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WHERE INTERPRETATION IS CAPABLE OF TWO MEANINGS, ADOPT A NON-DEFEATIST APPROACH

Dictum

It is settled that where in the interpretation of a word appearing in a particular piece of legislation, such word is capable of two meanings, the court has a duty to adopt an interpretation which would not defeat the intention of the law makers. See Mandara v. Attorney-General, Federation (1984) NSCC 221; Yabugbe v. C.O.P. (1992) 4 SCNJ 116; Lawal v. G. B. Ollivant (1972) 3 SC 124.

— Galadima, JSC. Wike Nyesom v. Peterside, APC, INEC, PDP (SC. 718/2015, 27 Oct 2015)

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COURT DEAL WITH LAW AS IT IS

The duty of the court is not to deal with the law as it ought to be but as it is. – Onnoghen, J.S.C. GEC v. DUKE (2007)

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MEANING OF THE WORD “SHALL” – IT IS A COMMAND

At para. 2.19: In the case of Dr. Arthur Agwuncha Nwankwo and Ors V. Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and Ors. (2010) LPELR-2109(SC), the apex Court held as follows on the interpretation to be accorded the word ‘shall’ in a statute, “The word shall when used in a statutory provision imports that a thing must be done. It is a form of command or mandate. It is not permissive, it is mandatory. The word shall in its ordinary meaning is a word of command which is normally given a compulsory meaning as it is intended to denote obligation. Bamaiyi V. A.G. Federation (2001) 12 NWLR Pt. 722 pg. 468 Ifezue V. Mbadugha (1984) 1 SCNLR pg. 427 Chukwuka V. Ezulike (1986) 5 NWLR pt. 45 pg. 892, Ngige V. Obi (2006) 14 NWLR pt. 991, pg. 1.” See also Chika Madumere and Anor V. Barrister Obinna Okwara and Anor (2013) LPELR-20752(SC).

— (Relied upon in FRN v ASUU (2022) – NICN/ABJ/270/2022)

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MISCHIEF RULE IN INTERPRETATION

It is well settled that the object of all interpretation is to discover the intention of the legislature from the language used in the statute and to give effect to it. One of the most useful guides to interpretation is the mischief rule which considers the state of the law before the enactment, the defect which the legislation sets out to remedy or/and prevent, the remedy adopted by the legislature to cure the mischief and the true reason of the remedy. The duty of the court therefore is to adopt such interpretation that will enable the suppression of the mischief and to promote the remedy within the true intent of the legislation.

– Karibe-Whyte, JSC. Savannah v. Ajilo (1989)

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PURPOSEFUL INTERPRETATION OF A STATUTE

For the purposeful interpretation of a statute, the law requires that the sections of the statute be read and considered in community, wholistically or together and not some or individual sections in isolation of the others.

– Garba, JCA. Dunlop v. Gaslink (2018)

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DUTY OF JUDGE TO INTERPRETE THE LAW

I agree that a judge should be firm and pungent in the interpretation of the law but such should be short of a judge being a legislator. This is because it is the duty of the legislature to make the law and it is the assigned duty of the judge to interpret the law as it is; not as it ought to be. That will be flouting the rule of division of labour as set out by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. The provisions of sections 2(1) and 24 of the Act as reproduced above remain the law and shall continue to be so until when same is repealed or amended. For now, I see nothing amiss about the law.

— J.A. Fabiyi, JSC. FBN v. Maiwada (2012) – SC.269/2005

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MARGINAL NOTES IN STATUTES

Marginal notes, otherwise known as side notes or section heads are short notations appearing above or beside each section of a statute or regulation. While marginal notes are not part of a statute, they provide an interpretative aid to Courts and are useful in considering the purpose of a section and the mischief at which it is aimed. See per Eso, JSC in OLOYO V. ALEGBE (1983) 2 S.C.N.L.R. 35 AT 57; Per Idigbe, JSC in UWAIFO V. AG BENDEL STATE (1982) 7 SC 124 AT 187 188, OSIEC & ANOR V. AC & ORS (2010) LPELR-2818 (SC), INAKOJU & ORS V. ADELEKE & ORS (2007) LPELR 1510 (SC), YABUGBE V. C.O.P (1992) LPELR 3505 (SC).

— A. JAURO, JSC. UBA v Triedent Consulting Ltd. (SC.CV/405/2013, July 07, 2023)

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