APPEAL – APPEAL AGAINST DECISION/FINDING OF COURT – Whether an appeal against the decision of a Court must be against the ratio decidendi and not the obiter dicta


“It is settled that an appeal is usually against a ratio and not against an obiter. “Obiter dictum” is Latin for “something said in passing”. “It is a judicial comment made while delivering a judicial opinion but one that is unnecessary to the decision in the case and, therefore, not precedential”- see Black’s Law Dictionary: 9th Ed.. wherein it was explained that “ratio decidendi” [Latin for “the reason for deciding”}, “May mean either (1) the rule that the Judge, who decided the case, intended to lay down and apply to the facts, or (2) the rule that a later Court concedes him to have had the power to lay down” – [Glanville Williams, Learning the Law 75, 11th Ed., 19821. “There are – – two steps involved in the ascertainment of the ratio decidendi – – First, it is necessary to determine all the facts of the case as seen by the Judge; secondly, it is necessary to discover which of those facts were treated as material by the Judge ‘. [Rupert Cross & J. W. Harris, Precedent in English Law 65-66,4th Ed., 1991] In this case, what the learned trial Judge actually said was – “Though there was element of hearsay in the testimony of PW4, it does not affect the testimony of facts directly known to him” and he overruled the objection on grounds of hearsay. The word “though” simply means “despite the fact that” – So, the comment he made was something said in passing, it was an obiter dictum, which had no impact on his reason for deciding; the ratio decidendi of the case.” Per AMINA ADAMU AUGIE, JSC SAMA’ILA v. STATE (2021-LCER-40498-SC) (Pp 20 – 22; Paras F – A)

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