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TRIAL COURT HAS A DUTY TO DECIDE ALL ISSUES ARISING

Dictum

Adjudication in our courts is our human attempt, (however imperfect), circumscribed as it is by our human limitations, to do justice between the parties before the court. It is of the essence of justice and fairness that cases are decided on their merits. This imposes a duty on the trial judge to consider all the issues arising between the parties before deciding for or against any such party. When a trial court fails in this duty he has merely decided half the case and not the whole case.

– Oputa JSC. OLUFOSOYE v. OLORUNFEMI (1989)

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ISSUES FORMULATED ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ARGUMENTATIVE

Issues for determination are formulated’ and not supposed to be argumentative’ as formulated. The parties are expected to coin their issues for determination as precise as possible with professional elegance and brevity but without sacrificing its essential messages. By practice, issues formulated are different from issues argued or arguments on issues. Arguments or analogies on issues formulated are not to be contained in the issues so formulated. Arguments and analogies are to be supplied separately to amplify on the issues so formulated. The Respondents’ Counsel is found inadequate in this regard for formulating convoluted issues for determination at pages 7-8 of the Respondents’ Brief.

— S.D. Bage, JSC. Onyekwuluje v Animashaun (2019) – SC.72/2006

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WHERE FRESH ISSUE IS TO BE RAISED LEAVE OF COURT MUST BE SOUGHT

Need I remind the Appellant’s counsel that it is still a valid general principle that where a party seeks to raise a fresh issue on appeal, as he tried to do in this appeal, he must seek the leave of Court. Where he fails to do so, the issue, which ipso facto is rendered incompetent, would be liable to be struck out.

– A. Aboki JSC. Obi v. Uzoewulu (2021)

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ESSENCE OF FORMULATION OF ISSUES – APPEAL SHOULD BE ARGUED ON ISSUES

Before considering the arguments of counsel in this appeal, I consider it a matter of cardinal importance to remind counsel of the often made errors in their argument of returning to the grounds of appeal filed after formulating issues for determination based on the grounds of appeal. All arguments in the appeal after formulation of issues should be based on the issues for determination as formulated. See Adelaja v Fanoiki (1990) 2 NWLR (Part 131) 137. Stricto sensu, no reference thereafter ought to be made to the grounds of appeal filed. The essence of the formulation of issues is to narrow the relevant issues in dispute within those so formulated Attorney-General Bendel State v Aidegun (1989) 4 NWLR (Part 118) 646. Hence as the issues arise from the grounds and may and usually encompass a number of grounds of appeal, it is sufficient to argue the appeal on the issues for determination formulated. See Ogbunyinya v Okudo (No.2)(1990) 4 NWLR (Part 146) 551 SC. The approach adopted by counsel in this appeal by arguing the appeal on the grounds rather than on the issues formulated, suggests that sufficient attention was not paid to the formulation of the issues for determination. Vide Egbe v Alhaji (1990) 1 NWLR (Part 128) 546. –

Karibe-Whyte JSC. Agbai v. Okogbue (1991) – SC 104/1989

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COURT CANNOT PRONOUNCE ON ISSUE NOT RAISED

Nnaemeka-Agu, J.S.C., expressed similar views in a recent case Niger Progress Ltd. v. North East Line Corporation (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt.107) 68 at p. 100 viz: “In the instant case whether or not the writ was duly indorsed… is not only new, but one which should have been resolved one way or the other in the Court of trial. It ought to have occurred to learned counsel that this Court cannot make any pronouncement on the endorsement or Service of the Writ when such an issue was never placed before the lower Court … even a notice to raise a point not raised in the Court below … can never serve as a licence for introducing new and separate issues.”

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WHEN COURT RAISES AN ISSUE, COURT SHOULD DO WELL TO GIVE PARTY OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS IT ON THE ISSUE

But there is nothing in the case of Lawrence Okafor & Ors. v. Felix Nnaife & ors. (1972) 3 E.C.S.L.R. 261, which the learned trial Judge relied upon to support his decision to suggest that the court could take up the point and decide it without hearing the parties. Indeed in that case when the Supreme Court felt that point needed to be taken, their Lordships invited counsel on both sides to address the court on the point, before they decided it. It is basic and fundamental in our system of administration of justice that no one can have a decision entered against him without his being heard. This is the essence of the maxim: audi alterant partem. That maxim implies not only that all the parties to be affected by a decision are entitled to be heard in the case on hand before the decision is given but also that if, in the course of hearing, any new point material to the decision arises, each of such parties shall be heard on it before a decision based upon it can rightly be handed down. Quite apart from this, a Judge who in our system must be and be seen as an impartial umpire will be anything but that if he takes up a material point, no matter how clear it may appear, and, without hearing any of the parties to be affected by the decision, decides it. That cannot be even-handed justice. A court ought never raise an issue for either of the parties and, without hearing both parties proceed to base its judgment on it. See Inua v. Nta (1961) 1 ALL N.L.R. 576; Ejowhomu v. Edok-Eter Ltd. (1986) 5 N. W.L.R. (Pt.39) 1. So, the Court of Appeal was right on that ground.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Ugo v Obiekwe (1989) – SC.207/1985

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PROLIFERATION OF ISSUES IS CONDEMNED

The appellants formulated eight issues for determination, while the respondents formulated four issues. I will not reproduce the twelve issues here. I do not have such space. But I have enough space to ask what are eight issues doing in an appeal that has only five grounds of appeal? This Court has condemned proliferation of issues. As a matter of procedure, issues should not outnumber grounds of appeal. This is because issues are framed from one or more grounds of appeal, preferably more than one ground of appeal. The reverse position is the practice and it is that grounds of appeal outnumber issues. See generally Attorney-General Bendel State v. Aideyan (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 118) 646; Ugo v. Obiekwe (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt. 99) 566; Adelaja v. Farouk (1990) 2 NWLR (Pt. 131) 137; Anonk Lodge Hotels Ltd, v. Mercantile Bank of Nigeria Ltd (1993) 3 NWLR (Pt. 284) 72.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Mozie & Ors. v. Mbamalu & Ors. (2006) – S.C.345/2001

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