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PRINCIPLES TO CONSIDER TO DETERMINE GROUND OF LAW OR FACT

Dictum

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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ONLY ONE ISSUE CAN ARISE FROM A GROUND OF APPEAL

It should, however, be noted that, Appellant had distilled their Issue one from grounds 1, 2 and 5 of the Grounds of the Appeal, and thereafter, distilled the Issue 3 (which the Respondent attacked, mistaking it for Issue 4) from the same ground one of the appeal. Appellants cannot do that, as it would amount to proliferation of issues. Having earlier used the ground one, together with grounds 2 and 5, to distill the issue one, the said ground one was no longer available to donate another issue for the determination of the appeal. We have held repeatedly, that a ground of appeal cannot be split to generate issues for determination, and that, once an issue has been distilled from a given ground of appeal, the said ground of appeal is no longer available to give birth to another issue for determination, either alone or in conjunction with other grounds of appeal. Where a ground of appeal has been used to formulate an issue for determination, using it again to formulate another issue will corrupt that other issue for determination and render it incompetent.

– Mbaba JCA. Aduba v. Aduba (2018)

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RESPONDENT CANNOT RAISE ISSUES OUTSIDE THE GROUNDS OF APPEAL

It is settled law that issues for determination must relate to and arise from the grounds of appeal filed by the appellant and any issue that is not distilled from the grounds of appeal is incompetent and must be struck out. A respondent must formulate his issues from the grounds of appeal and he has no business to raise any issue outside them when he did not file a cross appeal or a respondent’s notice that the judgment of the court should be affirmed on other grounds. See:- “ Carlen (Nig.) Ltd. v. University of Jos and Anor (1994) 1 SCNJ 72 Agwundu and Ors v. Onwumere (1994) 1 SCNJ 106 Godwin v. C.A.C. (1998) 14 NWLR (Pt. 584) 162 Shitta Bey v. Attorney-General of the Federation (1998) 10 NWLR (Pt. 570) 392.

— Opene JCA. United Bank for Africa (UBA) v. Samuel Igelle Ujor (CA/C/134/99, 20 FEB 2001)

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EVALUATION OF FACT IS A GROUND OF FACT

Assessment or evaluation of evidence is a ground of fact; it requires the examination of documents used in securing the debt or payment thereof.

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

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WHAT ARE VAGUE AND UNREASONABLE GROUNDS OF APPEAL

In this preliminary objection, the crux of the complaint is that the grounds of appeal in the notice of appeal are vague and unreasonable. Vague and unreasonable grounds of appeal from our established principles of law are those grounds of appeal couched in a manner which does not provide any solid or explicit standard for it to be understood. An illusive complaint which is lacking in depth and is more windy, evasive, ambiguous, debatable, disputable and inexplicable. See the cases of Set Success Ent.& Co., Ltd v. Ibeju-Lekki Local Government (2021) LPELR — 56608 (SC), Adamu v. C.O.P. Plateau State Command (2020) LPELR – 51956 (CA).

— S.J. Adah, JCA. Luck Guard v. Adariku (2022) – CA/A/1061/2020

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GROUNDS OF APPEAL MUST BE BASED ON THE CONTROVERSY / DISPUTE

In all cases, the subject matter for determination must be an issue in controversy between the parties. The decision appealed against must have decided the issue. In every appeal, the issue or issues in controversy are fixed and circumscribed by a statement of the part of the decision appealed against. Hence, the grounds of appeal must ex necessitate be based on such issues in controversy – See Niger Construction Co. Ltd v. Okugbeni (1987)4 NWLR. (Pt.67) 787. Where a ground of appeal cannot be fixed and circumscribed within a particular issue in controversy in the judgment challenged, such ground of appeal cannot justifiably be regarded as related to the decision. A fortiori, no issue for determination can be formulated therefrom.

— A.G. Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) – S.C. 250/1991

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A GROUND OF APPEAL CANNOT BE BASED ON AN OBITER DICTUM

The law is trite that a ground of appeal cannot be based on an obiter dictum. A ground of appeal is based on a ratio decidendi. An obiter dictum is, as a general principle of law, not binding on courts; a ratio decidendi is.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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