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JURISTS QUOTES - pg. 2

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


  1. "For, if the highest courts in a judicial hierarchy have to meddle with primary findings of facts and reverse them at will when they have not the advantage of hearing the witnesses or watching them testify, the whole system of appeals will collapse." - Phillip Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Michael Ifeanyi Ojibah V. Ubaka Ojibah (1991)
  2. "it is our contention that to insert ouster clauses in a written constitution is the highest disservice that can be done to a democratic government and a serious derogation from sections 8 and 10 of the universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, which provide that it is an inalienable right of every human being to have access to the courts or judicial tribunals". - Yusuf O. Ali, SAN. The Challenges And Prospects Of Advocacy In Nigeria.
  3. The same position was canvassed by Chief Gani Fawehinmi in a paper delivered in Ibadan when he enthused as follows: "These ouster clause also breach section 7 of the African character [sic] on Human and peoples rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, 1983 No. 2 of 1983"
  4. The same observation was made by our Apex Court in the case of A-G Federation V Abubakar (2007) 10 NWLR pt. 1041 pg 1 that: "One of the basic principles of interpretation of the Constitution and Statutes is that the legislature will not be presumed to have given a right in one Section of a statute and then take it in another."
  5. Eso, JSC., in the State v. Gwonto & 4 Others (1983) 1 SCNLR 142 at 160 wherein he stated: "The Court has for some time now laid down as a guiding principle that it is more interested in substance than in mere form. Justice can only be done if the substance at the matter is examined. Reliance on technicalities leads to injustice."
  6. In First African Trust Bank Limited and Anor v. Basil O. Ezegbu and Anor (supra) at 151 Karibi Whyte, JSC, spoke so incisively, about these exceptions thus: "In my respectful opinion, the rule precluding hearing a contemnor before the Court is founded on principle. To every rule there are always exceptions. The exceptions to the general rule that a party in contempt may not be heard as distilled from the authorities referred to (supra) are:
    (1) Where the party is seeking for leave to appeal against the order of which he is in contempt;
    (2) Where the opposition to the order is one on the ground of lack of jurisdiction;
    (3) Where the contemnor is seeking to be heard in defence of the Order and
    (4) Where it can be shown that there were certain procedural
    irregularities in making of the orders which irregularities make the order unsustainable. - Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)
  7. In Igbinosa v. Cole Aiyobagbiegbe (1969) 1 All N.L.R. 99, this Court, while considering the applicability of the plea of non est factum held that- "Where a person of full age and discretion executes a formal deed in the full knowledge of the nature of the document it will not avail him to seek to nullify the contract by complaining that he did not know the contents of the deed." - Wali, JSC. Awosile v. Sotunbo (1992)
  8. Over the years of its existence as the apex Court of Nigeria, the Supreme Court had laid down several guidelines on the interpretation of not only statutes but also the provisions of our Constitution in many of its land mark decisions. In Attorney-General of Bendel State v. Attorney-General of the Federation (1981) 10 S.C. 1 (1981) 1 F.N.L.R. 179, Obaseki JSC laid down 12 guidelines to be observed in interpretation of statutes, most especially the provisions of our Constitution as follows:
    1. Effect should be given to every word used in the Constitution.
    2. A construction nullifying a specific clause in the Constitution shall not be tolerated, unless where absolutely necessary.
    3. A Constitutional power should not be used to attain an unconstitutional result.
    4. The language or the Constitution, where clear and unambiguous must be given its plain and evident meaning.
    5. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is an organic scheme of Government to be dealt with as an entirety hence a particular provision should not be severed from the rest of the Constitution.
    6. While the language of the Constitution does not change, the changing circumstances of a progressive society for which it was designed, can yield new and further import of its meaning.
    7. A Constitutional provision should not be construed in such a way as to defeat its evident purpose.
    8. Under the Constitution granting specific powers, a particular power must be granted before it can be exercised.
    9. Declaration by the National Assembly of its essential legislative functions is precluded by the Constitution.
    10. Words are the common signs that men make use of to declare their intentions one to another, and when the words of a man express his intentions plainly, there is no need to have recourse to other means of interpretation of such words.
    11. The principles upon which the Constitution was established rather than the direct operation or literal meaning of the words used should measure the purpose and scope of its provisions.
