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STATUTES ARE TO BE READ AS A COMPOSITE WHOLE

Dictum

There are certain settled principles that guide the Court in the interpretation of statutes. Generally, statutory provisions must be interpreted in the context of the whole statute and not in isolation. They must be interpreted in a manner that is most harmonious with its scheme and general purpose. Furthermore, where the subject matter being construed relates to other sections (or subsections) of the same statute, they must be read, considered and construed together as forming a composite whole. See: General Cotton Mill Ltd. Vs Travellers Palace Hotel (2018) 12 SC (Pt. II) 106 @ 130 lines 14 -35; 168 lines 20 – 31. See also: Obi Vs INEC (2007) 7 SC 268; Akpamgbo-Okadigbo & Ors. Vs Chidi & Ors. (2015) 3 – 4 SC (Pt. III) 25; Nobis-Elendu Vs INEC (2015) 6 – 7 SC (Pt. IV) 1.

— K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun JSC. Umeano v. Anaekwe (SC.323/2008, Friday January 28 2022)

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CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS ARE TO BE READ AS A WHOLE TO DISCOVER THEIR OBJECTS

The provisions in the 1979 Constitution are thus unique in the sense that they are intended to deal with the peculiar circumstances of Nigeria. A foray into the Constitutions of other nations, useful, though it may be, cannot be of much assistance. It is therefore of paramount importance when construing the Constitution, that one should look closely at the provisions themselves, in order to discover their object. This approach cannot be dogmatic and I seem to be in agreement with the versatile approach advocated by UDOMA, J.S.C. when in RABIU v. THE STATE (1980) 8/11 SC. 130 he had this to say:- “Where the question is whether the Constitution has used an expression in the wider or in the narrower sense the court should always lean where the justice of the case so demands to the broader interpretation unless there is something in the content or in the rest of the Constitution to indicate that the narrower interpretation will best carry out its object and purpose.”

– A.G. Irikefe JSC. AG Kaduna State v. Hassan (1985) – SC.149/1984

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INTERPRETATION: WHERE AMBIGUITY EXIST

On the other hand where the literal interpretation of the provision of a Statute will result in some ambiguity or injustice, the Court may seek internal aid within the body of the statute itself or external aid from statutes which are in pari materia in order to resolve the ambiguity or to avoid doing injustice in the matter.

– Nwaoma Uwa, JCA. NOGA v. NICON (2007)

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STATUTE TO BE INTERPRETED IN ORDINARY AND LITERAL MEANING

In any case, the provisions of section 232 of the 1999 Constitution are quite clear. It is now well settled that the duty of this Court and indeed any other court, is to interpret the words contained in the Constitution, and any statute in their ordinary and literal meaning. Certainly, it is not the duty of the court to go outside words used in a statute and import an interpretation which may be or is convenient to it or to the parties or to one of the parties.

— Mohammed JSC. AG Kano State v AG Federation (2007) – SC 26/2006

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PURPOSEFUL INTERPRETATION OF A STATUTE

For the purposeful interpretation of a statute, the law requires that the sections of the statute be read and considered in community, wholistically or together and not some or individual sections in isolation of the others.

– Garba, JCA. Dunlop v. Gaslink (2018)

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WHERE INTERPRETATION IS NEEDED ORIGINATING SUMMONS IS APPROPRIATE

KEYAMO VS. HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY, LAGOS STATE (2000) 11 W.R.N. 29 at 40, (2000) 12 NWLR (Pt. 680) 796 at 213 stated as follows: “I must state that the correct position of the law is that originating summons is used to commence an action where the issue involved is one of the construction of a written law or of any instrument made under a written law, or of any deed, contract or other document or some other question of law or where there is unlikely to be any substantial dispute of fact. This is the provision of Order 3 Rule 2 (2) of the Lagos State Civil Procedure (supra)”

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THE PHRASE “IN LIEU OF NOTICE”

I consider it necessary to say something about the phrase “in lieu of notice” which is liable to be misunderstood, in this connection. The phrase has been defined in the Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Language 4th Ed. page 687 as “in the place, instead of “. Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Ed. P.787, also defines the phrase as “instead of, in place of, in substitution of….Thus when the condition of termination of the contract of service is the giving of two months’ notice or the payment of two months’ salary in lieu of notice, it can only mean the payment of two months’ salary instead of, in place, in substitution of the giving of two months notice.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Chukwumah v. SPDC (1993)

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