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THERE MUST BE NECESSITY BEFORE ANY PORTION OF THE CONSTITUTION IS SUSPENDED

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As we stated earlier in this judgment, the Attorney-General does not accept the presumption of necessity. We have earlier on pointed out that in our view the Federal Government is not a revolutionary government. It made it clear before assuming power that the Constitution of the country still remains in force, excepting certain sections which are suspended. We have tried to show that the country is governed by the Constitution and Decrees which, from time to time, are enacted when the necessity arises and are then supreme when they are in conflict with the Constitution. It is clear that the Federal Military Government decided to govern the country by means of the Constitution and Decrees. The necessity must arise before a decree is passed ousting any portion of the Constitution. In effect, the Constitution still remains the law of the country and all laws are subject to the Constitution excepting so far as by necessity the Constitution is amended by a Decree. This does not mean that the Constitution of the country ceases to have effect as a superior norm. From the facts of the taking over, as we have pointed out, the Federal Military Government is an interim Government of necessity concerned in the political cauldron of its inception as a means of dealing effectively with the situation which has arisen, and its main object is to protect lives and property and to maintain law and order.

— Ademola, CJN. Lakanmi v AG Western Nigeria (1970) – SC.58/69

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THE CONSTITUTION CANNOT MAKE PROVISIONS FOR EVERY EMERGENCIES

We think it wrong to expect that constitution must make provisions for all emergencies. No constitution can anticipate all the different forms of phenomena which may beset a nation. Further, the executive authority of the Federation is vested in the President by section 84 of the Constitution and we think in a case of emergency he has power to exercise it in the best interest of the country, acting under the doctrine of necessity.

— Ademola, CJN. Lakanmi v AG Western Nigeria (1970) – SC.58/69

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THE GOVERNORSHIP TRIBUNAL IS ALREADY ESTABLISHED BY THE CONSTITUTION

The wordings of section 285(2) are:- “ There shall be established in each States of the Federation , an election tribunal to be known as the Governorship Election Tribunal …” By the use of the word “ established ”, it could be taken to mean that the tribunal had already been established by the Constitution itself. This interpretation can be further fortified by sub-section (4) of the same provision dealing with quorum which also provides thus:- “ The quorum of an election tribunal established under this section shall be the chairman and one other member. ” It would therefore seem to me, that the learned senior counsel forthe appellant missed the point or misunderstood the law, when he submitted that the act of establishment of the tribunal was a futuristic event. My considered view in that regard is that, it is not a futuristic event because the Constitution had already established the tribunal by its provisions in section 285(2) and having done so, all that the President of the Court of Appeal is empowered to do, is to empanel the composition or appoint the Chairman and members of the already established tribunal whenever she/ he deems it necessary to do so. There is a world of difference between establishment of a statutory body and appointment of members to man such body.

— Sanusi, JSC. Wike Nyesom v. Peterside, APC, INEC, PDP (SC. 718/2015, 27 Oct 2015)

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IN INTERPRETING THE CONSTITUTION, ALL SECTIONS SHOULD BE READ TOGETHER

In interpreting the Constitution, the Supreme Court has also recommended that all the sections are to be construed together and hence it is impermissible to construe sections in isolation. See Skye Bank PLC v. Victor Anaemem Iwu (2017) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1590) 24 at 87, per Nweze, JSC.

— M.A.A. Adumein JCA. Anibor V. EFCC (CA/B/305/2012, 11 DEC 2017)

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PRINCIPLES GUIDING THE INTERPRETATION OF THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION

In FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA v MUHAMMADU MAIGARI DINGYADI (2018) LPELR-4606 (CA), in the following way at page 33: “One main guiding post is that the principles upon which the Constitution was established rather than the direct operation or literal meaning of the words used measure the purpose and scope of its provisions: See Global Excellence Communications Ltd v. Donald Duke (2007) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1059) 22 @ 41-41 (SC); Attorney General of Bendel State v. Attorney General of the Federation (1982) 3 NCLR 1; Saraki v. F.R.N. (2016) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1500) 531; Skye Bank Plc v. Iwu (2017) 16 NWLR (Pt. 1590) 124. There is always a need for the fulfilment of the object and true intent of the Constitution. Therefore, the Constitution must always be construed in such a way that it protects what it sets out to protect and guide what it is meant to guide Adeleke v. Oyo State House of Assembly (2006) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1006) 608. In interpreting the Constitution of a nation, it is the duty of the Court to ensure the words of the Constitution preserve the intendment of the Constitution Okogie v. A.G. Lagos State (1989) 2 NCLR 337, Abaribe v. Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly (2002) 14 NWLR (Pt. 788) 466, Marwa v. Nyako (2012) LPELR-7837 (SC). Every Constitution has a life and moving spirit within it and it is this spirit that forms the raison de’ entre of the Constitution without which the Constitution will be a dead piece of document. The life and moving spirit of the Constitution of this country is captured in the Preamble. It has been held that when a Constitutional provision is interpreted, the cardinal rule is to look to the Preamble to the Constitution as guiding star, and the directive principles of State Policy as the book of interpretation’, and that while the Preamble embodies the hopes and aspirations of the people, the Directive Principles set out the proximate grounds in the governance of the country Thakur v. Union of India (2008) 6 SCC 1. In other words, in interpreting the wordings of section 212(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Court should be guided by principles upon which the Constitution was established rather than by the direct operation or literal meaning of the words used in the provision, and where the literal meaning of the words used are not in consonance with the guiding principles, literal interpretation must be jettisoned for another approach that accords with the guiding principles of the Constitution Abaribe v. Speaker, Abia State House of Assembly (supra) (2002) 14 NWLR (Pt. 788) 466; Global Excellence Communications Ltd v. Donald Duke (2007) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1059) 22. The interpretation that would serve the interest of the Constitution and best carries out its objects and purpose must always be preferred – Kalu v. State (1988) 13 NWLR 531.”

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GUIDING PRINCIPLES TO THE INTERPRETATION OF THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION

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: (a) 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. ) 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.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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CONSTITUTION OVERRIDES CONTRARY PROVISIONS

The effect of entrenching a provision in the Constitution is that it over-rides all contrary provisions in any law of the land, be they substantive or adjectival.

– Ejiwunmi JSC. Unibiz v. Lyonnais (2003)

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