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THE VERY ESSENCE OF FAIR HEARING UNDER SECTION 36 OF THE CONSTITUTION

Dictum

The court below at pages 289 to 291 of the record in its judgment examined the appellants’ complaint as to absence of fair hearing and said: “It must be noted that the court must balance its discretionary power to grant or refuse an adjournment with its duty to endeavour to give an appellant the opportunity of obtaining substantial justice in the sense of his appeal being granted a fair hearing or even in the court below. This is because of the need that in granting the hearing on the merits no injustice is done to the other party where that opportunity or fair hearing existed in the court below, the appellate court has no business interfering. See University of Lagos v. Aigoro (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1) page 142; Ogundoyin v. Adeyemi (2001) 13 NWLR (pt. 730) 403 at 421. The very essence of fair hearing under Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 is a hearing which is fair to both parties to the suit; be they plaintiffs or defendants or prosecution or defence. The section does not contemplate a standard of justice which is biased in favour of one party and to the prejudice of the other. Rather, it imposes an ambidextrous standard of justice in which the court must be fair to both sides of the conflict. The hearing must be fair and in accordance with the twin pillars of justice, read as pillars of justice, namely audi alteran partem and nemo judex in causa sua per Onu J.S.C. at 421. See also Ndu v. State (1990) 7 NWLR (pt. 164) 550. A party who will be affected by result of a Judicial inquiry must be given an opportunity of being heard, Otherwise, the action taken following the inquiry will be Unconstitutional and illegal. See Ogundijun v. Adeyemi (2001) 13 NWLR (Pt. 730) 403 at 423 per Onu J.S.C. See also Atande v. State (1988) 3 NWLR (pt. 85) 681. In the light of the above I have no difficulty in Resolving this issue of fair hearing or not against the Appellant. Therefore this appeal lacking in merit is hereby dismissed.” I agree with the views expressed by the court below above. I am unable to hold that the appellants were denied their right to fair hearing as enshrined in section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.

— A. Oguntade, JSC. Pam & Anor. V Mohammed (2008) – SC.238/2007

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FAIR HEARING BEING SO FUNDAMENTAL MUST BE RAISED IN GOOD FAITH

My lords, so fundamental and crucial is the right to fair hearing of the citizen before all Courts of the land that a failure by a Court to observe it in the litigation processes would invariably vitiate both the proceedings and judgment of such a Court, notwithstanding the merit or otherwise of the cases of the parties or indeed how meticulous the proceedings were conducted or even how sound the resultant judgment was on the merit, they are all a nullity. However, it must be pointed out at once that the issue of fair hearing must be raised with all seriousness and in good faith. It must never be raised in bad faith or merely intended as a red herring to raise a storm in a teacup without any factual basis. See Agbogu V. Adiche (2003) 2 NWLR (Pt. 805) 509@ p. 531. See also Agbapuonwu V. Agbapuonwu (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt. 165) 33 @p.40; Adegbesin V. The State (2014) 9 NWLR (pt. 1413) 609 @pp. 641 – 642.

— B.A. Georgewill, JCA. UBA v. Ashimina (2018) – CA/L/1033/2014

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FAIR HEARING IS SYNONYMOUS WITH FAIR TRIAL

Fair hearing has been interpreted by the courts to be synonymous with fair trial and as implying that every reasonable and fair minded observer who watches the proceedings should be able to come to the conclusion that the court or other tribunal has been fair to all the parties concerned.

– Ejiwunmi JSC. Unibiz v. Lyonnais (2003)

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AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM – WHERE OPPORTUNITY NOT USED

It is also the law that the fairness of a trial can be tested by the maxim audi alteram partem. Either party must be given an opportunity of being heard, but where a party refuses to take advantage of the opportunity to traverse specific allegations made against him, the averments will be deemed admitted and the defendant cannot complain of lack of fair hearing.

— O. Oyebiola, J. Yakubu v. FRCN (2016) – NIC/LA/673/2013

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EFFECT OF A DENIAL OF FAIR HEARING

The term ‘fair hearing’ is in most cases synonymous with fair trial and natural justice, an issue which clearly is at the threshold of our legal system and thus once there has been a denial of fair hearing the whole proceedings automatically becomes vitiated. A denial of fair hearing can ensure from the conduct of the Court in the hearing of a case or in the judgment of the court. However, the true test of fair hearing is the impression of a reasonable person who was present at the trial whether from the observation justice has been done in the case.

– PER B.A. Georgewill, J.C.A. ZENITH BANK PLC v. WAILI (2022) – CA/A/964/2020

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RULES OF NATURAL JUSTICE MUST BE OBSERVED

The rules of natural justice must be observed in any adjudication process by any court or tribunal established by law. – Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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NOT ALL FAILURE TO PRONOUNCE ON ALL ISSUES WILL RESULT IN BREACH OF FAIR HEARING

Now while a Court has a duty to pronounce on all the key issues in a matter, it is not every failure of a Court to pronounce on issues that would constitute a breach of fundamental right to fair hearing. See: C.N. OKPALA & SONS LTD v. NB PLC (2017) LPELR-43826(SC); FODE DRILLING (NIG) LTD v. FABBY & ORS (2017) LPELR-42822(CA); and SAIPEM CONTRACTING (NIG) LTD & ORS v. FIRS & ORS (2018) LPELR-45118(CA).

— J.Y. Tukur, JCA. Fani-Kayode v. FRN & Ors. (2019) – CA/L/722C/2018

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