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Ojokolobo v. Alamu

LAMI KORO OJOKOLOBO

RAIMI AJAO OJOKOLOBO

OKUNOLA OJOKOLOBO

V

LAPADE ALAMU

LADEBO AREMU

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

MOHAMMED BELLO CJN (Presided)

ANDREWS OTUTU OBASEKI JSC

ANTHONY NNAEMEZIE ANIAGOLU JSC

AUGUSTINE NNAMANI JSC ( Read the lead judgment )

BOONYAMIN OLADIRAN KAZEEM JSC

ADOLPHUS GODWIN KARIBI-WHYTE JSC ( Dissented )

SALIHU MODIBBO ALFA BELGORE JSC

SC.42/1987

THURSDAY, 9TH JULY, 1987

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - Effect of section 258(1) and (4) thereof read together

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW -  Constitution, 1979 (as amended), Section 258(4)  thereof - Application of

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Constitution, 1979 - Section 258(1) thereof Whether mandatory and applies to every court - Nullity of any judgment delivered in contravention thereof

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - Effect of section 258(4) thereof

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - section 258(4)  thereof - Meaning and effect in relation to a judgment which was hitherto a nullity


CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - Section 258(4)  thereof - Whether directed to appellate courts only

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - Section 258(4)  thereof - Whether operates retrospectively so as to apply to judgments delivered by the trial court before 27th August, 1985

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Provision of the Constitution - How to construe

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Rule against retrospective construction Whether has any application to enactments which only affect procedure and practice of the courts - Whether section 258(4) of the 1979 Constitution (as amended) is a procedural provision

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Rule of stare decisis in constitutional cases Whether court can lightly depart  from

COURT - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - Section 258(4) thereof Whether operates retrospectively so as to apply to judgments delivered by the trial court before 27th August, 1985

COURT - Constitution, 1979 - Section 258(1) thereof - Whether mandatory and applies to every court - Nullity of any judgment delivered in contravention thereof

COURT - Rule of stare decisis in constitutional cases - Whether court can lightly depart from

COURT - Stare decisis - Need for courts to recognise and enforce new rights and duties without being hampered by the doctrine of - Notable pronouncement on

COURT - Appellate courts - Whether section 258(4) of the 1979 Constitution is directed only to appellate courts

COURT - Construction of statutes - Primary function of courts in respect of

COURT - Practice and procedure of courts - Whether the rule against retrospective construction applies to enactments thereon - Whether section 258(4) of the 1979 Constitution is a procedural provision

INTERPRETATION  - Construction of statutes - Cardinal rule of INTERPRETATION - Amending legislation - How to determine true meaning of

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE - Amending legislation - How to determine true meaning of

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) Effect of section 258 (1) and (4) thereof read together

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE - Construction of statutes - Primary function of courts in respect  of

INTERPRETATION  - Presumption against retrospectivity - Explanation and application of

INTERPRETATION  - Provisions of the Constitution - How to construe

INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE - Retrospective construction -  Rule against - Whether has any application to enactments which only affect procedure and practice of the courts - Whether section 258(4) of the 1979 Constitution (as amended) is a procedural provision

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - section 258(4)  thereof - Meaning and effect in relation to a judgment which was hitherto a nullity

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Constitution, 1979 section 258(1) thereof whether mandatory and applies to every court - Nullity of any judgment delivered in contravention thereof

JUDGMENT AND ORDERS - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - Section 258(4)  thereof - Whether operates retrospectively so as to apply to judgments delivered by the trial court before 27th August, 1985

JUDICIAL PRECEDENT - Rule of stare decisis in constitutional cases Whether court can lightly depart therefrom

NOTABLE PRONOUNCEMENT - Need for courts to recognise and enforce new rights and duties without being hampered by the doctrine of stare decisis

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Practice and procedure of courts Whether rule against retrospective construction applies to enactments thereon - Whether section 258(4) of the 1979 Constitution

( as amended) is a procedural provision

STATUTE - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - Effect of section 258 (1) and (4) thereof read together

STATUTE - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - Section 258(4) thereof How to apply

STATUTE - Constitution, 1979 (as amended) - Section 258(4) thereof Whether directed to appellate courts only

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Retrospective operation of statute’ - What is

Issues:

1.              Whether the judgment of the High Court in this matter delivered on the12th day of October, 1982 is not a nullity having regard to the fact that evidence and final addresses were concluded on the 7th of July, 1982 and the interpretation of section 258(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979 in Ifezue vs. Mbadugha (1984) 5 SC.

2.              Whether subsection (4) of section 258 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1979 (as amended by the Constitution (suspension and modification) (Amendment) Decree No. 17 of 1985 can be involved in the instant appeal to save the judgment of the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Facts:

The plaintiffs/respondents commenced this action against the defendants/appellants claiming declaration of title to land, damages for trespass and injunction. On the 12th of October, 1982, the learned trial Judge entered judgment in favour of the plaintiffs. The defendants/appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal which on 22nd May, 1986 dismissed their appeal. The appellants then appealed to the Supreme Court on three grounds of appeal. On the 18th of May, 1987, the appellants sought the leave of court to argue an additional ground of appeal in which it was contended that the learned justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law in confirming the decision of the lower court which judgment is a nullity having regard to the provisions of section 258 (unamended) of the 1979 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The fate of the entire appeal rested upon the interpretation and application of section 258(1) and (4) of the 1979 Constitution as amended by the Constitution (suspension and modification) (Amendment) Decree No. 17 of 1985. The learned justices of the Supreme Court appeared divided as to the proper interpretation and application of the said provision. Five justices of the Supreme Court were unanimous in their reasoning and conclusion, while the learned Chief Justice of Nigeria, Bello, CJN arrived at the same conclusion by a different course of reasoning - thereby rendering his opinion, substantially, a dissenting opinion. His Lordship, Karibi-Whyte, JSC clearly differed from all the other justices in his dissenting judgment.

The crux of the matter, that is, section 258(1) and (4) of the 1979 Constitution (as amended) is reproduced hereunder:

“258(1) Every court established under this Constitution shall deliver its decisions in writing not later than 3 months after the conclusion of evidence and final addresses, and furnish all parties to the cause or matter determined with duly

authenticated copies of the decision within 7 days of the delivery thereof.

     (4) The decision of a court shall not be set aside or treated as a nullity solely on the ground of non-compliance with the provisions of this section unless the court exercising jurisdiction by way of appeal from or review of that decision is satisfied that the party complaining of such non-compliance has suffered a miscarriage of justice by reason thereof.”