⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Joseph Anie & Ors. v. Chief Ijoma Uzorka & Ors. (1993) – SC
by NSA PaulPipAr
⦿ AREA OF LAW
– Administrative Law
– Delivering of judgement on public holiday.
1. Joseph Anie;
2. Osa Ji Chukwusa;
3. John Olise;
4. John Uma Ojaide (for themselves and on behalf of the Okpala-Iku, elders and entire members of Ashaka Community, Ashaka, Aboh Division)
1. Chief Ijoma Uzorka;
2. Thomas Ododo;
3. David Chiabor Chukuma;
4. Michael U. Ukuta;
5. Godwin Aguba;
6. Motor Edward Erike;
7. Nwabenu Ogbone;
8. Okoro Akpakachi;
9. Ojorfie Egremeta;
10. Eremedi Okoro;
11. Olokor Nwabenu (For themselves and on behalf of members.of Asaba-Ashaka, in Ashaka, Aboh Division)
(1993) NWLR (Pt. 309) 1;
(1993) 9 SCNJ 223;
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– P.O.Balonwu, S.A.N.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– J.O.K. Agbettor Esq.
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The appellants as plaintiffs sued the respondents who were defendant in Suit No. HCK/44/76 in the High Court of Bendel (now Delta) State then holden at Ughelli in the Ughelli Judicial Division.
This appeal which emanates from the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin turns solely on the point as to whether a judgment delivered by High Court of Bendel (now Delta) State presided over by Idahosa, J. and holden at Kwale on a Saturday 18th July, 1981 to be precise was a nullity by reason of its having been so delivered on that day purported to be a public holiday.
The respondents feeling dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial court however, appealed to the Court of Appeal where the only ground of appeal argued on their behalf (they had earlier) filed 4 original and one additional grounds all renumbered 1 to 5, out of which ground 5 was the one argued attacking the delivery of the judgment on Saturday, 18th July, 1981 as being a nullity.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin allowed the respondents’ appeal, holding that the proceedings before the trial Court were a nullity because the judgment in the case was delivered on a Saturday which was not a normal working day.
This an appeal by the Appellant.
1. Whether a judgment delivered by the High Court of Bendel (now Delta) State on Saturday, 18th July, 1981, was a nullity, having been delivered on that day said to be a public holiday?
⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANTS BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENTS.
i. From the foregoing, and in answer to question one above, it would appear clear enough that Saturday while it is acknowledged is a work-free day in Nigeria, is not one of the days designated or appointed to be kept as a public holiday unless of course, any of the holidays set out above as public holidays (excepting Good Friday which must perforce be a Friday) happens to fall to a Saturday. The dichotomy is brought out more glaringly in the provisions of sections 5 and 6 of the Act which enacts particularly in sections 6(1) and (3) thereof as follows: “6(1) Notwithstanding any of the foregoing provisions of this Act, the Director-General of a ministry or the head of any Government Department may, unless otherwise ordered by the appropriate authority, if the interest of the public service or the convenience of the public demand it, require all or any of the persons serving in his Ministry or Department, as the case may be, to perform on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday such of their duties as he may deem necessary… (3) In this section, references to Department include references to any Court or tribunal set up pursuant to any written law or any other public institution the emoluments of whose employees are paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation of a State or any other public fund of the Federation or of a State, and references to members of the armed forces of the Federation and the Nigeria Police Force.”
ii. The above coupled with the provisions of Order 25 rule 1 hereinbefore alluded to, would, subject to the provisions of the High Court Law dealing with court sittings and vacations, imbue the court with a discretion to appoint any day or days and any place or places from time to time for the hearing of causes as circumstances require. The foregoing is however, subject to the provisions of the High Court Law, including section 32(2) thereof which invests the Chief Judge discretionary powers as regards Court sittings in the State. The discretionary powers of the Chief Judge notwithstanding a careful perusal of section 32(2) of the High Court Law read together with the provisions of Order 25 rule 1 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, will show that every Judge in the State has the discretion to conduct proceedings on any day or days during normal Court sessions. I therefore share learned Senior Advocate’s view that by virtue of Order 25 rule 6 of the Rules, it is only during annual vacation that the leave of the Chief Judge or administrative Judge on the application of both parties, is required to enable the Court sit and hold proceedings.
iii. I further hold that the lower Court also erred in law in holding that the permission or leave of the Chief Judge of the State was a sine qua non and must be obtained for there to be a valid conduct of proceedings on a Saturday during normal court session. What the Judge could do was to obtain, as indeed he did in the instant case, the consent of the parties and their counsel. It would be tedious and cumbersome, in my view, to require a Judge under the above provisions of the High Court Law and Rules, to seek and obtain leave of the Chief Judge any time he proposes to hold proceedings on a Saturday, even in the face of mounting backlog of cases before him. It is in this regard that, I accept as valid the point made by learned Senior Advocate for the appellants that any Judge has the jurisdiction to sit in any court and has the right to sit on Saturday or even Sunday which is dies non juridicus, provided he did not compel the litigants who are members of the public and their counsel to attend, the application if any; of the Act notwithstanding.
iv. The end result is that the learned trial Judge, in my view, acted within his competence, jurisdiction and compass of the relevant law as well as the rules in conducting proceedings on the Saturday in question, such day being a workfree day and having fallen within normal court session. The lower Court therefore erred in law in holding that the delivery of the judgment in the case on Saturday, 18/7/81, was unlawful and incurably bad.
Public Holidays Act, Cap, 378, Laws of the Federation;
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
Order 25 of the High Court Rules, Rule 1 which pertinently states that: “Subject to the provisions of the High Court Law, the Court may, in its discretion, appoint any day or days and any place or places from time to time for hearing of causes as circumstance require.”
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
Indeed it is now a very well established principle of law that except in special cases where the grounds of appeal so dictate, it is undesirable to formulate an issue in respect of each ground of appeal. – Onu, JSC. Anie v. Uzorka (1993)
I must correct the impression created by him (learned S.A.N.) therein, that it is the grounds of appeal that are argued rather than the issues, a principle which this Court has held times without number leaving no room for doubt, that it is upon the basis of the issues that the parties found their contention. – Onu, JSC. Anie v. Uzorka (1993)
Any right the appellants had in objecting to the proceedings being conducted on a Saturday had, in my respectful view, been waived by them by their very act of attendance in Court and/or representation of them by their counsel and failure on their counsel’s part to raise an objection therein. Indeed, one is prompted to ask, what injustice has the respondents’ suffered by the fact that the judgment was delivered on a Saturday? My answer is respectfully none. – Onu, JSC. Anie v. Uzorka (1993)