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

Dictum

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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FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES THAT GOVERN THE INTERPRETATION OF OUR CONSTITUTION

I think I ought to state at this stage that, generally, the fundamental principles that govern the interpretation of our Constitution are:

(i) That such interpretation as would serve the interest of the Constitution, best carry out its object and purpose and give effect to the intention of the framers thereof should be preferred;

(ii) In the above regard, all the relevant provisions of the Constitution must be read together and not disjointly. See Ojokolobo v. Alantu (1987) 3 NWLR (Pt.61) 377;

(iii) Where the words of any section are clear and unambiguous, they must be given their ordinary meaning unless this would lead to absurdity or be in conflict with some other provisions of the Constitution and effect must be given to those provisions without any recourse to any other consideration;

(iv) So, too, where the provisions of the Constitution are capable of two meanings, the court must choose the meaning that would give force and effect to the Constitution read together as a whole and promote its object and purpose. See Nafiu Rabiu v. The State (1981) 2 NCLR 293; (1980) 8 – l I S.C. 130; Attorney-General of Ogun State v. Attorney-General of the Federation (1982) 1-2 S.C. 13; Chief Dominic Ifezue v. Livinus Mbadugha and another (1984) 1 SCNLR 427; (1984) 5 S.C. 79 at 100-101; (v) Although our courts may in appropriate cases give due regard to international jurisprudence and seek guidance, as persuasive authorities only, from the decisions of the courts of other common law jurisdictions on the interpretation and construction of similar provisions of their Constitutions which are in pari materia with the relevant provisions of our Constitution, the court will nevertheless accord due weight to our peculiar circumstances, the generally held norms of society and our values, aspirations and local conditions. See too Nafiu Rabin v. The State (supra); Senator Adesanya v. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1981) 5 S.C. 112; Attorney-General of Bendel State v. Attorney-General of the Federation (1981) 10 S.C. 1; Ade Ogugu and others v. The Stare (1994) 9 NWLR (Pt.366) 1 at 22 – 28 etc.

— Iguh JSC. Onuoha v State (1998) – SC. 24/1996

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EXCEPT DECLARED, STATUTES DOES NOT MAKE ALTERATION IN THE COMMON LAW

Halsbury’s Laws of England, Volume 14 paragraphs 904 and 906, which read: “Except insofar as they are clearly and unambiguously intended to do so, statutes should not be construed so as to make any alteration in the common law or to change any established principle of law, or to alter completely the character of the principle of law contained in statutes which they merely amend. There is no presumption that by legislating Parliament intended to change the law. ” “Unless it is clearly and unambiguously intended to do so, a statute should not be construed so as to interfere with or prejudice established private rights under contracts or the title to property, or so as to deprive a man of his property without his having an opportunity of being heard.”

– Cited in Abioye v. Yakubu (1991) – SC.169/1987

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EXPRESSIO UNIUS EST EXCLUSION ALTERIUS

A-G. of Bendel State v. Aideyan (1989) 4 NWLR 646. This is that the express mention of one thing in a statutory provision automatically excludes any other which otherwise would have applied by implication, with regard to the same issue.

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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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READ A STATUTE AS A WHOLE

To ascertain the correct interpretation of the provision of section 34(2) vis that of section 22 of the Act, the Land Use Act is to be read as a whole. Every clause of a statute is to be construed with reference to the context of other clauses of the Act so as far as possible to make a consistent enactment of the whole statute.

– Obaseki, JSC. Savannah v. Ajilo (1989)

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ENTIRE PROVISIONS OF THE STATUTE MUST BE READ TOGETHER TO DETERMINE INTENTION OF THE LEGISLATURE

The law is settled that in order to discover the real intention of the legislature, the entire provisions of statute must be read together as a whole. No section of a statute should be read and construed in isolation. If the entire provisions of the FIA are read together, it becomes clear that before a request for access to information relating to personal information of an individual in the custody of a public official or public institution can be granted, the applicant must show to the institution or the Court where an applicant approaches the Court for a review of decision of a public institution to deny access to personal information in its custody, the existence of any of the conditions or situations stated under Section 14(2) and (3) of the Act.

— M.O. Bolaji-Yusuff, JCA. CCB v Nwankwo (2018) – CA/E/141/2017

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