLADI V. UDI (2022) 9 NWLR (PT. 1834) 185; EBEBI V. OZOBO (2022) 1 NWLR (PT. 1810) 165; IDIAGBON V. A.P.C. (2019) 18 NWLR (PT. 1703) 102; ARDO V. INEC (2017) 13 NWLR (PT. 1583) 450; ADAMU V. STATE (2017) 10 NWLR (PT. 1574) 463 … While this court is conferred with wide powers by Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, the powers can only be exercised within the confines of the competence of the trial court or the lower court. Once the power of the court has ceased, the power of this court under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act also automatically ceases. Hence, this court has no power to delve into the merits of the appeal. A similar issue came up for determination in two recent decisions of this court, and it was held that this court cannot exercise its jurisdiction under Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act once the trial court or the lower court as the case may be has lost its own jurisdiction. See SAMUEL V. APC & ORS (2023) LPELR – 59831 (SC); EZENWANKWO v. APGA & ORS (2022) LPELR 57884 (SC).

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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THE SUPREME COURT HAS THE POWER TO OVERRULE ITSELF

Adegoke Motors Ltd v. Dr. Adesanya & Anor (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt. 109) 250 at 274; (1989) 5 SCNJ 80, inter alia, thus; “We are final not because we are infallible; rather we are infallible because we are final, Justices of this Court are human beings, capable of erring. It will certainly be short-sighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth. It is also true that this Court can do inestimable good through its wise decisions. Similarly, the Court can do incalculable harm through its mistakes. When therefore it appears to learned Counsel that any decision of this Court has been given per incuriam, such Counsel should have the boldness and courage to ask that such decision shall be over-ruled. This Court has the power to overrule itself (and has done so in the past) for it gladly accepts that it is far better to admit an error than to preserve an error.”

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EFFECT OF SECTION 22 SUPREME COURT ACT

Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 1960, empowers this Court to amend any defect or error In the record of appeal, and gives it full jurisdiction over the whole proceedings as If the proceedings had been instituted and prosecuted in the Court as a court of first instance, which would include power to permit the amendment sought.

— Brett JSC. Benson v. Ashiru (1967) – SC. 405/1965

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