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SOME CASES WHERE THE SUPREME COURT HAS OVERRULED ITSELF

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Counsel then referred first to American authorities to indicate that the Supreme Court of the US has frequently overruled itself. These cases are: Brown v. Board of Education 98 L Ed 873, 38A LR 2nd 1180 (overruling Plessy v. Fergusson 41 L Ed 216 on racial segregation matters) Girouard v. U.S. 90 L Ed 1084 (overruling US v. Schwimmer 73 L Ed 889) West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette 87 L Ed 1628, 147 A.L.R. 674 (overruling Minersville School Dist. v. Gobitis 84 L. Ed. 1375, 127 A.L.R. 1493 as to constitutionality of requirements to salute the flag of USA).

— Obaseki, JSC. Odi v Osafile (1985) – SC.144/1983

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INVOKING SECTION 22 OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT 1960 ON A MATTER OF LAW ONLY

I think the issue can now be examined by this Court by virtue of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, 1960. It does not require any further evidence. The existence of the depositions is not in dispute. Indeed, the nature of the depositions is open to interpretation only. The exercise therefore becomes a matter of law alone: see Orji v Zaria Industries Ltd (1992) 1 NWLR (Part 216) 124 at 141 where a similar exercise carried out by the Court of Appeal when the trial court failed to do so was approved by this Court. See also National Bank of Nigeria Ltd v Guthrie (Nigeria) Ltd (1993) 3 NWLR (Part 284) 643 at 659-660; Katto v Central Bank of Nigeria (1999) 6 NWLR (Part 607) 390 at 407-408.

— Uwaifo, JSC. Bamaiyi v State (SC 292/2000, Supreme Court, 6th April 2001)

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SUPREME COURT SHOULD INFREQUENTLY USE ITS POWERS DONATED IN SECTION 22

[W]e decided to hear counsel on both sides on the point, even though it was a point which could have been properly raised under a respondents’ notice. This course is of course permitted by the Rules (see, for example, Order 8 rule 3(6) of the Supreme Court Rules, 1985). Besides, our consideration of the point is necessary for the determination of the real question in controversy in the appeal within the meaning of Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act. Indeed it is envisaged by the subsidiary issue framed for the appellants in their brief. But let me emphasize that although such powers, no doubt, exist, they are such that this court does not want to make a habit of drawing therefrom constantly so that it does not give the wrong impression that it is taking sides in matters in controversy before it. A respondent’s counsel should always make his own decision and file a respondent’s notice whenever necessary, otherwise he may find that he cannot advance a certain line of argument. I am invoking the power in this case because it is necessary for my decision in the case and has been raised by the subsidiary issue and was fully argued.

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

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SUPREME COURT CANNOT DEAL ON ISSUES DIRECTLY FROM THE HIGH COURT

Another point worthy of mentioning in passing is that the issues for determination as formulated by the respondent’s Counsel indicate discussions on the treatment of the matters raised as dealt with by the trial High Court. This court has clearly and obviously no jurisdiction to hear and consider appeals from the decisions of the High Court. The jurisdiction of this Court is limited to a complaint on a decision of the Court of Appeal and the issues formulated by the respondent are only concerned with the decision of the trial High Court. It is for the above, that I consider the respondent’s brief incompetent and is accordingly struck out by me. I shall discuss this appeal by reference only to the appellant’s brief argument.

— Musdapher, JSC. Shittu & Ors. v Fashawe [2005] – SC 21/2001

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THE SUPREME COURT AS A POLICY COURT HAS TO PREVENT VEXATIOUS APPEALS

This court is a policy court and it has a responsibility of ensuring that vexatious or manifestly incompetent appeals and actions are not brought before it or before any court at all. The Supreme Court as an institution must strongly stand against and discourage the filing of suits that ridicule the judiciary as a whole. The instant appeal and the suit that gave rise to it are a colossal and an unnecessary fool’s errand. Counsel should do better to advise and discourage their clients against filing these sort of actions in the future.

— A. Jauro, JSC. PDP v INEC (2023) – SC/CV/501/2023

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THERE WILL BE NO REFERENCE TO THE SUPREME COURT WHEN THERE IS A CASE LAW ON THE POINT

With this principal issue resolved in favour of the appellant, the motion filed herein for reference to the Supreme Court becomes irrelevant. This is because from the argument of all learned counsel to the parties, reference to the Supreme Court can only be made by the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court under section 295(3) of the 1999 Constitution, if there have been no guidance from the apex court on the point. This is not the position in the instant case where this point sought to be referred to the Supreme Court – the application of immunity by the principal officers named in S.308 of the 1999 Constitution in election petition matters – had been resolved by the Supreme Court in the Obih v. Mbakwe and Unongo v. Aper Aku set of cases cited by the appellants counsel supra. In the light of these authorities, I hold that this is not a point for reference for clarification to the Supreme Court as the apex court had done the necessary clarification. In consequence application dated 17/12/03 and filed on 18/12/03 is hereby dismissed.

— M.A. Okunola, JCA. AD v. Fayose (2004) – CA/IL/EP/GOV/1/2004

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THE SUPREME COURT HAS THE POWER TO OVERRULE ITSELF

Adegoke Motors Ltd v. Dr. Adesanya & Anor (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt. 109) 250 at 274; (1989) 5 SCNJ 80, inter alia, thus; “We are final not because we are infallible; rather we are infallible because we are final, Justices of this Court are human beings, capable of erring. It will certainly be short-sighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth. It is also true that this Court can do inestimable good through its wise decisions. Similarly, the Court can do incalculable harm through its mistakes. When therefore it appears to learned Counsel that any decision of this Court has been given per incuriam, such Counsel should have the boldness and courage to ask that such decision shall be over-ruled. This Court has the power to overrule itself (and has done so in the past) for it gladly accepts that it is far better to admit an error than to preserve an error.”

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