    12. Words of the Constitution are, therefore not to be read with "stultifying narrowness".
    Also in the case of Ishola v. Ajiboye (1994) 7 8 S.C.N.J. (Pt. 1) at 35, Ogundare JSC (of blessed memory) after adopting the 12 guidelines above, added four other guidelines as follows:
    1. Constitutional languages is to be given a reasonable construction and absurd consequences are to be avoided;
    2. Constitutional provisions dealing with the same subject matter are to be constructed together;
    3. Seemingly conflicting parts are to be harmonized, if possibly so that effect can be given to all parts of the Constitution;
    4. The position of an article or clause in the Constitution influences its construction.
  9. Vaswani Trading Co. v. Savalakh (supra) provides a clear guiding principle for granting a stay of execution in a case that satisfies the conditions stated therein. In the judgment Coker. J.S.C. stated thus: "Stay of execution will be granted where failure of it will destroy the subject-matter of the proceeding or foist upon the court especially Court of Appeal, a situation of complete helplessness or render nugatory any order or orders of the Court of Appeal or paralyse the exercise by the litigant of his constitutional right of appeal or provide a situation whereby even if the appellant succeeds on appeal there will be no return to the status quo."
  10. It is the accepted law that basic procedural and other requirements of the rules of natural justice have to be observed by every tribunal or authority which is under a duty to act judicially. In MARAN DANA MOSQUE (BOARD OF TRUSTEES) v. BADI-UD-DIN MAHMUD & Anr. (1966) 1 ALL E.R. 545 at 550 P.C. a Minister was said by the Privy Council to be acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity in satisfying himself whether there had been a contravention in respect of an Islamic College and must therefore observe the rules of natural justice. The same Court in ATTORNEY-GENERAL v. RYAN (1980) 2 W.L.R. 143 held that a Minister in Bahamas who, under section 7 of the Bahaman Nationality Act 1973, had power to refuse an application for registration, was a person having legal authority to determine a question affecting the rights of individuals and, therefore, was bound to observe the principles of natural justice when exercising that authority.
  11. What then vests judicial powers in a statutory body? First there are statutory bodies that go by a generic name "Tribunal" A tribunal is not necessarily a court of law stricto sensu but it has been a practice in common law countries to create independent statutory tribunals whose function is judicial. They are often called administrative tribunals but then they have judicial powers as they perform judicial or quasi judicial functions. The reasons for the creation of this type of tribunals might be stated positively as showing a greater suitability of such tribunals because of their expertise or if stated negatively, it reveals the inadequacy of the ordinary courts to cope with the varied challenges. They are cheaper and more speedy in their approach. They are more flexible and more informal than ordinary courts. - Obaseki, JSC. L.P.D.C v. Chief Gani Fawehinmi (1985)
  12. Denning L.J., M.R., in Metropolitan Properties Co. (FCC) Ltd v. Lannon (1969) 1 QB.577. The reason given is this, "The reason is plain enough. Justice must be rooted in confidence; and confidence is destroyed when right minded people go away thinking: "The Judge was biased"

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  14. Day v. Savadge(1614) Hobart 85, it was regarded so fundamental and indispensable to the administration of justice that it was' said, "even an act of Parliament made against natural equity as to make a man a judge in his own cause, is void in itself; for jura naturae sunt immutabilia and they are leges legum".
  15. Lord Campbell C.J., said, at p. 793, "No one can suppose that Lord Cottenham could be, in the remotest degree, influenced by the interest that he had in this concern; but it is of the last importance that the maxim that no man is to be judge in his own cause should be held sacred. And that is not to be confined to a cause in which he is a party, but applies to a cause in which he has an interest"
  16. Lord Esher M.R. in Allinson v. General Council for Medical Education & Registration (supra), deserves to be quoted in extenso. It is as follows "....in considering whether there was a real likelihood of bias, the Court does not look at the mind of the justice himself or at the mind of the Chairman of the tribunal, or whoever it may be, who sits in a judicial capacity. It does not look to see if there was a real likelihood that he would, or did, in fact favour one side at the expense of the other. The Court looks at the impression which would be given to other people. Even if he was as impartial as could be, nevertheless if right-minded persons would think that, in the circumstances, there was a likelihood of bias on his part, then he should not sit. And if he does sit, his decision cannot stand. Nevertheless there must appear to be a real likelihood of bias. Surmise or conjecture is not enough. There must be circumstances from which a reasonable man would think it likely or probable that the justice, or chairman, as the case may be, would, or did favour one side unfairly at the expense of the other. Suffice it that reasonable people might think he did. The reason is plain enough. Justice must be rooted in confidence: and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people go away thinking: "The Judge was biased".
