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WHAT IS A GROUND OF APPEAL?

Dictum

It is settled law that a ground of appeal is basically a highlight of the error of law or fact or mixed law and fact made by the court in the decision sought to be set aside in the appeal. It is the sum total of the reason(s) why the decision on appeal is considered by learned counsel for the appellant to be wrong and liable to be set aside. It follows therefore that for a ground of appeal to be capable of achieving the purpose of setting aside the decision appealed against, it has to be very substantial and must relate to the ratio of the decision, not directed at the obiter dictum of the court or in the judgment.

– Mukhtar JSC. Nwankwo v. Ecumenical (2007)

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PRINCIPLES TO CONSIDER TO DETERMINE GROUND OF LAW OR FACT

For the purposes of elucidation however, I think I should re-state some of these principles.
1. The first and foremost is for one to examine thoroughly the grounds of appeal in the case concerned to see whether they reveal a misunderstanding by the lower court of the law, or a misapplication of the law to the facts already proved or admitted.
2. Where a ground complains of a misunderstanding by the lower court of the law or a misapplication of the law to the facts already proved or admitted, it is a ground of law.
3. Where a ground of appeal questions the evaluation of facts before the application of the law, it is a ground of mixed law and. fact.
4. A ground which raises a question of pure fact is certainly a ground of fact.
5. Where the lower court finds that particular events occurred although there is no admissible evidence before the court that the event did in fact occur, the ground is that of law.
6. Where admissible evidence has been led, the assessment of that evidence is entirely for that court. If there is a complaint about the assessment of the admissible evidence, the ground is that, of fact.
7. Where the lower court approached the construction of a legal term of art in a statute on the erroneous basis that the statutory wording bears its ordinary meaning, the ground is that of law.
8. Where the lower court or tribunal applying the law to the facts in a process which requires the skill of a trained lawyer, this is a question of law.
9. Where the lower court reaches a conclusion which cannot reasonably be drawn from the facts as found, the appeal court will assume that there has been a misconception of the law. This is a ground of law.
10. Where the conclusion of the lower court is one of possible resolutions but one which the appeal court would not have reached if siesed of the issue, that conclusion is not an error in law.
11. Where a trial court fails to apply the facts which it has found corrective to the circumstance of the case before it and there is an appeal to a court of appeal which alleges a misdirection in the exercise of the application by the trial court, the ground of appeal alleging the misdirection is a ground of law not of fact.
12. When the Court of Appeal finds such application to be wrong and decides to make its own findings such findings made by the court of appeal are issues of fact and not of law.
13. Where the appeal court interferes in such a case and there is a further appeal to a higher court of appeal on the application of the facts, the grounds of appeal alleging such misdirection by the lower court of appeal is a ground of law not of fact.
14. A ground of appeal which complains that the decision of the trial court is against evidence or weight of evidence or contains unresolved contradictions in the evidence of witnesses., it is purely a ground of fact (which requires leave for an appeal to a court of appeal or a further court of appeal).

– Niki Tobi, JSC. Calabar CC v. Ekpo (2008)

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USING BOTH SIMILAR GROUNDS FROM ORIGINAL NOTICE OF APPEAL AND AMENDED NOTICE OF APPEAL

Equity follows the law and does always look at the substance and not the form. The 3rd Respondent on this point of his preliminary objection appears to be blighted by the form, and not the substance. Upon my careful perusal of grounds 1, 2, 3 & 6 of the Amended Notice of Appeal they appear to be substantially the replication of grounds 1, 2 & 3 of the original notice of appeal, grounds 4 in the original notice of appeal and the amended notice of appeal and the amended notice of appeal are identical. Similarly, ground 5 in the original notice of appeal was replicated, in ground 5 of the amended notice of appeal. The two grounds are identical. I do not, therefore, think that the respondents in the appeal have been misled, embarrassed or in any way prejudged by the Appellants merely indicating that their issue 1 has been formulated from original grounds 1, 2 & 3 as well as grounds 1, 2, 3 & 6 in the Amended Notice of Appeal. The Respondents similarly are not misled and prejudiced by the Appellants indicating that issues 2 & 3 are issues the subject of identical grounds 4 & 5 in both the original notice of appeal and the Amended Notice of Appeal respectively. Therefore, using blue pencil rule to discountenance, references, in the Appellants’ issues for determination of the appeal in their brief, to grounds 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 in the original notice of appeal filed on 9th August, 2016 will, in the peculiar facts of this case, meet the ends of substantial justice. Courts these days strive to doing substantial justice as they now turn away from arcane technicality.

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

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GROUNDS OF APPEAL SHOULD NOT BE LESS THAN THE ISSUES FORMULATED

A principle of formulation of issues in appeal is that the grounds of appeal should in no circumstance be less than the issues for determination. While the Court may tolerate equal number of grounds of appeal and issues framed therefrom, as in this case, a situation where there are less grounds of appeal than issues for determination will not be tolerated. See Agu v. Ikewibe (1991) 3 NWLR (pt. 180) 385; A-G Bendel State v. Aideyan (1989) 4 NWLR (pt. 118) 646; Ugo v. Obiekwe & Anor (1989) 1 NWLR (pt. 99) 566.

— N.S. Ngwuta, JSC. Odogwu v State (2013) – SC.122/2009

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ISSUE NOT RELATED TO A GROUND OF APPEAL IS INCOMPETENT

Actually, one is at sea where this issue was lifted or distilled from as it does not have any relationship with any of the grounds of Appeal. It is trite that an issue for determination must flow from the ground of Appeal filed. Where an issue for determination in an appeal is not related to or based on ground of appeal filed, it is incompetent, valueless and must be ignored by the Court. See Akese v. Government Oyo State (2012) ALL FWLR (Pt. 634) Page 53, Madukolum v. Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR Page 34. Omo v. JSC Delta State (2000) 12 NWLR (Pt. 682) page 444.

— P.O. Elechi, JCA. Onoeyo v UBN (2014) – CA/C/66/2007

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ISSUES MUST FALL WITHIN THE GROUNDS OF APPEAL FILED

It is necessary to emphasise the purpose of formulating issues for determination in briefs. Like pleadings to a litigation between the parties, the issues formulated are intended to accentuate the real issues for determination before the Court. The grounds of appeal allege the complaints of errors of law, fact or mixed law and fact against the judgment appealed against. The issues for determination accentuate the issues in the grounds of appeal relevant to the determination of the appeal in the light of the grounds of errors alleged. Hence the issues for determination cannot and should not be at large, but must fall within the purview of the grounds of appeal filed.

— A.G. Karibi-Whyte, JSC. Olowosago V. Adebanjo (SC.134/86, 29 Sep 1988)

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GROUNDS OF APPEAL DISMISSED WHERE NO ISSUE DRAWN

Indeed, there is no disputing the submission of the respondent that grounds 4 and 5 of the grounds of appeal are abandoned, no issues really having been drawn from those grounds. – Peter-Odili JSC. Chemiron v. Stabilini (2018)

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