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JURISTS QUOTES - PG 1

Below are notable quotes from Nigerian Jurists (Judges and Justices of the High Courts, Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court).


  1. "The Constitution should never be read to say what it has not provided even though it should be liberally construed to giving meaning and effectiveness so as not to have embarrassing anomaly that can result in vacuum of any office or cause serious crisis in the polity. The Constitution, I must point out, is a general statement of how Nigerians wish to be governed and the real way of governing will be found in all the laws, body of laws, that comply with the Constitution." - BELGORE JSC, Buhari v. Obasanjo (2003)
  2. “Those who are familiar with the doctrine of obiter dicta will know their limit in jurisprudence. They are not conclusive authority, they are to be regarded as statements by the way. They arise when a Judge thinks it is desirable to express opinion on some points, though not in issue or necessary to the case before him; this makes obiter dicta not to have binding or weight on the case." - BELGORE JSC, Buhari v. Obasanjo (2003)
  3. “An interlocutory injunction was and is no more a remedy for an act which had already been carried out (see for example John Holt Nigeria Ltd. & Anor. v. Holts African Workers Union of Nigeria & Cameroons (1963) All NLR(Reprint)." - Kutigi, JSC, Buhari v. Obasanjo (2003)
  4. “The injunction is not granted as a matter of grace, routine or course. On the contrary, the injunction is granted only in deserving cases, based on hard law and facts." - Niki Tobi, JSC, Buhari v. Obasanjo (2003)
  5. “I have always said it that litigation is not a game of chess where the players try tricks at each other to manoeuvre to get victory. Litigation is rather a judicial process where all the cards must be placed on the table of the judicial process so that parties know in advance the case each has over the other. While the submission of counsel will be kept in his breast, the way the case will be handled, which include pleadings, documents and all other relevant papers should be within the reach of the adverse party, who should be free to call for them at the shortest notice." - Niki Tobi, JSC, Buhari v. Obasanjo (2003)
  6. “It is elementary law that courts of law, like nature, do not act in vain but for a purpose and the purpose must exist and be identifiable and identified. Courts of law do not embark on academic exercise because they are not academic institutions." - Niki Tobi, JSC, Buhari v. Obasanjo (2003)
  7. “The beauty of law in a civilized society is that it owes its respect and due observance to the society. It should be progressive and act as a catalyst to social engineering. Where it relies on mere technicality or out-moded or incomprehensible procedures and immerses itself in a jacket of hotchpotch legalism that is not in tune with the times, it becomes anachronistic and it destroys or desecrates the temple of justice it stands on." - Pats-Acholonu, JSC, Buhari v. Obasanjo (2003)
  8. “The object of the formulation of issues is to consider together a number of associated and related grounds of appeal within the issues to which they are related in the determination of the appeal. This approach facilitates determination of the appeal before the court and renders the appeal more intelligible and comprehensible." - Karibe-White, JSC, Agu v. Ikwibe (1991)
  9. “It is an elementary but fundamental rule of our civil procedure that parties are bound by their pleadings. A party will only be permitted to lead evidence in support of his pleadings. Evidence which is contrary to or not supported by the pleadings goes to no issue."
  10. “I think it is well settled and judicial authority is not lacking for the view that persons exercising judicial functions in accordance with native law and custom and are duly authorised to adjudicate upon disputes among their community have always been recognised as having such powers." - Karibe-White, JSC, Agu v. Ikwibe (1991)
  11. “The principle of res judicata applies where a final judicial decision has been pronounced by a judicial tribunal having competent jurisdiction over the cause or matter in litigation, and over the parties thereto, disposes once and for all of the matters decided, so that they cannot afterwards be raised for re-litigation between the same parties or privies. This principle involves the judicial decision estopping or precluding, any party thereto in any later litigation the correctness of the earlier decision in law and fact. Also the same issue cannot be raised again between them" - Karibe-White, JSC, Agu v. Ikwibe (1991)
  12. “The legal basis of all arbitrations is voluntary agreement. If there is a distinct agreement to appoint an umpire to determine the difference between the parties and other conditions are present, there is an arbitration." - Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC, Agu v. Ikwibe (1991)
  13. “The binding effect of their decisions derives from the fact that parties which have the right to resort to court for adjudication of their disputes have, with their eyes wide open, agreed to opt for a decision by a non-judicial body, the decision of which they have voluntarily agreed to be bound by. When a party to such a dispute has to be summoned before the arbitration body which proceeds to hear the dispute and thereafter pass a judgment in favour of one of the parties as if it were a judicial body, such cannot be said to be a valid arbitration." - Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC, Agu v. Ikwibe (1991)
  14. “Lord Simmonds has rightly pointed out in Magor and St. Mellons Rural District Council v. Newport Corporation (1952) A. C. (H. L.) 189 at p.191 "The duty of the court is to interpret the words that the legislature has used; those words may be ambiguous, but, even if they are, the power and duty of the court to travel outside them on a voyage of  discovery are strictly limited."
