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PARTICULARS NOT NECESSARY WHERE COMPLAINT OF GROUND IS CLEAR

Dictum

Where the complaint on a ground of law is clear and succinct, particulars may equate to repetition which is undesirable. Substantial justice must now have pre-eminence over technicality. See: Odoniyi v. Oyeleke (2001) SC 194 at 198; Nwosu v. Imo State Environmental Sanitation Authority (1990) 2 NWLR (pt. 688) 717.

— Fabiyi, JSC. Best Ltd. v. Blackwood Hodge (2011) – SC

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PRINCIPLES TO CONSIDER TO DETERMINE GROUND OF LAW OR FACT

For the purposes of elucidation however, I think I should re-state some of these principles.
1. The first and foremost is for one to examine thoroughly the grounds of appeal in the case concerned to see whether they reveal a misunderstanding by the lower court of the law, or a misapplication of the law to the facts already proved or admitted.
2. Where a ground complains of a misunderstanding by the lower court of the law or a misapplication of the law to the facts already proved or admitted, it is a ground of law.
3. Where a ground of appeal questions the evaluation of facts before the application of the law, it is a ground of mixed law and. fact.
4. A ground which raises a question of pure fact is certainly a ground of fact.
5. Where the lower court finds that particular events occurred although there is no admissible evidence before the court that the event did in fact occur, the ground is that of law.
6. Where admissible evidence has been led, the assessment of that evidence is entirely for that court. If there is a complaint about the assessment of the admissible evidence, the ground is that, of fact.
7. Where the lower court approached the construction of a legal term of art in a statute on the erroneous basis that the statutory wording bears its ordinary meaning, the ground is that of law.
8. Where the lower court or tribunal applying the law to the facts in a process which requires the skill of a trained lawyer, this is a question of law.
9. Where the lower court reaches a conclusion which cannot reasonably be drawn from the facts as found, the appeal court will assume that there has been a misconception of the law. This is a ground of law.
10. Where the conclusion of the lower court is one of possible resolutions but one which the appeal court would not have reached if siesed of the issue, that conclusion is not an error in law.
11. Where a trial court fails to apply the facts which it has found corrective to the circumstance of the case before it and there is an appeal to a court of appeal which alleges a misdirection in the exercise of the application by the trial court, the ground of appeal alleging the misdirection is a ground of law not of fact.
12. When the Court of Appeal finds such application to be wrong and decides to make its own findings such findings made by the court of appeal are issues of fact and not of law.
13. Where the appeal court interferes in such a case and there is a further appeal to a higher court of appeal on the application of the facts, the grounds of appeal alleging such misdirection by the lower court of appeal is a ground of law not of fact.
14. A ground of appeal which complains that the decision of the trial court is against evidence or weight of evidence or contains unresolved contradictions in the evidence of witnesses., it is purely a ground of fact (which requires leave for an appeal to a court of appeal or a further court of appeal).

– Niki Tobi, JSC. Calabar CC v. Ekpo (2008)

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MANY GROUNDS OF APPEAL MAY MAKE ONE ISSUE

It is trite law that one issue can contain many consistent grounds of appeal, but a single ground of appeal cannot give rise to two or more issues.

– Denton West JCA. Salaja v. Salaja (2013)

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SAFEST THING IS TO APPLY FOR MIXED LAW & FACT

It is usually difficult to out rightly determine whether a ground of a law is purely one of law alone or is of mixed law and fact. Where a counsel is confronted with such difficulty, the safest thing for him to do, is to apply for leave on the ground or grounds of mixed law and facts.

— P.A. Galinje JSC. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc V. Longterm Global Capital Limited & Anor. (SC.535/2013(R), 23 June 2017)

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WHAT IS A GROUND OF APPEAL?

It is settled law that a ground of appeal is basically a highlight of the error of law or fact or mixed law and fact made by the court in the decision sought to be set aside in the appeal. It is the sum total of the reason(s) why the decision on appeal is considered by learned counsel for the appellant to be wrong and liable to be set aside. It follows therefore that for a ground of appeal to be capable of achieving the purpose of setting aside the decision appealed against, it has to be very substantial and must relate to the ratio of the decision, not directed at the obiter dictum of the court or in the judgment.

– Mukhtar JSC. Nwankwo v. Ecumenical (2007)

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WHEN IS A GROUND OF APPEAL SAID TO BE VAGUE

The case of Hassan v. Buhari and Ors., (2022) LPELR – 56677 (CA), where this Court per Abiru, JCA, explained what constitutes a vague ground of appeal, as follows: “Now, a ground of appeal is said to be vague and imprecise when it is couched in a manner which does not provide any explicit standard for its being understood or when what is stated is so uncertain that it is not susceptible of being understood. It may also be considered vague when the complaint is not defined in relation to the subject or it is not defined in relation to the subject or it is not particularized or the particulars are clearly irrelevant – Central Bank of Nigeria v. Okojie (2002) 8 NWLR (Pt. 768) 48, Governor, Ekiti State v. Osayomi (2005) 2 NWLR (Pt. 909) 67, Imam v. Sheriff (2005) 4 NWLR (Pt. 914) 80 and Nwabueze v. Nwora (2005) 8 NWLR (Pt. 926) 1. In other words, where the complaint in a ground of appeal is discernible vis-a-vis the judgment of a lower Court, the ground of appeal cannot be said to be vague or imprecise”.

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NATURE & SCOPE OF OMNIBUS GROUND OF APPEAL

It is important to bear in mind the nature and scope of omnibus ground of appeal in civil cases. It must be stressed that when a complaint is against the weight of evidence, the complaint is of necessity against the totality of the evidence adduced before the court and not on a finding of fact on a specific issue or document as the case may be. In the latter case, the finding should be raised as a substantive ground of appeal. See Ndiwe v. Okocha (supra). It cannot be used to raise issues of or errors in law. The complaint questions the appraisal and evaluation of all the evidence adduced and not the weight to be attached to any particular piece of evidence.

– Ogwuegbu JSC. Ajibona v. Kolawole (1996)

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