  17. In the case of Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Ifegwu (2003) FWLR (Pt. 167) 703 at 758, the Supreme Court, per Uwaifo, JSC said that "Fundamental rights are regarded as part of human beings".
  18. In Uzoukwu v. Ezeonu II (1991) 5 NWLR (Pt. 200) 708 at 761, per Nasir, PCA as follows:
    "Due to the development of Constitutional Law in this field distinct difference has emerged between 'Fundamental Rights' and 'Human Rights'. It may be recalled that human rights were derived from and out of the wider concept of natural rights. They are rights which every civilized society must accept; as belonging to each person as a human being. These were termed human rights. When the United Nations made its declaration it was in respect of 'Human Rights' as it was envisaged that certain Rights belong to all human beings irrespective of citizenship, race, religion and so on. This has now formed part of International Law.
    Fundamental Rights remain in their realm of domestic law.
    They are fundamental because they have been guaranteed by the fundamental law of the country; that is by Constitution."
  19. Chief (Mrs.) Olufunmilayo Ransome-Kuti & Ors. v. Attorney General of the Federation (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 6) 211 at 229 - 230 as follows:
    "This is no doubt a right guaranteed to everyone including the appellants by the Constitution. But what is the nature of a Fundamental Right? It is a right which stands above the ordinary laws of the land and which in fact is antecedent to the political society itself. It is a primary condition to a civilized existence and what has been done by our Constitution, since independence starting with the Independence Constitution, that is, the Nigeria (Constitution) Order in Council 1960, up to the Present Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979 (the latter does not in fact apply to this case: It is the 1963 Constitution that applies) is to have these rights enshrined in the Constitutions so that the rights could be immutable to the extent of the 'non-immutability' of the Constitution itself."
  20. Owing to its peculiar nature, being a constitutional right, the Supreme Court has held that "A fundamental right is certainly a right which stands above the ordinary laws of the land." See Badejo v. Minister of Education (1996) 9-10 SCNJ 51 per Kutigi, JSC (as he then was).
  21. Halsbury's Laws of England, Volume 9, page 19 article 31 of the same work:
    "At the present day a corporation is created by one or other of two methods, namely, by royal charter of incorporation from the Crown, or by the authority of Parliament, that is to say, by or by virtue of statute."
  22. When an action can be brought by or against a party other than a natural body - On the general law on the point at issue Mocatta, J., in Knight & Searle v. Dove (1964) 2 All E.L.R. 307 at 309 said:
    "Counsel for the Defendants formulated a general proposition as to when in the English courts an action can be brought by or against a party other than a natural person, and gave illustrations of each part of the proposition, though he questioned the classification of some of the illustrations. The proposition was that no action can be brought by or against any party other than a natural person or persons unless such party has been given by statute, expressly or impliedly, or by the common law, either (a) a legal persona under the name by which it sues or is sued or (b) a right to sue or be sued by that name. As to (a), namely, legal personae, this may be divided into (i) corporation sole; (ii) corporations aggregate, incorporated by Royal Charter or special Act of Parliament or under the Companies Acts; (iii) bodies incorporated by foreign law; and (iv) "quasi-corporations" constituted by Act of Parliament, such as the War Damage Commission: see Inland Revenue Commissioners v. Bew Estate Ltd.
    As to (b), namely, parties which are not legal personae, but have a right to sue or be sued by a particular name, these may be subdivided into (i) partnerships; see R.S.C. Ord. 81; (ii) trade unions and friendly societies, both of which types have a membership; and (iii) foreign institutions authorised by their own law to sue and be sued, but not incorporated: see, for example, Chaff and Hay, Acquisition Committee v. Hemhill, a decision of the High Court of Australia, on appeal from New South Wales".
