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THE PHRASE “IN LIEU OF NOTICE”

Dictum

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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INTERPRETATION OF CONSTITUTION IS DIFFERENT FROM INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES

It is pertinent to state that unlike interpretation of statutes, the interpretation of Constitution has its own guiding principles. In FRN V NGANJIWA, which was cited by the Petitioners as SC/794/2019, but which is reported as FRN v NGANJIWA (2022) LPELR-58066(SC), the Supreme Court has succinctly reviewed decided cases on interpretation of the Constitution and outlined these guiding principles: ) In interpreting the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, mere technical rules of interpretation of statutes should be avoided, so as not to defeat the principles of government enshrined therein. Hence a broader interpretation should be preferred, unless there is something in the text or in the rest of the Constitution to indicate that a narrower interpretation will best carry out the objects and purpose of the Constitution. (b) All Sections of the Constitution are to be construed together and not in isolation. (c) Where the words are clear and unambiguous, a literal interpretation will be applied, thus according the words their plain and grammatical meaning. (d) Where there is ambiguity in any Section, a holistic interpretation would be resorted to in order to arrive at the intention of its framers. (e) Since the draftsperson is not known to be extravagant with words or provisions, every section should be construed in such a manner as not to render other sections redundant or superfluous. (f) If the words are ambiguous, the law maker’s intention must be sought, first, in the Constitution itself, then in other legislation and contemporary circumstances and by resort to the mischief rule. (g) The proper approach to the construction of the Constitution should be one of liberalism and it is improper to construe any of the provisions of the Constitution as to defeat the obvious ends which the Constitution was designed to achieve. See also on this: NAFIU RABIU V STATE (1980) 8-11 S.C. 130 at 148; A.G. BENDEL STATE V A.G. FEDERATION & ORS (1981) N.S.C.C. 314 at 372 – 373; BUHARI v OBASANJO (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 941) 1 at 281; SAVANNAH BANK LTD v AJILO (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 97) 305 at 326; and A.G., ABIA STATE V A.G. FEDERATION (2005) All FWLR (Pt. 275) 414 at 450, which were also referred to by the Apex Court.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 2023)

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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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DOCUMENTS SHOULD BE GIVEN THEIR ORDINARY MEANING

See SOLICITOR-GENERAL, WESTERN NIGERIA v. ADEBONOJO (1971) 1 All NLR 1978 – what happened in the case was that the 1st respondent was granted a scholarship by the Government of Western State of Nigeria. As a result he and his guarantors executed a bond in which he undertook that upon passing the relevant examinations he would serve the Government for a period of five years in any capacity considered appropriate by the Government. The respondent passed the relevant examination and returned to Nigeria but he was not given the necessary certificate because he had not spent the stipulated period on the course. The Government gave him an appointment which, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, was considered appropriate. He was not satisfied. He resigned the appointment before the expiration of five years. The Government consequently sued him and his guarantors for the refund of the amount spent on him pursuant to the grant of the scholarship.

The learned trial Judge found that the 1st respondent committed a breach of the bond by resigning his appointment before the expiration of the period stipulated in the agreement and entered judgment for the Government. On appeal to the then Western State Court of Appeal by the respondents, the court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of the learned trial Judge. The Western State Court of Appeal held, inter alia, that to be appropriate, any capacity in which the 1st respondent was called upon to serve by virtue of the relevant clause of the agreement must be reasonable. Dissatisfied with the judgment, the Government appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment of the Western State Court of Appeal, and restored the judgment of the learned trial Judge. In allowing the appeal, the Supreme Court stated, inter alia, as follows: “Now we have already set out the provisions of clause 4(a) of exhibit C and in the events which had happened it is easy to see why a consideration of that clause has become a matter of paramount relevance. To us, this clause clearly stipulates that after qualification the first defendant could be offered employment by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Western State in a capacity considered suitable by the regional government. In his consideration of that clause and his application of it to the facts of this case, Delumo, J. had held that according to the provision of the clause it is the regional government that would decide the capacity which is appropriate. On the other hand, the Western State Court of Appeal took the view that the word ”reasonable” and (the ”concept of reasonableness”) should be imported into the contracts of the parties for the purpose of construction. Neither of the parties to Exhibit C (and Exhibit H) contemplated that the word should be included in their agreement and throughout Exhibit C (and Exhibit H) that word was not even breathed. It is obvious from the confusion that arose in the Western State Court of Appeal itself that the court was in difficulty to ascertain the real position into which the word ‘reasonable’ could or should be fixed. It is the alphabet of his study to any lawyer that in the construction of documents the words must first be given their simple and ordinary meaning and that under no circumstances may new or additional words be imported into the text unless the documents would be by the absence of that which is imported impossible to understand.”

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COURT WILL GIVE PLAIN MEANING TO STATUTORY PROVISION

It is a Statutory provision which is clear and unambiguous. In such a situation, the duty of the court, is to give effect to the ordinary plain meaning of the words without resorting to any external aid. See the case of Chief Joseph A. Okotie-Eboh v. Chief James Ehiowo Manager & ors. (2004) 12 SCNJ 139. So, the question of Common Law, or Evidence Act, with respect, is therefore, of no moment.

— Ogbuagu, JSC. Grosvenor v Halaloui (2009) – SC.373/2002

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A RETROSPECTIVE OPERATION IS NOT TO BE GIVEN TO A STATUTE UNLESS EXPRESSLY INTENDED

✓ In Re Athlumney (1898) 2 Q.B. 547, Wright J opined thus:-“Perhaps no rule of construction is more firmly established than this, that a retrospective operation is not to be given to a statute so as to impair an existing right or obligation, otherwise than as regards a matter of procedure, unless that effect cannot be avoided without doing violence to the language of the enactment; If the enactment is expressed in a language that is fairly capable of either interpretation, it ought to be construed as prospective only.”

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EXCEPT STATED, STATUTE DOES NOT MAKE ANY ALTERATION IN THE LAW BEYOND

Crais on Statute Law 7th edition, the statement of the law reads at pages 121 to 122. “To alter any clearly established principle of law a distinct and positive legislative enactment is necessary. “Statutes” said the Court of Common Pleas in Arthur v. Bokenham are not presumed to make any alteration in the common law further or otherwise than the Act does expressly declare”.

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

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