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OUT OF NOTHING, NOTHING CAN ARISE; NOTHING CAN COME FORTH OF A JUDGEMENT THAT IS A NULLITY

Dictum

The aforesaid attempt by respondents’ counsel to influence this court, consisting of a different panel of Justices, by the previous but nullified conclusions-even though described as opinions-of its predecessors in respect of the same appeal is, in my view, a novel and an improper one. As rightly submitted by learned Counsel for the appellants a judgment set aside as a nullity ceases to have any effect whatsoever, for it is non-existent and as if it had never been given. I therefore agree with the conclusion of appellants’ counsel that such judgment “cannot constitute an opinion of the court that gave it, for out of nothing, nothing can arise.” Reference was specially made to the cases of Akpene v. Barclays Bank (1977)1 S.C. 47 at 59 where the Supreme Court adopted the view of Lord Denning in Macfoy v. United African Company Ltd. (1961) 3 W.L.R. (P.C.) 1405 at 1409, to the effect that: “You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse.”

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

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IT IS BETTER TO HAVE A BAD JUDGEMENT QUICKLY THAN A GOOD ONE TOO LATE

Furthermore, like I equally pointed out in the considered Bench ruling of 11 May 2023, citing Mr Victor Adegboyu v. UBA unreported Appeal No. CA/IL/20/2021, the judgment of which was delivered on 14 April 2022 per His Lordship Amadi, JCA, time is of the essence in labour adjudication; and so the mantra of labour adjudication is: it is better to have a bad judgment quickly, than a good one too late. See The Federal Polytechnic, Mubi v. Mr Emmanuel Peter Wahatana unreported Appeal No. CA/YL/175M/2021, the ruling of which was delivered on 27 April 2023 per His Lordship Affen, JCA.

— B.B. Kanyip, J. FG v. ASUU (2023) – NICN/ABJ/270/2022

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MAGISTRATE COURT IS TO DELIVER JUDGEMENT WITHIN TIMEFRAME SET BY THE CONSTITUTION

In any case, section 294(1) of the Constitution is intended to ensure that a court delivers its judgment before the lapse of human memory. Those who preside over the Magistrates’ Court have no claim to better and longer memory than the Judges of Superior Courts, nor can there be a double standard of justice delivery, one in the lower and the other in the High Courts.

— Ngwuta JSC. The State v. Monsurat Lawal (SC. 80/2004, 15 Feb 2013)

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JUDGEMENT CONFINED TO ISSUE RAISED

It is a well settled principle of judicial adjudication that the judgment in a lis must be confined to the cause of action and the issues raised on the pleadings See: Ochonma v. Asirim Unosi (1965) NMLR 321. The court cannot grant remedies or reliefs not claimed by the parties. – Karibe-Whyte JSC. Awoniyi v. AMORC (2000)

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JUDGEMENT OF COURT REMAINS VALID UNTIL SET ASIDE; COURT OF COORDINATE JURISDICTION CANNOT SET ASIDE COORDINATE COURT JUDGEMENT

It is now settled firstly, that a judgment or order of a court of competent jurisdiction, remain valid and effective, unless it is set aside by an appeal court or by the lower court itself if it found that it acted without jurisdiction. See the cases of Ogueze v. Ojiako (1962),SCNLR 112; (1962) 11 All NLR 58 at 61; Williams v. Sanusi (1961) All NLR 334 at 337; Odiase v. Agbo (1972) 1 All NLR (Pt.1) 170 at 176; Melifonwu v. Egbuyi (1982) 9 SC 145; Ajao v. Alao (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt. 45) 802 at 823 and many others. Secondly, in the absence of statutory authority or except where the judgment or order is a nullity, one Judge, has no power, to set aside or vary the order of another Judge of concurrent and co-ordinate jurisdiction. See the cases of Amanabu v. Okafor (1966) 1 All NLR 205 at 207; Okorodudu v. Ejuetami (1967) NMLR 282 at 283; Akporue & Anor v. Okei (1973) 12 SC 137; Uku v. Okumagba (1974)1 All NLR (Pt. 1)475; Wimpey(Nig.)Ltd. v. Balogun (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt. 28) 324 at 331 and Orthopaedic Hospital Management Board v. B. B. Apugo & Sons Ltd. (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt.129) 652 at 657 just to mention but a few. The rationale or reason for this, is because, it is now firmly established that there is only one High Court in a State.

— I.F. Ogbuagu, JSC. Witt Ltd. v Dale Power (2007) – SC.240/2000

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THE JUDGEMENT OF A COURT REMAINS BINDING UNTIL SET ASIDE BY AN APPELLATE COURT

It is the law that a ruling or judgment of the court remains valid until it is set aside by an appellate court. The Ruling of Taiwo, J. of the Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti of 13/12/16 defroze the account of Ayodele Fayose from which the sum of N75,000,000.00 (Seventy Five Million Naira) being the professional fees paid to the Respondent for services rendered remains the extant decision. The said decision which the Appellant alleged to be perverse has not been set aside, it therefore remains the law, valid and binding, vacating an earlier order made by Idris, J. of the Lagos Division was the extant law as at the time the payment of N75,000,000.00 was made to the Respondent for services rendered. As rightly argued by the learned counsel to the Respondent, at the time the order was made by the lower court defreezing the account of the Respondent’s Chambers, the decision of Taiwo, J. was valid and subsisting until set aside by an appeal court or by the lower court itself if it acted without jurisdiction or in the absence of an aggrieved party. See, ROSSEK & ORS VS. ACB LTD & ORS (1993) LPELR – 2955 (SC) P. 104, PARAS. A – D, OKEZIE VICTOR IKPEAZU VS. ALEX OTTI & ORS (2016) LPELR – 40055 (SC) P. 20, PARAS. A – C, FIDELITY BANK VS. THE M.T. TABORA & ORS (2018) LPELR – 44504 (SC) PP. 6 – 14, PARAS. B – D. In OJIAKO & ORS VS. OGUEZE & ORS (1962) LPELR – 25 116 (SC) P. 31 PARAS. D – E, his lordship Brett, JSC on the validity of a subsisting judgment held that: “Where no question of nullity arises, once the judgment of any competent court is perfected it is valid until set aside by competent authority, and there can be no presumption against the validity of such a judgment.” See, also BEMDOO MINDI VS. THE STATE (2020) LPELR – 52897 (SC) P. 53, PARAS. B – E.

— C.N. Uwa, JCA.FRN v Ozekhome (2021) – CA/L/174/19

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WHAT IS A FINAL JUDGEMENT?

In Obasi Brothers Merchant Co. Ltd. vs. Merchant Bank of Africa Securities Ltd. (2005) 2 SCNJ 272, Pat-Acholonu, JSC held at page 278 that: “A final judgment is one which decides the rights of parties. In other words it is a decision on the merits of the case where the matter is assiduously canvassed and the rendition of a judgment is based on what is canvassed and agitated before the Courts by the legal combatants.”

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