  23. Nigerian Bar Association celebrated its centenary anniversary in 1986. Its existence thus dates back to 1886. It was not a creation of statute and has remained so without adoption by any statute. - Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association And 4 Ors (No.2) - (1989)
  24. Justice administered by the courts is justice according to law. - Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association And 4 Ors (No.2) - (1989)
  25. When one talks of administration of justice outside the court, the strict rules of admissibility of evidence are relaxed and extraneous matters which will not meet the strict rules of admissibility under the Evidence Act are admitted and considered. In the strict sense of the phrase known to law, no authority other than the courts or tribunals set up to meet the requirements of impartiality and independence provided for by the 1979 Constitution can administer justice. - Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association And 4 Ors (No.2) - (1989)
  26. The justice in conciliation is that of concession to calm the atmosphere and bring peace. It has nothing to do with determination of the rights of the parties according to law. - Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association And 4 Ors (No.2) - (1989)
  27. It is not the law in Nigeria that any legal practitioner who participates in an effort to settle a dispute already in court out of court is disqualified and incompetent to appear for any of the parties in the suit. He is not an arbitrator or an independent arbiter in the sense in which a Judge is in a court or other tribunal whose independence and impartiality is secured and maintained by law. - Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association And 4 Ors (No.2) - (1989)
  28. A natural person is a legal person not because he is a human being, but because rights and duties are inherent from the status, and are ascribed to him. A natural person is the legal subject or substance of which rights and duties are attributes. This is the status of every full citizen. - Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association And 4 Ors (No.2) - (1989)
  29. Under our system (which we inherited from England and from the common law) the formulation of general principles has not preceded decisions. Our case law is the law of the practitioner rather than the law of the philosopher. Decisions have drawn their inspiration and their strength from the very facts which framed the issues for decision. Once made, these decisions control future judgments of the Courts in like or similar cases. The facts of two cases must be either the same or at least similar before the decision in one can be used and even there as a guide to the decision in another case. What the former decision establishes is only a principle not a rule. Rules operate in an all or nothing dimension. Principles do not. They merely form a principium, a starting point. Where one ultimately lands will then depend on the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case in hand. - Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association And 4 Ors (No.2) (1989)
  30. The personality and appearance of a lawyer is a reflection of the mental ability and stuff he is made of. - Yusuf O. Ali, SAN. The Challenges And Prospects Of Advocacy In Nigeria.
  31. The court is a business place and to that extent, all efforts must be geared towards ensuring that nothing short of that is given to it. - Yusuf O. Ali, SAN. The Challenges And Prospects Of Advocacy In Nigeria.
  32. On the whole, an advocate must have a perfect carriage, strong character, amiable personality, good conduct and on the whole possess a good communication skill. He must be honest, upright, above corruption and stand by justice at all times. - Yusuf O. Ali, SAN. The Challenges And Prospects Of Advocacy In Nigeria.
  33. In the case of GOVERNEMNT OF LAGOS STATE V OJUKWU, Hon justice Kayode Eso, declared as follows: "I think it is a very serious matter for anyone to flout a positive order of a court and proceed to taunt the court further by seeking a remedy in a higher court while still in contempt of the lower court. It is more serious when the act flouting the order of the court, the contempt of the court, is by the executive. Under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979, the Executive, the legislative while it lasts, and the judiciary are equal partners in the running of successful government... the organs wield those powers and one most never exist in sabotage of the other or else there is chaos. Indeed there will be no federal government. I think for one organ, and more especially the executive, which holds all the physical powers to put up itself in sabotage or deliberate contempt of the order is to stage an executive subversion of the constitution it is to uphold. Executive lawlessness tantamount to a deliberate violation of the constitution. When the Executive is the military government which blends both the Executive and legislature together and which permits the judiciary to co'exist with it in the administration of the country, then it is more serious than imagined"
  34. I have to emphasize that it is the facts of any given case that frame the Issues for Determination in that case ... This Court does not speculate or render advisory opinions. It deals with Issues arising from the facts of any given case and no more. - Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association & Ors (1989)
  35. Any person having an interest recognized by law in the subject-matter of a judgment which interest is injuriously affected by the judgment can appeal if he is a party or apply for leave to be heard on appeal not as a party properly so-called but rather as a person interested. - Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association & Ors (1989)
