Practice Direction, as the name implies, directs the practice of the court in a particular area of procedure of the court. A Practice Direction could be described as a written explanation of how to proceed in a particular area of law in a particular court. The word “practice” in its larger sense like procedure, denotes the mode of proceedings by which a legal right is enforced as distinct and separate from the law that gives and defines the right. The word “practice” is the form, manner and order of conducting and carrying on suits or prosecutions in the courts, through their various stages according to the principles of law and the rules laid down by the respective courts. Practice is our adjectival law, that is, the law regulating procedure; for example, the law of pleading, procedure, evidence, etc. They are rules of civil conduct which declare the rights and duties of all who are subject to the law and who come before the court to seek redress. The dictionary meaning of the word “direct” in our context is an order conveying instruction by a person in authority or backed by an authority; the refusal to carry it out is on the pain of sanction or punishment. In law, “direction” in our context, means command or precept emanating from an authority, who in the 2007 Practice Directions, is the President of the Court of Appeal. What is the legal status of Practice Directions? Practice Directions have the force of law in the same way as Rules of Court. I held in Abubakar v Yar’Adua (2008) 4 NWLR (Part 1078) 455 at 511 that Rules of Court include Practice Directions. (See also Owuru v Awuse (2004) All FWLR (Part 211) 1429). Practice Directions will however not have the force of law if they are in conflict with the Constitution or the statute which enables them.

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

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