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SUBORDINATE COURT CANNOT SIT OVER JUDGEMENT OF SUPREME COURT

Dictum

My Lords, the law is settled, and as rightly stated by learned senior counsel for the Appellant, that the Court below, and other Courts subordinate to this Court, lack the jurisdictional competence and power to sit on appeal over the judgment of this Court. This is the import of Section 235 CFRN 1999 as amended.

– A. Aboki, JSC. Sani v. Kogi State (2021) – SC.1179/2019

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DURING JUDGEMENT DELIVERING, IT IS NOT NECESSARY FOR ALL PANEL MEMBERS TO BE PRESENT

Now, the Committee is a Tribunal and not a regular court. Even in a court that a Panel is constituted including the two Appellate Courts in this country, it has been held that, it is not necessary for all the Justices that heard the matter, to be present during the delivery of their judgment. Indeed, one of them can read out and deliver the judgment of the Court in the open court. (See the case of Okino v Obanabira & 4 others (1999) 12 SCNJ 27).

— Ogbuagu JSC. Ndukwe v LPDC [2007] – SC 48/2003

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EXECUTORY JUDGEMENT VS DECLARATORY JUDGEMENT

Executory judgment declares the respective rights of the parties and then proceeds to order the defendant to act in a particular way. e.g. to pay damages or refrain from interfering with the plaintiffs’ rights, such order being enforceable by execution if disobeyed. Declaratory judgments, on the other hand, merely proclaim the existence of a legal relationship and do not contain any order which may be enforced against the defendant. Second: A declaratory judgment may be the ground of subsequent proceedings in which the right, having been violated, receives enforcement but in the meantime there is no enforcement or any claim to it … A declaratory judgment is complete in itself since the relief is the declaration. See Vol. 1 Halbury Laws, 4th Ed., para. 185 187; Akunnia v. Attorney General of Anambra State (1977) 5 S.C. (161 at 177).

— Agbaje JSC. Okoya & Ors. V. S. Santilli & Ors. ( SC.206/1989, 23 MAR 1990)

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A JUDGEMENT IN A CIVIL CASE IS MADE UP OF FIVE DISTINCT PARTS

I belief it is useful to begin my consideration of the main issue for determination in this appeal by advising myself that a judgment in a civil case is made up more or less of five distinct parts. These are the introduction of the issue in controversy between the parties, the cases of either side to the litigation as revealed on the pleadings, the evidence called by either side in support of its case, the resolution of the issues of fact and of law put forward by each party, and the court’s conclusions based on the resolution of the issues and the claims before the Court.

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

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STAGES IN JUDGEMENT WRITING AS STATED BY OPUTA JSC

Isaac Stephen v. The State (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt.46j 978 in which Oputa J.S.C. set out the stages to be followed in writing a good judgment, particularly in criminal cases. The four stages outlined by the learned Justice are as follows:- “Stage 1: If the plea of the accused is guilty no issues arise and no evidence is required. The trial court can proceed straight to judgment. But if the plea is not guilty (as it is bound to be in murder trials) then all the constituent elements of the offence charged are put in issue. And the onus lies heavily on the prosecution to prove the offence charged beyond reasonable doubt. Stage 2: Issues are thus joined, evidence is led in proof or disproof of each issue. At this stage, the duty of the trial court is merely to record the evidence led and observe the demeanor of the witnesses called by either party. Stage 3: This is the most important and crucial stage as it deals with the perception of facts, evaluation of facts belief or disbelief of witnesses and findings and conclusions based on the evidence accepted by the trial court. At this stage, the trial court will briefly summarize the case of either party. This does not mean producing verbatim the evidence of the prosecution witnesses and of defence witnesses one by one but it does mean using such evidence to tell a coherent and connected story. Having done this, the trial court will then decide which story to believe. Here it is important to emphasize that the over worked expressions “I believe” or “I do not believe” have no extrinsic magic power or potency. There is nothing wrong in believing one side and disbelieving the other if either the belief or disbelief is in consonance with the natural drift of the evidence and the probabilities which on the totality of what evidence it is natural to expect. Stage 4: Having exercised his prerogative to believe or disbelieve having made his findings of fact, the trial court will then draw the necessary inference or conclusion from the facts, would then discuss the applicable law against the background of the facts as found. Any judge that follows the above pattern or something similar to it will be of invaluable help to the Courts of Appeal as well as to parties to the appeal. One would only wish that our trial courts do approach the difficult task of writing judgments in some methodical and orderly fashion.”

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FINAL EXERCISE OF JUDGEMENT MUST INVOLVE CONSIDERATION OF ALL THE CORRESPONDENCE ON BOTH SIDES

The final exercise of judgment must of necessity involve a consideration of all the correspondence that is properly put in evidence by both sides, all the correspondence tendered in order to establish the case and all that produced in order to disprove the existence of a contract. It is only after such detailed consideration that a tribunal can fairly come to a conclusion as to whether or not the parties actually arrived at an agreement. See Thomas Hussey v. Horne-Payne (1879) 4 App. Cas. 311. The task of analysing the several letters and attempts to reconcile the one with the other is undoubtedly a very difficult one calling for the most serious examination of each and every one of several documents until the tribunal is able to say whether a contract is indeed established.

— Coker JSC. Shell Bp Petroleum Dev. Co. v. Jammal Engineering (Nigeria) Limited (1974)

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ONCE A COURT DELIVERS JUDGEMENT IT IS FUNCTUS OFFICIO; EXCEPTIONS THAT EXISTS

It is settled law that once a Court has delivered its decision on a matter, it becomes functus officio with regard to that matter. What this means is that a Court cannot sit as an appellate Court over its decision; once it has decided a matter, it ceases to be seized of it, and it cannot re-open it for any purpose whatsoever – see Ogboru V. Ibori (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 942) 319 Sun Insurance V. LMBS Ltd. (2005) 12 NWLR (Pt 940) 608, Ukachukwu V. Uba (2005) 18 NWLR (Pt 956) 1, Ubeng V. Usua (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt 994) 244 and Onyekweli V. INEC (2009) 6 NWLR (Pt 1136) 13. But the law also says that Courts of record have the inherent jurisdiction to set aside their Judgments/decision/order, in appropriate cases. When a. The Judgment is obtained by fraud or deceit either in the Court or of one or more of the Parties; b The Judgment is a nullity; c. It is obvious that the Court was misled into giving Judgment under a mistaken belief that the parties consented to it; d. The Judgment was given in the absence of jurisdiction; e. The proceedings adopted was such as to deprive the decision or Judgment of the character of a legitimate adjudication; or f. Where there is fundamental irregularity. See Alao V. ACB (2000) 9 NWLR (Pt 672) 264, Tomtec (Nig.) Ltd. V. FHA. (2009) 16 NWLR (Pt 1173) 358 SC, and Jev V. lyortom (supra).

— A.A. Augie, JCA. Elias v Ecobank (2016) – CA/L/873/2013

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