  15. “Lord Reid in his judgment in JONES v. DPP (1962) A C 635 AT 662 when he said: "It is a cardinal principle applicable to all kinds of statutes that you may not for any reason attach to a statutory provision a meaning which the words of that provision cannot reasonably bear. If they are capable of more than one meaning, then you can choose between those meanings but beyond that you must not go."
  16. “In Hinds and Other v. R (1975) 24 WIR 326 at 330Lord Diplock said: "A Constitution is the organic law of a country. It sets the parameters within which the country shall be governed. It establishes the institutional structures of government and either expressly or by necessary implication their inter-relationship, and spells out the basic rights of citizens and the obligations of the executive."
  17. “"The framers of our 1979 Constitution had all these factors in mind by providing for the many checks and balances which appear therein. In fact, a close scrutiny of its many detailed provisions will convince anyone that reliance on the decisions, whether British, Canadian, Australian, or American given on a different social and political context, will only lead to restrictive rules of locus stand which, in the interest of the need for total compliance with the provisions of our Constitution, I find it difficult to accept or countenance.- Fatayi-Williams, C.J.N. Senator Adesanya v. President
  18. “Just as Australian court apply Australian Law and American courts apply American Law, be they State or Federal, Nigerian courts are enjoined by the Nigerian Constitution to follow Nigerian Law which is applicable to the cases before them no matter how attractively presented before them cases and authorities from other countries of similar judicial system as ours may be." - Obaseki, JSC. A.G Bendel State v. A.G Federation (1981)
  19. “In Marbury, v. Madison in 1803 (Cranch 137), Chief Justice Marshall said at 177: "Certainly all those who have framed written Constitutions contemplate them as forming the fundamental and paramount law of the nation, and consequently the theory of every such government must be that an act of the legislature, repugnant to the Constitution is void."

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  21. “Words are the common signs that mankind make use of to declare their intention one to another and when the words of a man express his meaning plainly and distinctly and perfectly, there is no occasion to have recourse to any other means of interpretation." Obaseki, JSC. A.G Of Bendel State V. A.G Of The Federation & 22 ORS (1981)
  22. “"It is not a correct approach to the proper interpretation of our Constitution to begin by looking to the meaning or interpretation of a statutory provision or Constitution of other countries with different wordings. Foreign constitutions of statute with identical provisions accepted as in pari materia with the relevant provisions of our constitution will naturally carry some weight in their persuasive influence bearing in mind always that even in such cases, circumstances may vary." Udo Udoma JSC, Nafiu Rabiu v. Kano State (1980)
  23. “The primary function of a judge is to declare the law, not to decide what it should be. The business of law making is, in my humble view, exclusively a matter for the National Assembly in Nigerian context. Though, the populace look forward to the judiciary for dispensation of justice, a Judge must always be conscious of his limitation in the discharge of his judicial duties; he must carefully but firmly set out to administer justice according to law, the law which is established for us by the National Assembly of this country or by the binding authority of precedent which itself is substantially founded on the laws passed by the National Assembly." - Francis Fedode Tabai, JSC, Dapianlong v. Dariye (2007)
  24. “...let me quickly remind myself that where words or expressions in the provisions have been legally or judicially defined or determined, their ordinary meaning will definitely give way to their legally or judicially defined meanings..." Francis Fedode Tabai, JSC, Dapianlong v. Dariye (2007)
  25. “Let it be said that as we are all mortals, infallibility can never be our virtue. From time to time, as human beings, we must make mistakes. But let those mistakes be genuine and honest; let them be seen to reflect the limit of our human knowledge." - Francis Fedode Tabai, JSC, Dapianlong v. Dariye (2007)
  26. "As our country is sovereign, so too our Constitution and this court will always bow or kowtow to the sovereign nature of our Constitution, a sovereignty which gives rise to its supremacy over all laws of the land, including decisions by foreign courts. Gone are the days when all things from older common law jurisdictions were preferred to everything from the younger common saw jurisdictions. Gone are also the days when differences between judgments of this court and foreign judgments implied that the judgments of this court could be wrong. Let those days not come back and they will not come back." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Olafisoye v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004)
