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ONLY MATTERS DECIDED IN THE COURT OF APPEAL CAN BE ENTERTAINED BY THE SUPREME COURT

Dictum

By canvassing in this court matters decided in the trial Court and not adverted to in the Court of Appeal, without leave having been obtained to argue matters not argued in the Court of Appeal, such matters or issues are incompetently before this court and will be discountenanced. This Court is only competent to entertain appeals from the Court of Appeal and not from any court below the Court of Appeal. Ogoyi v. Umagba (1995) 9 NWLR (Pt.419) 283, 293; Oduntan v. General Oil Ltd. (1995) 4 NWLR (Pt. 387) 1, 101. Similarly the appellate court will deal only with matters duly canvassed at the trial court and appealed against. The issues of fair-hearing or breach of Sections 20,21 and 22(6) of the Chiefs Law never came into argument at the trial Court nor at the Court of Appeal, and no leave having been obtained to argue them as novel issues not raised in the courts below, are not competent for argument in this court. There was no pronouncement on these issues at the trial court, and no appeal was lodged on this failure in the Court of Appeal, it is therefore incompetent in this court for the appellants to start raising issues of lack of fair hearing, or breach of natural justice in the conduct of investigation into the selection of Baale of Isundunrin. In the absence of a decision on a point, and that point has been canvassed at the trial court, the course open to the party aggrieved is to appeal against that non-decision. Saude v. Abdullahi (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 116) 387, 433, 434; Adesokan v. Adetunji (1994) 5 NWLR (Pt.346) 540, 575, 576.

— Belgore, JSC. Ogundare v Ogunlowo (1997) – SC.25/1994

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APPELLATE COURT IS CONCERNED MORE WITH THE DECISION REACHED, THAN REASON FOR DECISION

As rightly, submitted by learned counsel for the respondent, an appellate Court is more concerned with whether the decision reached by the lower Court is correct and not necessarily whether a wrong reason was given for reaching a right decision. See: Arisa Vs The State (1988) 3 NWLR (Pt. 83) 386; Ojengbede vs Esan & Anor. (2001) 18 NWLR (Pt. 746) 771. If the decision is right, it will be upheld notwithstanding the fact that a wrong reason was given for the decision. It is only where the misdirection has caused the Court to come to a wrong decision that it would be material. See: Oladele & Ors Vs Aromolaran II & Ors. (1996) 6 NWLR (Pt.453) 180.

— K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, JSC. MTN v. Corporate (2019) – SC.674/2014

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MATTERS TO BE DECIDED AT SUBSTANTIVE CASE SHOULD NOT BE COMMENTED ON AT THE PRELIMINARY

The law is settled that a court should not comment or decide at preliminary stage matters or issues which are supposed to be decided in the substantive case. See NWANKWO & ORS V YAR’ADUA & ORS (2010) LPELR-2109 (SC) at page 71 paras B-F per Coomassie JSC; and OCHOLI ENOJO JAMES, SAN V INEC & ORS (2015) LPELR-24494 (SC) at pg.92 para G, per Okoro JSC.

— K.M. Akano, J. Edeoga v Mbah (2023) – EPT/EN/GOV/01/2023

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APPELLATE COURT APPROACH TO REVIEWING CUSTOMARY COURT DECISION

This court in the case of Odofin v. Oni (2001) 1 SCNJ 130 handed down the principles to be adopted in interpreting the records of proceedings of a Native or Customary Courts. At page 149 of the report Achike JSC of blessed memory stated the principles thus:- “In order to appreciate the real effect of the lower courts strong criticism of the statement of the customary court that the respondent “failed to prove ownership of the land in dispute” it is important to stress that greater latitude and broader interpretation must be accorded to decision of customary courts as it is trite that the proceedings in the customary courts are not subject to the application of the Evidence Act. It is important that superior appellant courts in relation to matters relating to customary courts should focus their attention to the substance of the judgments or decisions in those courts rather than the forms. This is so because customary courts be they Area Courts or whatever name they are christened in our judicial jurisdiction are generally presided over by laymen without even rudimentary exposure to legal principles. An Appellate Court should in all circumstances strive to get the bottom of the decision of a customary court. This can only be achieved by considering the input of a decision of a customary court not in fragments or in isolation of excerpts thereof but must be read harmoniously as a whole in order to capture its imports. In other-words when greater latitude is accorded to the interpretation of the decisions of customary court it will be sufficient if such decisions are seen to accord with the view of person of good common sense and reason completely devoid of legalistic encrustments”.

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FINDING NOT APPEALED IS BINDING ON PARTY

It is settled law, however, that a finding of a court or tribunal not appealed against is deemed accepted by the party against whom the finding was made in the instant case, the appellants. However, if the appellants had sought and obtained the leave of the courts to appeal against the findings of facts or mixed law and facts or to raise fresh issues not raised in the court below, it would have been sufficient to sustain ground 1 of the grounds of appeal. Since no such leave was sought and obtained the affected ground is doomed to be struck out for being incompetent.

– WS Onnoghen, JSC. Calabar CC v. Ekpo (2008)

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DECISION OF COURT WHICH APPEARS SUBSTANTIALLY REGULAR IS PRESUMED TO BE CORRECT

The duty of every appellant is to show and or establish that the decision he has appealed was wrong or unreasonable. Every decision of a Court of law, a judicial act, done in a manner substantially regular is presumed to be correct and that formal requisites for its validity were complied with. The presumption of regularity under Section 167(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011 is all about this.

— E. Eko, JSC. Kassim v. State (2017) – SC.361/2015

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APPELLATE COURT IS CONCERNED ABOUT THE RIGHTNESS OF A DECISION, NOT REASONS

This makes one remind himself that what an appellate Court is concerned with should at all times be the rightness or wrongness of the decision and not necessarily the reasons for the conclusion or decision. This is so because, once the decision is right it would be upheld at the higher level irrespective of the fact that a wrong reason was given for that decision. See Dickson Arisa v The State (1988) 7 SCNJ 760 at 84; Akpene v Barclays Bank (1977) 1 SC 57; Osakwe v Governor of Imo State (1991) 5 NWLR (Pt.191) 318 at 333-334; Anekwe v Nweke (2014) All FWLR (Pt.739) 1154 at 1175; Amadi v Nwosu (1992) 5 NWLR (Pt. 241) 275;Nitel Ltd v Ikpi (2007) 8 NWLR (Pt.1035) 96 at 109 -110.

— M.U. Peter-Odili, JSC. MTN v. Corporate (2019) – SC.674/2014

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