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TRIAL COURT HAS POWER TO ENFORCE ITS OWN JUDGEMENT

Dictum

The judgment subsists and remains binding on the parties until set aside; and it took immediate effect from the date it was pronounced. Section 287(3) of the Constitution enjoins the said trial Court to enforce its own judgment.

— Ejembi Eko, JSC. Oboh & Anor v. NFL (SC.841/2016, January 28, 2022)

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PERIOD WITHIN WHICH EVERY COURT MUST DELIVER ITS JUDGEMENT

Also, in Dalyop vs. Oradiegwu (2000) 8 NWLR Part 669 page 421, this Court, per Akpabio, J.C.A, said: “Section 258(1) of the 1979 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) which appellant said gave him “a constitutional right to address the court before judgment is delivered” did not give him any such right. Rather it restricted the period within which every court must deliver its judgment to a period of “not later than 3 months after the conclusion of evidence and final addresses.”

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RATIONALE BEHIND JUDGEMENTS BEING DELIVERED WITHIN THE CONSTITUTIONAL THREE MONTHS

There is no doubt, that if a Court of Appeal fails to deliver its judgment within three months, such failure contravenes this provision. Therefore, any judgment becomes null and void if delivered outside the time limit. The question is, who should be blamed since the appellants or the respondents as the case may be, are not responsible for the lateness of the Court of Appeal in delivering its judgment. Where, therefore, should the blame lie, in what appears to be the wrong doing of a panel of judges There is no provision in the law as to who will bear the responsibility for the cost of re-hearing. It therefore appears, that parties to a suit are being punished for the wrong doing which they are not responsible for. It is in this sense that counsel argued forcibly that the construction of the relevant section should not be mandatory but directory. If one accepts the argument that the provision of section 258(1) of the 1979 Constitution is directory, then the question is as to what happens to the judgment delivered in breach of it. Definitely, the judgment violates the provision of the Constitution, because it was delivered out of time. The judgment, therefore, is null and void. The next question is as to what happens to the parties and the judges Except that the judgment becomes null and void, the judges do not suffer any liability. It is quite clear that there is no provision for damnifying judges for such a breach. This section of the Constitution has been specially promulgated to prevent rather undue delayed judgment, which, being capable of being set aside, does not benefit either party to the case or on appeal. When any judgment is unnecessarily delayed, it is not possible for the court of trial to retain observations of the witnesses, and the freshness of the demeanour of a witness is lost. It is, therefore, to save such undue delay that this particular provision has been made. Often in the past, a judgment is set aside and the case is remitted for retrial or re-hearing, because the delay is so long that a trial judge would have lost advantage of observation of a witness and sometimes forgets the sequence. It is the duty of all judges to apply the laws strictly, but it will not be right of them to attempt to wriggle out of such application and defeat its object. It is, therefore, essential that all courts should see to the proper compliance with section 258 (1) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1979. Learned counsel for the appellant emphasised that directory construction should be preferred, because of the helplessness of parties. In a judgment given in violation of section 258(1), one party gains and the other loses. It is only fair that parties be restored to their original status when ordering re-hearing. The purpose of section 258(1) is to give some certainty as to the law determining rights of parties. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance to either the appellant or the respondent that a court, which determines an appeal, does so within the required period. That will lead to the enhancement of the court and the judiciary.

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

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SUBORDINATE COURT CANNOT SIT OVER JUDGEMENT OF SUPREME COURT

My Lords, the law is settled, and as rightly stated by learned senior counsel for the Appellant, that the Court below, and other Courts subordinate to this Court, lack the jurisdictional competence and power to sit on appeal over the judgment of this Court. This is the import of Section 235 CFRN 1999 as amended.

– A. Aboki, JSC. Sani v. Kogi State (2021) – SC.1179/2019

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COURT CANNOT TAKE JUDICIAL NOTICE OF A NULLIFIED JUDGEMENT NOT PRODUCED BEFORE IT

Whether the record and contents of a nullified judgment ought formally be produced in court or extract thereof be placed before the court before the opinions expressed therein could be countenanced; or whether the Court of Appeal could have taken notice of their existence and contents by the mere fact that the nullified judgment was probably in the archives of the court. In Attorney-General v. Silem L.R. 10 H.L. Cas. 704, it was held that S.26 of the Queens Remembrance Act, 1859, which empowered the Barons of Exchequer to frame rules for making “the process, practice and mode of pleading” on the revenue side of the court uniform with that of the plea side, did not give the Judges the power of entertaining appeals on revenue cases, as they assumed. It is always necessary to exercise powers conferred by an enabling statute within the four comers of the statute: see Australian cases of Tavcar v. Tavcar (1950) A.L.R. 260; White v. White (1947) A.L.R. 342. It therefore appears to me that the power, conferred by S.73(1) of the Evidence Act, for a court to take judicial notice of its course of proceedings and rules of practice cannot rightly be invoked to take judicial notice of the contents of a nullified judgment, which the members had not earlier had an opportunity of seeing. For, true, it existed as a fact, being devoid of any legal consequences, it was then like any other opinion, say, in a textbook. I do not think that anybody can suggest that such a textbook opinion should be judicially noticed.

— P. Nnaemeka-Agu JSC. Gbaniyi Osafile v. Paul Odi (SC 149/1987, 4th day of May 1990)

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DISSENTING JUDGEMENT IS NOT BINDING

Learned counsel for the Appellant has urged this Court to adopt the dissenting view of Agbaje JSC as it is more in accord with the law that creates trust. In alternative learned counsel invited this Court to look further into this matter and if necessary depart from the relevant holding, especially the dictum of Olatawura JSC. I wish to state clearly that the views expressed by my lord Agbaje JSC was raised in a dissenting judgment. A dissenting judgment, however powerful, learned and articulate is not the judgment of the Court and therefore not binding. The judgment of the Court is the majority judgment which is binding. See Orugbo v Una (2002) 16 NWLR (Pt. 792) 175 at 208 Paragraphs B-C. The law under which the case of Ogunola & Ors v Eiyekole (supra) was decided, that is the Land Use Act 1978, has not been repealed or altered. It is still the extant law that regulates land administration in this country. The call therefore on this Court to depart from the said decision is without merit.

— P.A. Galumje, JSC. Huebner v Aeronautical Ind. Eng. (2017) – SC.198/2006

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FINAL EXERCISE OF JUDGEMENT MUST INVOLVE CONSIDERATION OF ALL THE CORRESPONDENCE ON BOTH SIDES

The final exercise of judgment must of necessity involve a consideration of all the correspondence that is properly put in evidence by both sides, all the correspondence tendered in order to establish the case and all that produced in order to disprove the existence of a contract. It is only after such detailed consideration that a tribunal can fairly come to a conclusion as to whether or not the parties actually arrived at an agreement. See Thomas Hussey v. Horne-Payne (1879) 4 App. Cas. 311. The task of analysing the several letters and attempts to reconcile the one with the other is undoubtedly a very difficult one calling for the most serious examination of each and every one of several documents until the tribunal is able to say whether a contract is indeed established.

— Coker JSC. Shell Bp Petroleum Dev. Co. v. Jammal Engineering (Nigeria) Limited (1974)

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