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THE SUPREME COURT CANNOT SIT ON APPEAL OVER ITS OWN DECISION

Dictum

Having said that may I state that by virtue of Section 235 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Supreme Court cannot sit on appeal over its own judgment. The provision gives a stamp of finality to any decision of the Supreme Court. There is no constitutional provision for the review of the judgment of the Supreme Court by itself. See Eleazor Obioha v. Innocent Ibero and Anor (1994) 1 NWLR (pt.322) 503. However, it has been held by this court that the Supreme Court possesses inherent power to set aside its judgment in appropriate cases but that such inherent jurisdiction cannot be converted into an appellate jurisdiction as though the matter before it is another appeal, intended to afford the losing litigants yet another opportunity to re-state or re-argue their appeal.

— J.I. Okoro JSC. Citec v. Francis (SC.116/2011, 21 February 2014)

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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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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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MORE AUTHORITIES WILL NOT MAKE THE COURT DEPART FROM HIS EARLIER STANCE

It seems to me that the authority could justify the stance taken by Chief Williams in the presentation of his arguments when he seemed, with respect, to have presented the same arguments as he did in the Ifezue case, but now with more authorities and emphasis. However I am of the clear view that for this Court to depart from its decision in a previous case, the arguments must bring some fresh elements not just more authorities which had not been adverted to in the earlier proceedings, or that there have been new developments, even in the socio-economic or political stance of the country, especially when the matter under consideration is a matter that is provided for by the Constitution, to warrant the Court to change its earlier stand. In this case, I have gone through the profound submissions of Chief Williams and it seems to me, with utmost respect, that all the learned senior advocate has succeeded in doing is to re-argue the Ifezue case with more authorities on the same points as earlier canvassed or at least to regard the present case as an appeal over the Ifezue case. I do not think that would be sufficient to persuade me to reconsider my earlier stand in the Ifezue case.

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

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NIGERIAN CASES WHERE THE SUPREME COURT OVERRULED ITSELF

Again where there is a real likelihood of injustice being perpetuated this court has, in the recent past had occasion to over-rule itself. See Bucknor-Maclean v. Inlaks Ltd. (1980) 8-11 S.C. 1) – wherein this court over-ruled its previous decision in Shell B.P. v. Jammal Engineering (1974) 1 ALL N.L.R. 543 and Owumi v. P.Z. (1974) 1 ALL N.L.R. Part 2-on the above ground.

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

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CONDITIONS FOR THE EXERCISE OF SECTION 22 OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT

In determining whether the conditions surrounding an appeal before the Supreme court are conducive to the exercise of its general power under section 22 of the Supreme Court act as if the proceedings had been instituted and prosecuted before it as a court of first instance, the court will consider the followings: (a) The Availability before it of all the necessary materials on which to consider the request of the party. (b) The length of time between the disposal of the action in the court below and the hearing of the appeal at the Supreme Court. (c) The interest of justice to eliminate further delay in the hearing of the matter and minimize the hardship of the party.

– Tobi JSC. Odedo v. INEC (2008)

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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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