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WHEN GROUNDS OF APPEAL ARE ONE OF LAW

Dictum

In NNPC v. FAMFA OIL LTD. (2012) 17 N.W.L.R. (Part 1328) S.C. 148, this Court, while faced with a similar objection to the grounds of appeal, went ahead to deal extensively with the criteria for identifying when a ground of appeal is one of law, of fact, or of mixed fact and law. Rhodes-Vivours J.S.C., at Pp. 175 – 176, Paragraphs C – H, as follows: “…. In Nwadike v. Ibekwe (Supra), this Court explained further that: (a) It is an error in law if the adjudicating Tribunal took into account some wrong criteria in reaching its conclusion. (b) Several issues that can be raised on legal interpretation of deeds, documents, terms of arts and inference drawn there from are grounds of law. (c) Where a ground deals merely with a matter of inference, even if it be inference of fact, a ground framed from such is a ground of law. (d) Where a tribunal states the law in point wrongly, it commits an error in law. (e) Where the complaint is that there was no evidence or no admissible evidence upon which a finding or decision was based, same is regarded as a ground of law. (f) If a Judge considers matters which are not before him and relies on them for the exercise of his discretion, he will be exercising same on wrong principles and this will be a question of law…..”

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WHERE NO LEAVE OBTAINED, ISSUES AND ARGUMENTS THEREON WILL BE STRUCK OUT

It is true that once no leave was shown to have been obtained by the Appellant before filing the grounds of appeal alleging error of facts based on evidence the said grounds together with the issues distilled therefrom and the arguments proffered thereon are liable to be struck out. See Nwadike v. Ibekwe (1987) 4 NWLR (pt. 67) 718; Ogbechie v. Onochie (1986) 2 NWLR (pt. 23) 484; Ifediorah v. Ume (1988) 2 NWLR (pt. 74) 5.

— M.U. Peter-Odili, JSC. Ugo v. Ugo (2007) – CA/A/110/2007

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ISSUE RAISED MUST BE RELATED TO A COMPETENT GROUND OF APPEAL

Issues arising for determination of an appeal are determined by the number of competent grounds of appeal filed by the appellant challenging the decision of the court being appealed against. The law is that neither a party nor a court is permitted to raise or deal with any issue which is not related to or does not arise from any ground or grounds of appeal. See Oniah v. Onyia (1989) 1 NWLR (Pt.99) 514; Nwosu v. Udeaja (1990) 1 NWLR (Pt. 125) 188 and Mark v. Eke (2004) 5 NWLR (Pt.865) 54 at 82. Therefore since the two issues formulated in the 1st respondent’s brief have the backing of the grounds of appeal filed by the appellants, they are relevant for the determination of this appeal. The remaining four issues in the appellants’ brief are equally potent having regard to the grounds of appeal in their support.

— Mohammed, JSC. C.S.S. Bookshops v. Muslim Community & Ors. (2006) – SC.307/2001

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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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GROUND OF APPEAL MUST BE PREMISED ON RATIO DECIDENDI OF COURT

I have looked at the short Ruling of the trial Court on pages 29 and 30 of the Records, and could see no reference in the Ruling to the concerns expressed by the Appellant in grounds (IV) and (V) of the appeal (which are also the issues (IV) and (V)). That means, the grounds (IV) and (V) and the issues, therefrom, formulated by the Appellant were completely outside the contemplation and purview or reasoning of the trial Court when it reached its conclusions. The law is trite that an appeal (the grounds and issue therefrom) must be founded on and derived from a valid complaint touching on the ratio decidendi (live issue) of the decision appealed against. See the case of Obosi Vs NIPOST (2013) LPELR -21397 CA, where it was held: “An issue for determination of appeal must flow from or predicate on the ground(s) of appeal, which, in turn, must derive from or challenge the ratio decidendi or live issue in the judgment appealed against.” See also Unilorin Vs Olwawepo (2012)52 WRN 42, held 1; Alataha Vs Asin (1999)5 NWLR (pt. 601)32; Punch Nig. Ltd. Vs Jumsum Nig. Ltd. (2011)12 NWLR pt 1260)162.

— I.G. Mbaba, JCA. Anozia v. Nnani & Anor. (2015) – CA/OW/29/2013

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ISSUE MUST ARISE FROM GROUNDS OF APPEAL

It suffices to state, firstly, that an appellate court can only hear and decide on issues raised on the grounds of appeal filed before it and an issue not covered by any ground of appeal is incompetent and will be struck out. – Iguh, JSC. Oshatoba v. Olujitan (2000)

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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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