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THE SUPREME COURT IS BOUND BY PRECEDENT

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This Court is bound by precedent when the facts of the previous decisions have similar material facts with the case before the Court. See DALHATU v. TURAKI (2003) 15 NWLR Pt. 843 Pg. 310, NOBIS-ELENDU v. INEC & ORS (2015) LPELR-25127 (SC), DR. UMAR ARDO V. ADMIRAL MURTALA NYAKO & ORS (2014) LPELR-22878 (SC),NIGERIA AGIP OIL COMPANY LTD v. CHIEF GIFT NKWEKE (2016) LPELR 26060 (SC) and most importantly, the pronouncement of MUHAMMAD, JSC in the case of NWABUEZE v. THE PEOPLE OF LAGOS STATE (2018) LPELR-44113 (SC) where his Lordship held thus: “It is therefore settled that a Court … is bound by its own or the ratio decidendi of a higher Court in an earlier case, if the issues of fact and the legislation the Court considers subsequently are same or similar … where the lower Court, as in the instant case, holds itself bound by the decision… on the same or similar facts, Appellant’s grudge against the lower Court’s decision cannot therefore, be taken seriously…”

— H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. UBA v Triedent Consulting Ltd. (SC.CV/405/2013, July 07, 2023)

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LOWER COURT IS BOUND BY THE DECISION OF HIGHER COURTS

Dalhatu Vs Turaki & Ors. (2003) LPELR – 917(SC) @ 41 – 43 C – F, thus: “The doctrine of Judicial precedent otherwise known as stare decisis is not alien to our Jurisprudence. It is a well settled principle of Judicial policy which must be strictly adhered to by all lower courts. While such lower courts may depart from their own decisions reached per incuriam, they cannot refuse to be bound by decisions of higher courts even if those decisions were reached per incuriam. The implication is that a lower court is bound by the decision of a higher court even where that decision was given erroneously.”

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THERE ARE TIMES WHEN DEPARTURE FROM PRECEDENT IS IN THE INTEREST OF THE LAW

✓ In Bucknor Maclean v. Inlaks Limited (1980) 8-11 S.C. 1, the decisions overruled were clearly shown to become vehicles of injustice and this Court could not allow such state of affairs to continue and my late learned brother, Idigbe, J.S.C. fully gave expression to this when reading the lead judgment at page 25, he said. “I share the view of Lord Morris in Conway v. Rimmer that “though precedent is an indispensable foundation on which to decide what is the law, there may be times when a departure from precedent is in the interest of justice and the proper development of the law.” . . . I see no more justification for perpetuating recent error than for retaining any uncorrected error in much older decisions of this court.”

✓ In Golak Nath v. State of Punjab Air (1967) S.C. 1643, Subba R. CJ. (on behalf of himself, Shah, Sikri, Shelat and Vaidialingam, JJ. said at page 1670: “A final appeal is made to us that we shall not take a different view as the decision in Sankari Prasads case (1952) SCR 89-AIR 1951 S.C. 458 held the field for many years. While ordinarily this court will be reluctant to reverse its previous decisions, it is its duty in the constitutional field to correct itself as early for otherwise the future progress of the country and the happiness of the people will be at stake. As we are convinced that the decision in Sankari Prasad’s case 1952 SCR 89-(AIR 1951 S.C. 458) is wrong it is pre-eminently a typical case where the court should overrule it.

✓ Instances of this are to be found in the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. In Planny v. Ferguson (1896) 163 V.S. 537, the Court, in a segregation case, held that once, in public facilities accommodation was separate but equal it was constitutional to compel segregation of races in the use thereof. In Brown v. Topeka (1954) 347 V.S. 483, that is sixty years later, the court gave a decision in direct opposition to its view in Planny v. Ferguson. Times had changed and the court’s view was that attitude must change with them.

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A CASE PRECEDENT PROPERLY DISTINGUISHED CANNOT APPLY IN PRESENT CASE

Where the reliance on a precedent case is challenged in a proceedings on the basis that the facts are distinguishable from those of the present case, the court must determine if the facts of the two cases are the same or not. It cannot gloss over that issue and proceed to simply rely on the precedent case on the ground only that the law applied in that case is the same law that is sought to be invoked or applied in the precedent case. A law can be applied in various factual situations. So upon a challenge that the factual situation in which a law was applied in a previous case is different from the factual situation in a present case and therefore cannot apply to it, it becomes necessary to determine the factual basis for the application of that law in the precedent case so as to determine if the precedent case applies to the present case. If the factual basis of the application of the law in the precedent case is different from those in the present case, then the precedent is successfully distinguished from the present case and cannot apply to it on the relevant point.

— Emmanuel Akomaye Agim, JSC. Lagos State Govt. v. Abdul Kareem (2022) – SC.910/2016

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PREREQUISITE FOR CITING A CASE AS AN AUTHORITY

“The law is trite that a case is only an authority for what it decides, and nothing more. Thus, a case cited as an authority must be considered and utilized in light of its own peculiar facts and circumstances.”

PER J.H. Sankey, J.C.A. Gonimi v. Surundi (2022) – CA/G/7/2022

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STARE DECISIS ON SIMILAR FACTS

It is settled that Courts, including this Court are bound by the earlier decisions of the apex Court on same or similar facts determined on the basis of same or similar legislations in their subsequent determination of cases in respect of same or similar facts and on the basis of same or similar legislations. See ATOLAGBE & ANOR V. AWUNI & ORS (1997) LPELR – 593 (SC) and DR. UMAR V. ADMIRAL MURTALA NYAKO & ORS (2014) LPELR – 22878 (SC).

– M.D. Muhammad JSC. Odey v. Alaga (2021) – SC.9/2021

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HOUSE OF LORD MAY EVEN DEPART FROM HIS PREVIOUS DECISION WHERE IT SEES FIT

As far back as 1898 the House of Lords finally agreed to be bound, and decided that it was bound, by its own decisions (see London Street Tramways v. London County Council (1898) A.C. 375). This has been the position for almost a century until 1966 when it had to qualify its stand by the following statement made by Lord Gardner, L.C. on behalf of the House (i.e. on behalf of himself and The Lords of Appeal in Ordinary): “Their Lordships regard the use of precedent as an indispensable foundation upon which to decide what is the law and its application to individual cases. It provides at least some degree of certainty upon which individuals can rely in the conduct of their affairs, as well as a basis for orderly development of legal rules. Their Lordship nevertheless recognise that too rigid adherence to precedent may lead to injustice in a particular case and also unduly restrict the proper development of the law. They propose therefore to modify their present practice and, while treating former decisions of this House as normally binding, to depart from a previous decision when it appears right to do so. In this connection they will bear in mind the danger of disturbing retrospectively the basis on which contracts, settlements of property and fiscal arrangements have been entered into and also the special need for certainty as to the criminal law. . .” see (1966) AIIE.R. 77.

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