  36. It is trite law that an issue to be sustained must be formulated within the perimeter of a ground of appeal. - Olufunlola Oyelola Adekeye, J.C.A. Inspector General Of Police v. All Nigeria Peoples Party & Ors (2007)
  37. A litigant who is a legal practitioner conducts his case as a litigant, not as legal practitioner representing himself, the litigant. The personality here is not split. He merely draws on the fountain of his legal training. It is not the question of a mixture of two characters. The fact that he wears his robes as legal practitioner and speaks from the Bar prima facie suggests that he is a legal practitioner representing a litigant in an action. Such impression should not be given. The character in which he is conducting the case appears not to matter to the onlooker. However, where the litigant is a legal practitioner I do not consider it inequitable in a civil case for him to remain at the Bar with his robes on even when he is the litigant. - Adolphus Godwin Karibi-Whyte, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association & Ors (1989)
  38. Freedom of speech and freedom of Assembly are part of democratic rights of every citizen of the Republic; our legislature must guard these rights jealously as they are part of the foundation upon which the government itself rests. - Olufunlola Oyelola Adekeye, J.C.A. Inspector General Of Police v. All Nigeria Peoples Party & Ors (2007)
  39. We must borrow a leaf from those who have trekked the rugged path of democracy and are now reaping the dividend of their experience. - Olufunlola Oyelola Adekeye, J.C.A. Inspector General Of Police v. All Nigeria Peoples Party & Ors (2007)
  40. The question of specific provision or general provision of any enactment will disappear in the face of clear provisions of the Constitution. - Salihu Modibbo Alfa Belgore, JSC. The Federal Republic of Nigeria v. George Osahon & Ors. (2006)
  41. Constitution of any country is the embodiment of what a people desire to be their guiding light in governance, their supreme law, fountain of all their laws. As such, Constitution is not at any given situation expected to or presumed to contain ambiguity. All its provisions must be given meaning and interpretation even with the imperfection of the legal draftsman. Common sense must be applied to give meaning to all its sections or articles. - Salihu Modibbo Alfa Belgore, JSC. The Federal Republic of Nigeria v. George Osahon & Ors. (2006)
  42. I believe that where a statute makes the meaning of a provision difficult to discern properly, it is, I dare say, the indisputable right of the court to explore deeper and try to make sense out of it in the context of the primary law so that it would in its operationality following the construct of the court, would have the meaning which it eventually wears and which would help to promote and optimize the cause of justice, the advancement of sociological jurisprudence and the Rule of Law. - Ignatius Chukwudi Pats-acholonu, JSC. The Federal Republic of Nigeria v. George Osahon & Ors. (2006)
  43. Lord Reid had in the case of Westminster Bank Ltd. v Zang (1965) A.C. 182 p. 222 said "No Principle of interpretation of statutes is more firmly settled than the rule that the court must deduce the intention of parliament from the words used in the Act. If these words are in any way ambiguous if they are reasonably capable of more than one meaning of the provision in question, is contradicted by or is incompatible with any other provision in the Acts, the court may depart from the natural meaning of the words in question".
  44. There is no doubt that a mandamus proceedings is not a criminal proceeding. - Adolphus Godwin Karibi-whyte, J.S.C. Col. Halilu Akilu v. Chief Gani Fawehinmi (No.2) (1989)
  45. Cause of action has been held to mean every fact which is material to be proved to entitle the plaintiff to succeed, or all those things necessary to give a right to relief in law or equity. - Adolphus Godwin Karibi-whyte, J.S.C. Col. Halilu Akilu v. Chief Gani Fawehinmi (No.2) (1989)
  46. Equity follows the law and is applied to ameliorate the rigidity and inflexibility of the common law. - Adolphus Godwin Karibi-whyte, J.S.C. Col. Halilu Akilu v. Chief Gani Fawehinmi (No.2) (1989)
  47. A stay of proceedings may in appropriate cases be granted to avoid unnecessary expense - See Metropolitan Bank Ltd. v. Pooley (1884) 10 A.C. 210. - Adolphus Godwin Karibi-whyte, J.S.C. Col. Halilu Akilu v. Chief Gani Fawehinmi (No.2) (1989)
  48. The courts have been established to protect both rights where validly exercised. They are not established to protect the citizen who falsely even if erroneously, believes in the exercise of a right. - Adolphus Godwin Karibi-whyte, J.S.C. Col. Halilu Akilu v. Chief Gani Fawehinmi (No.2) (1989)
  49. An inherent power does not supercede the statutory jurisdiction of an appellate court. - Phillip Nnaemeka-Agu, J.S.C. Col. Halilu Akilu v. Chief Gani Fawehinmi (No.2) (1989)
  50. In the case of a barrister who is standing trial for an offence, he is a party in the comprehensive sense of the term and unless the Criminal Procedure Law, Code' or Act in Nigeria otherwise provides his proper place during trial is in the dock and he cannot stay at the Bar fully robed to stand his trial and or address the court whether he is conducting his case in person or is represented by counsel. Similarly, a barrister who conducts criminal prosecution on his own behalf is entitled to no other privileges than as an ordinary person. - Andrews Otutu Obaseki, JSC. Chief Gani Fawehinmi v. Nigerian Bar Association & Ors (1989)
  51. It must always be remembered that under our customary law, ownership of family land is vested in the past, existing and future members of the family. - Pius Olayiwola Aderemi, J.C.A. United Bank For Africa v. Mr. S. D. Folarin & Anor (2002)



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