  27. "Arithmetic is not the Judge's tool." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007)
  28. "It has become a fashion for litigants to resort to their right to fair hearing on appeal as if it is a magic wand to cure all their inadequacies at the trial court. But it is not so and it cannot be so. The fair hearing constitutional provision is designed for both parties in the litigation and the court as the umpire, so to say, has a legal duty to apply it in the litigation, in the interest of fair play and justice. The courts must not give a burden to the provision which it cannot carry or shoulder. I see that in this appeal. Fair hearing is not a cut-and-dry principle which parties in the abstract always apply to their comfort and convenience. It is a principle which is based and must be based on the facts of the case before the court. Only the facts of the case can influence and determine the application or applicability of the principle. The principle of fair hearing is helpless or completely dead outside the facts of the case." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Oruqbo v. Una
  29. "A party may enjoy in the euphoria of a cunning or  smart conduct in the litigation. The truth is that such conduct may not last the length of the litigation because at the end of the day, and here I am restricting myself to the end of the litigation day, the court may find out the cunning and smart conduct." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007)
  30. "Litigation is not a game of cleverness, smartness or tricks. It is not a hide and seek game where one of the parties in all cleverness and smartness takes ambush and waits with all acrobatic dexterity for the opponent to fall into a trap and get him thoroughly harmed or destroyed. Litigation is not a game of chess where one of the parties attempts to trap the opponent's king to obtain victory. On the contrary, litigation has an inbuilt dispute settling mechanism where the parties come out in the open to make their cases frankly and not cunningly or craftily." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007)
  31. "A party who seeks fair hearing from the court must also be fair in the litigation to the adverse party and to the proceedings. A party who intentionally files motions to delay the proceedings is not fair to the adverse party and the proceedings. He should not in any way annoy the proceedings. He has a duty to respond to the procedural needs or requirements of the litigation without applying any baits because the adverse party is a human being; not a fish. He must come out and embrace the litigation with all honesty and sincerity of purpose. Where he decides to plant mines in the judicial process to obtain victory in the event of a possible slip on the part of the court or the adverse party, such a party will not be in a position to ask for the fair hearing of a case, because he has not shown raciness in the process itself. The principles of equity and fairplay will certainly deny him of the fair hearing principle that he refused to surrender in the judicial process. Although fair hearing is a constitutional guarantee, it has some resonance in the principles of equity and fairplay." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007)
  32. "I want to do a simple arithmetic, though I am not a friend of the subject. Niki Tobi, JSC." Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007)
  33. "A Judge is a man of consistency and the learned trial Judge, being a man of consistency, will never like to contradict himself in this way. Even if he is willing to do so, our adjectival law will stop him from doing so." Niki Tobi, JSC. Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007)
  34. "Justice is not only one loud and large term, it is a most important expression in the judicial system and the administration of justice, and-here I emphasise justice in the context. Justice in its simplistic content means quality of being just; fairplay and fairness. It has an element of quality of egalitarianism in its functional context." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007)
  35. Attorney-General of Bendel State v. Attorney-General of the Federation (1982)3 NCLR 1, Idigbe, JSC, said at page 64: "I incline to the view that in suits calling for decisions on issues relating to the Constitution this court ought not unduly to allow technicalities to deter it from making vital pronouncements."
  36. Famfa Oil Limited v. Attorney-General of the Federation (2003) 18 NWLR (Pt. 852) 453 where Iguh, JSC, said at pages 471 and 472: "I should perhaps mention in the above regard that this court for quite some time now has consistently shifted away from the narrow technical approach to justice which characterised some earlier decisions of courts on various matters and now pursues, instead, the course of substantial justice. Accordingly, courts of law should not be unduly tied down by technicalities, particularly where no miscarriage of justice would be occasioned. Justice can only be done in substance and not by impeding it with mere technical procedural irregularities that occasion no miscarriage of justice."
