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WORDS SHOULD BE CONSTRUED IN ACCORDANCE TO THEIR INTENTION

Dictum

Taking the first and third issues together, the central question is the interpretation to be given to Exhibit 2. I have already set it out above. The first question is what approach should be made in the interpretation of Exhibit 2? In my judgment it is crucial that Exhibit 2 should be construed in the context in which it was written. For, I believe it to be well – settled that in the interpretation of statutes we ought to bear in mind the circumstances when the Act was passed and the mischief which then existed and use them as an aid to the construction of the words which Parliament has used. See on this: Holme v. Guy (1877) 5 Ch. O. 596; River Wear Commissioners v. Adamson (1877) 2 App. Cas. 743, per Lord Blackburn; Eastman Photographic Materials Co., Ltd. v. Comptroller-General of Patents (1898) A.C. 571. Besides, words in a statute are to be construed in accordance with their intention. See Wandsworth Board of Works v. United Telephone Co. (1884) 13 Q.B.D. 904. These principles of interpretation have for a long time been applied to the interpretation of documents.

— Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Ashibuogwu v AG Bendel State (1988) – SC.25/1986

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DATE OF COMMENCEMENT: IF STATUTE IS TO HAVE AN EARLIER APPLICATION, IT IS TO BE STATED EXPLICITLY

The date of commencement of the Decree, as stated in the marginal note in it, was 20th June, 1991. The date of commencement of a statute is the date that it comes into operation. In the circumstance, the date on which the Decree itself, which included section 11 thereof, came into operation was the 20th June, 1991. There was nothing in the Decree to the effect that the Decree or any part or section thereof shall be deemed to have come into operation on a date earlier than the date of commencement stated in the Decree. Also, there was no provision in the Decree that actions or proceedings on matters to which the provision of section 11 of the Decree applied, which were pending in courts on the date of commencement of the decree, should abate or be discontinued. If it is intended by the lawmaker that any part or section of a statute should come into operation on a date earlier than the date of commencement of the statute itself provision to that effect will be made in clear term.

— Y.O. Adio. Kotoye v. Saraki (1994) – S.C. 147/1993

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COURT SHOULD AVOID CONSTRUCTION THAT WILL CAUSE CHAOS

In Okotie Eboh v. Manager (supra) Pats-Acholonu, JSC (of blessed memory) pronounced as follows: ‘An interpretation that seeks to emasculate should be avoided as it would do disservice to the citizenry and confine everyone into a legal container or labyrinth from which this court may not easily extricate itself ——– I believe that though justice is blind, it is nevertheless rooted in the nature of society and therefore the court should avoid constructions that could cause chaos and disenchantment. Justice must be applied in a way that it embraces and optimizes social engineering that is for the welfare of society. Enlightened society should expect a highly refined and civilized justice that reflects the tune of the time.’

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COURT WILL CONSIDER ALL DOCUMENTS BEFORE IT WHOLLY

It is settled that in the consideration of an agreement where there are series of correspondences between the Parties, it is the duty of the Court to consider all the correspondences in order to decipher what they are saying with regards to the arrangement see Udeagu V. Benue Cement Co. Plc. (2006) 2 NWLR (Pt. 965) 600.

— A.A. Augie, JSC. Berger v Toki Rainbow (2019) – SC.332/2009

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EFFECT ORDINARY MEANING WHERE WORDS OF STATUTES ARE CLEAR

The law is settled that where the words of a statute are clear, precise and unambiguous; the law mandates the Court to give such words their ordinary and literal meaning without any interpolation as there is nothing to interpret. The rationale behind this being that the cardinal function of the Courts is to declare the law and not to make law – jus dicere not jus dare. See Nwude V FRN (2015) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1506) 471; Raji v State (2012) LPELR-7968(CA) 75-78, paras F-F; Amoshima V State (2011) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1268) 530; & Tanko V State (2009) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1131) 430.

— J.H. Sankey, JCA. Brila Energy Ltd. v. FRN (2018) – CA/L/658CA/2017

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“MAY” MEANS MANDATORY WHERE A DUTY IS IMPOSED

UDE V. NWARA & ANOR. (1993) JELR 43303 (SC): “I agree with Chief Umeadi that although section 28(1) of the Law states that the lessor “may enter a suit”, “may” should be construed as mandatory i.e. as meaning “shall” or “must”. I believe that it is now the invariable practice of the courts to interpret “may” as mandatory whenever it is used to impose a duty upon a public functionary the benefit of which enures to a private citizen.”

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