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TWO WRONGS DO NOT MAKE A RIGHT – GARBA’S CASE

Dictum

As the students were wrong in going on a rampage, the University Authorities will on their own part be wrong in using means other than those allowed them by law in dealing with the disturbance. Two wrongs, they say, do not make one right. – Oputa, J.S.C. Garba & Ors. v. The University Of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt.18) 550

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WHEN A LACUNA IN LAW MEETS WITH THE RIGHT OF A CITIZEN

A lacuna is said to exist in law when there is a lack of specific and or general law or a law which is of universal application which can be applied in a matter or situation before the Court. Where there is no specific law but there are existing general laws enacted in respect of similar matters, the general principle is that the general law enacted in respect of similar matters or a law which is of universal application and which has provisions relating to a similar situation before the Court must be applied to resolve the situation. Even, where in very rare cases, there is no existing law regulating or relating to a particular situation brought before the Court, a citizen who has a genuine grievance and has approached the Court for a solution will not be left without a remedy. That is the purport of the Supreme Court’s decision in PDP v. INEC (SUPRA) AT 241 (D-F) where the Court per Uwais JSC held as follows: “For this Court to perform its function under the Constitution effectively and satisfactorily, it must be purposive in its construction of the provisions of the Constitution. Where the Constitution bestows a right on the citizen and does not expressly take away nor provide how the right should be lost or forfeited in the circumstance, we have the duty and indeed the obligation to ensure that the enured right is not lost or denied the citizen by construction that is narrow and not purposive. To this end the established practice of this Court is where the constitutional right in particular, and indeed any right in general, of a citizen is threatened or violated, it is for the Court to be creative in its decisions in order to ensure that it preserves and protects the right by providing remedy for the citizen.”

— M.O. Bolaji-Yusuff, JCA. CCB v Nwankwo (2018) – CA/E/141/2017

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CORPORATE BODIES HAVE THE RIGHT TO SUE FOR INFRINGEMENT OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

In Okechukwu vs. EFCC (2015) 18 NWLR (Pt 1490), the Court of Appeal held as follows – “Assuming a limited liability company is involved in a case where it was denied fair hearing, it has the right to sue for breach of its fundamental right to fair hearing. Again if the processes filed by the appellants were couched in such a way to show that the 1st Appellant’s ordeal and unwarranted arrests and detention was based primarily on the fact that he is the Managing Director of the 2nd appellant, then the 2nd appellant has a right to sue for the infringement of the fundamental rights of its managing Director.’

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A GUARANTEED RIGHT COULD BE DEROGATED FROM

Para. 44: “The Court is not unmindful of the fact that a right might be guaranteed but it can be derogated from if provided for by law, and if necessary; in a democratic society.”

— Boley v Liberia & Ors. (2019) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/24/19

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IMPROPER & IRREGULAR EXERCISE OF RIGHTS CONSTITUTES ABUSE

As I have observed, it is not the exercise of the right, per se, but its improper and irregular exercise which constitutes an abuse. Essentially, it is the inconvenience, inequities, involved in the aims and purposes of the application which constitute the abuse. Otherwise, where there is a right to bring an action the state of mind of the person exercising the right cannot affect the validity or propriety of its exercise. The proposition has been aptly expressed by Lord Halsbury in Mayor & City of Bradford v. Pickles (1895) AC at p.594 when he said, “If it was a lawful act, however, ill the motive might be, he had a right to do it. If it was an unlawful act however good his motive might be, he would have no right to do it. Motives and intentions in such a question as is now before your Lordships seem to me absolutely irrelevant.”

— A.G. Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) – S.C. 250/1991

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CHANGE IN LAW DOES NOT NULLIFY RIGHTS BASED ON THE OLD LAW

When the Supreme Court departs from its earlier decision on a point, the departure does not operate to generally overrule and nullify all previous decisions that followed the earlier decision it has departed from. The departure serves to chart a new direction to be followed without affecting the previous status quo. If the new decision is one on procedure including venue, pending and new cases at all levels will now be decided in accordance with the new decision. If the new decision applies the law on the existence of rights, interests and obligations differently, new and pending cases will be decided according to it depending on when the cause action arose or when the right, interest or obligation came into being. The general principle of law is that a change in law does not result in the nullification of rights and interests based on the previous law. That is why amending or repealing legislations provide for the saving of such rights and interests including ongoing situations that originated on the basis of the old law. On the basis of this general principle, it is the law prevailing at the time the right or interest accrued or at the time a situation arose and not the new law that determines its validity. In the light of the foregoing, I hold that the Learned respondent’s counsel reliance on the principle of ex nihilo nihil fit as espoused by the Legendary Lord Denning in MACFOY v. UAC (1962) AC, has no basis here.

– E.A. Agim, JCA. Ogidi v. Okoli [2014] – CA/AK/130/2012

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WHEN IS THERE DISPUTE BETWEEN THE FEDERATION & A STATE

In Attorney-General of the Federation v Attorney-General of Imo State (1983) 4 NCLR 178, it was held that before the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can be invoked under section 212 of the 1979 Constitution, the following criteria must be satisfied:- “(1) There must be a justiciable dispute involving any question of law or fact. (2) The dispute must be:- (a) between the Federation and a State in its capacity as one of constituent units of the Federation; (b) between the Federation and more States than are in their capacities as members of the constituent units of the Federation; or (c) between States in their aforesaid capacities, and the dispute must be one on which the existence or extent of a legal right of a State in its aforesaid capacity is involved.” (Relied on in AG Kano State v AG Federation (2007) – SC 26/2006)

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