  37. "Good law, in my opinion, must have a human face. Good law should not patronise technicalities that will give rise or room to undeserved victories in litigation. Good law should discourage technicalities such as the one canvassed by the learned Senior Advocate for the appellants that the case should be remitted to the trial Judge for trial on the so-called merits of the case, when I know that the matter will never be concluded before the 29th May, 2007 when the office of Governor will be filled. Good law will not encourage a situation where a party in litigation will only return home with pyrrhic victory which in reality is no victory at all. After ail, it is good law that courts of law do not give 'orders in vain and in the context of this case, an order given after 29th May, 2007 restoring the 3rd respondent to his office of Governor, will certainly be in vain. I will never be a party to such a tall order which has teeth but cannot bite. Teeth that cannot bite are useless to their owner." Niki Tobi, JSC. Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007)
  38. "The statement that the law is an axe is not a mere cliché or aphorism but has deep rooted application to the practicalities of Jaw in society. The nature of the axe in law requires that in certain cases, parties should not adopt a highly conservative, ossified and closed-door position but should adopt a versatile position in anticipation of the not too certain destination of the axe." Niki Tobi, JSC. Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007)
  39. "A worst student of history can be a master of the-subject after a period of four to eight years, if he still remains a novice of the subject after such a period, then history will not forgive him in its judgment." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Inakoju v. Adeleke (2007)
  40. "Definitions are definitions because they reflect the idiosyncrasies, inclinations, prejudices, slants and emotions of the person offering them. While a definer of a word may pretend to be impartial and unbiased, the final product of his definition will, in a number of situations, be a victim of partiality and bias." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Olafisoye v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004)
  41. "Courts of law, as most serious and sacred institutions, do not build upon hypothesis, which is an idea suggested as a possible way of explaining facts or providing argument. The adjective "hypothetical" really means that which has not been proved or shown to be real. It also connotes imaginary. Can this court rely on imaginaries to give judgment? Hypothesis by their very nature generally have no limitation and courts of law by their judgments have limitations. And the limitations are the pleadings and the briefs in trial and appellate courts respectively. A theoretical hypothetical point is not for this court or any other Nigerian court for that matter." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Olafisoye v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004)
  42. "An academic or scholarly criticism of the greatest learning of an existing law does not wipe out the existing law. And the courts are bound to interpret the existing law and not a critique of it." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Olafisoye v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004)
  43. "A court of law cannot follow the bandwagon and interpret the Constitution to suit popular ideas. Rather a court of law must interpret the provisions of the Constitution and nothing more and nothing less." - Niki Tobi, JSC. Olafisoye v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004)
  44. "It is elementary law that a case is decided on the facts before the Court. It is now an axiom or an aphorism to say that facts are the fountain head of the law. Decisions of cases are related to facts and they should be construed in their factual milieu." - Niki Tobi, A.G Abia v. A.G Federation (2006)
  45. "When a Legislature enacts law in accordance with the Constitution, this court and courts below it have not the jurisdiction to question the vires of the law on grounds of non desirability or morality or for any plausible reason at all because the primary duty of a Legislature is to make laws, and courts of law cannot remove the constitutional power, unless the law passed is ultra vires the Constitution." - Niki Tobi, A.G Abia v. A.G Federation (2006)
  46. "Good intentions can only be valid if they tally with the Constitution." - Niki Tobi, A.G Abia v. A.G Federation (2006)
  47. "I must quickly concede the point that the National Assembly has the power, in the course of legislating, or making law, to nullify or abrogate decisions of any court of law, including the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land." - Niki Tobi, A.G Abia v. A.G Federation (2006)
  48. "Estoppel, an equitable defence, cannot avail a defendant in a case of breach of the constitution. Legislators cannot by collusion or connivance breach the Constitution, which is not their exclusive property but the property of all Nigerians." - Niki Tobi, A.G Abia v. A.G Federation (2006)
  49. "As a Judge, I am hired to interpret the laws of this country which include the Constitution and statutes. Where there is infraction of the law, I have a constitutional duty to say so and I must say so." - Niki Tobi, A.G Abia v. A.G Federation (2006)
  50. "These submission in my view overlook the reality of the situation. Corrupt practices and abuse of power spread across and eat into every segment of the society. It is good sense that everyone involved in corrupt practices and abuse of power should be made to face the law in our effort to eradicate this cankerworm” - Katsina-Alu JSC, A.G Ondo State v. A.G Federation
  51. "Now native customary law is always a difficult law to apply in this Court; it is unwritten, and so-called experts are usually forthcoming to bear testimony that it corresponds exactly with the views put forward by the side on whose behalf they appear. Real experts are few, and fewer are those who have made it special study, and it is not as a rule until some matter arises in which the facts are either somewhat peculiar or involved, and one of the parties is dissatisfied with the ruling of the native authorities on the facts, that the intervention of this Court is asked." - Packard, JSC



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