CONSTITUTIONAL LAW – BREACH OF RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING – Right of an accused person to fair hearing; whether a party who had an opportunity of being heard but did not utilize it can bring an action for breach of fair hearing


“There is no doubt that the appellant deserves to be fairly treated and given fair hearing by the Courts at all stages, inclusive of the apex Court. Hence, a complaint of lack of fair hearing must be carefully looked into by the Court. In Michael Udo Vs. The State (1988) LPELR – 3299 (SC), this Court opined thus: “The essence and rationale of fair hearing given by the Constitution and Laws of this country to a person standing trial for a capital offence are that in view of the seriousness of the charge in such a case, the trial should not be weighted against an accused person who, not being a legal practitioner does not understand or appreciate the language, procedure, and technicalities of the Court and is therefore in a definite disadvantage if he is made or allowed to conduct his case against a legally qualified person. Anything which detracts from his right to full access to a counsel at any stage of the trial amounts to unfair hearing.” However, in the instant case, the appellant was given every opportunity to be adequately represented by counsel of his choice and to be fairly heard but his counsel at every stage of the hearing failed to utilize the opportunity. He can therefore not be heard to say that he was not given fair hearing. Fair hearing does not mean a person must be forcefully heard. Once he is given ample opportunity to be heard, the constitutionally guaranteed principle of fair hearing is fulfilled. The trial Court was therefore right to have proceeded with the hearing of the trial and concluded it the way it did. The Court below was equally right to have affirmed the judgment of the trial Court as there was no evidence of denial of fair hearing.” Per. ARIWOOLA, J.S.C. (Pp. 28 – 29).

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