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PERSON WHO INTERPRETED A STATEMENT MUST TENDER IT IN COURT

Dictum

It is settled that the person or officer who interpreted a statement must tender it in Court so that if necessary, the interpreter can be cross examined on whether the interpreted statement is the correct interpretation of the original words as spoken by the Defendant.

– H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. State v. Ibrahim (2021) – SC.200/2016

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WHERE PROVISION OF STATUTE ARE CLEAR AND UNAMBIGUOUS, LITERAL RULE IS APPLIED

The primary function of the court is to search for the intention of the lawmaker in the interpretation of a statute. Where a statute is clear and unambiguous, as it is in this case, the court in the exercise of its interpretative jurisdiction, must stop where the statute stops. In other words, a court of law has no jurisdiction to rewrite a statute to suit the purpose of one of the parties or both parties. The moment a court of law intends to rewrite a statute or really rewrites a statute, the intention of the lawmaker is thrown overboard and the court changes place with the lawmaker. In view of the fact that that will be against the doctrine of separation of powers entrenched in the Constitution, a court of law will not embark on such an unconstitutional act. Courts of law follow the literal rule of interpretation where the provision of the statute is clear and no more. And that is the position in this appeal.

– Tobi JSC. Araka v. Egbue (2003) – SC.167/1999

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SEVERAL PARTS OF A WRITTEN INSTRUMENT MUST BE INTERPRETED TOGETHER TO GET THE INTENTION

I agree with Mr. Sofola, S.A.N., in his submission that the court below was in error to have relied on clauses 3 and 6 of the lease agreement only and limited itself in the construction of the lease agreement to the construction of these clauses alone. The approach adopted by the court below is in violation of one of the fundamental and hallowed principles in the construction of document and written instruments, that the several parts, where there are more than one, must be interpreted together to avoid conflicts in the natural meaning in the various parts of the written document or instrument. This rule of construction was approved by this court in Ojokolobo & Ors. v.Alamu & Anor. (1987) 3 NWLR (Pt. 61)377,(1987)7 SCNJ 98.

— Karibi-Whyte, JSC. Unilife v. Adeshigbin (2001) 4 NWLR (Pt.704) 609

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“MAY” MEANS MANDATORY WHERE A DUTY IS IMPOSED

UDE V. NWARA & ANOR. (1993) JELR 43303 (SC): “I agree with Chief Umeadi that although section 28(1) of the Law states that the lessor “may enter a suit”, “may” should be construed as mandatory i.e. as meaning “shall” or “must”. I believe that it is now the invariable practice of the courts to interpret “may” as mandatory whenever it is used to impose a duty upon a public functionary the benefit of which enures to a private citizen.”

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PROVISION OF STATUTES ARE TO BE TAKEN AS A WHOLE

The position of the law is that when interpreting statutes, the provisions of the statute are to be taken as a whole and the review of any section therein cannot be severed from other sections. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JCA. ITV v. Edo Internal Revenue (2014) – CA/B/20/2013

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INTERPRETATION OF CONSTITUTION IS DIFFERENT FROM INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES

It is pertinent to state that unlike interpretation of statutes, the interpretation of Constitution has its own guiding principles. In FRN V NGANJIWA, which was cited by the Petitioners as SC/794/2019, but which is reported as FRN v NGANJIWA (2022) LPELR-58066(SC), the Supreme Court has succinctly reviewed decided cases on interpretation of the Constitution and outlined these guiding principles: ) In interpreting the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, mere technical rules of interpretation of statutes should be avoided, so as not to defeat the principles of government enshrined therein. Hence a broader interpretation should be preferred, unless there is something in the text or in the rest of the Constitution to indicate that a narrower interpretation will best carry out the objects and purpose of the Constitution. (b) All Sections of the Constitution are to be construed together and not in isolation. (c) Where the words are clear and unambiguous, a literal interpretation will be applied, thus according the words their plain and grammatical meaning. (d) Where there is ambiguity in any Section, a holistic interpretation would be resorted to in order to arrive at the intention of its framers. (e) Since the draftsperson is not known to be extravagant with words or provisions, every section should be construed in such a manner as not to render other sections redundant or superfluous. (f) If the words are ambiguous, the law maker’s intention must be sought, first, in the Constitution itself, then in other legislation and contemporary circumstances and by resort to the mischief rule. (g) The proper approach to the construction of the Constitution should be one of liberalism and it is improper to construe any of the provisions of the Constitution as to defeat the obvious ends which the Constitution was designed to achieve. See also on this: NAFIU RABIU V STATE (1980) 8-11 S.C. 130 at 148; A.G. BENDEL STATE V A.G. FEDERATION & ORS (1981) N.S.C.C. 314 at 372 – 373; BUHARI v OBASANJO (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1 at 281; SAVANNAH BANK LTD v AJILO (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 97) 305 at 326; and A.G., ABIA STATE V A.G. FEDERATION (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 275) 414 at 450, which were also referred to by the Apex Court.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 2023)

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DATE OF COMMENCEMENT: IF STATUTE IS TO HAVE AN EARLIER APPLICATION, IT IS TO BE STATED EXPLICITLY

The date of commencement of the Decree, as stated in the marginal note in it, was 20th June, 1991. The date of commencement of a statute is the date that it comes into operation. In the circumstance, the date on which the Decree itself, which included section 11 thereof, came into operation was the 20th June, 1991. There was nothing in the Decree to the effect that the Decree or any part or section thereof shall be deemed to have come into operation on a date earlier than the date of commencement stated in the Decree. Also, there was no provision in the Decree that actions or proceedings on matters to which the provision of section 11 of the Decree applied, which were pending in courts on the date of commencement of the decree, should abate or be discontinued. If it is intended by the lawmaker that any part or section of a statute should come into operation on a date earlier than the date of commencement of the statute itself provision to that effect will be made in clear term.

— Y.O. Adio. Kotoye v. Saraki (1994) – S.C. 147/1993

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