COURT – RAISING ISSUE(S) SUO MOTU – Instance(s) where a Court raising an issue suo motu and deciding it without hearing parties will not amount to a miscarriage of justice


“I posit most humbly that the Lower Court (Court of Appeal) rightly found that the Appeal before it bordered on the import of Sections 270 and 287 of 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (reproduced above) as well as Order 24 Rules (2) (4) of the High Court Civil Procedure Rules of Oyo State. That there is nothing in Section 270 that calls for counsel addresses and the Court has not said anything that amplifies the provision of the said section. Section 287 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 makes provision for enforcement of Judgment. Section 287 (3) makes provision for enforcement of Judgment of Federal and State High Courts. The section provides that such judgment shall be enforced by all authorities and persons and by other Courts of law with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Federal High Court, a High Court. While the Court as master of the law and its Rules are bound to consider all issues based on facts and relevant law in reaching justice in a matter before it, it must not shut out the parties who initiated the process in the first place and owner of the cause or matter in making the decision which effect would impact on the parties. See Madam Helen Obulor & Ors v Linus Weso Oboro (2001) FWLR (pt.47) 1004 at 1007. It is because of the import of the application of Sections 270 and 287 of the 1999 Constitution (supra) on the decision of the Court of Appeal that the question that is thrown up is if a miscarriage of justice has not been occasioned. It is not in the simplistic dismissal by counsel for the 1st respondent that what the Court below said in regard to those sections was an obiter dictum and it would be so taken. This is so since each case is decided on its own merit and a situation that would otherwise be taken as an obiter dictum, the circumstances surrounding it might place it in a pre-eminent position where it would occupy the status of a ratio decidendi. Again to be said is that it is not every error of law that is committed by a trial or appellate Court that justifies the reversal of a judgment. For a reversal to take place, the error must have occasioned a miscarriage of justice as it was material in the decision reached. See Chief Johnson Imah & Anor v Chief Ajowele Okogbe & Ors (1993) 12 SCNJ 57 at 77; Oladejo Adewuyi Ajuwon & Ors v. Fadele Akanni & Ors (1993) 12 SCNJ 32 at 52. In the case at hand where the Court below did not allow any of the parties address it on Sections 270 and 287 of the 1999 Constitution as to whether or not a judgment is valid and binding until it is set aside, the issue really before the Court was not whether or not the judgment was binding, but rather whether or not the judgment in HOY/7/97 could prevent the filing of a subsequent action HOY/6/98, as a result of which none permission of the appellant to address on the point, a miscarriage of justice had taken place. See Oshodi v Eyifunmi (2000) NWLR (pt.8) 1273 at 1305. The Supreme Court said thus: “Beside, the Court of Appeal should have called on the parties, particularly the appellants who were prejudiced by its finding to address it on the question of the identity of the issues in both cases before setting aside suo motu the decision made in their favour by the trial Court. See: IKOKU vs. EKEUKWU (1995) 7 N.W.L.R (PT. 410) 637 AT 654, OLUMOLU VS ISLAMIC TRUST OF NIGERIA (1996) 2 NWLR (PT. 430) 253 AT 266. This is because the law is well settled that on no account should a Court raise a point suo motu, no matter how clear it may appear to be, and proceed to resolve it one way or the other without hearing the parties. See: UGO VS. OBIEKWE (1989) 1 NWLR (PT.99) 566 AT 581. If it does so, in a given situation where hearing from the party is necessary, it will be in breach of the party’s right to fair hearing, See: OJE VS BABALOLA (1999) 4 N.W.L.R. (PT. 185) 267 AT 280″. In the case at hand, there was no miscarriage of justice.” Per PETER-ODILI, JSC inADEGBANKE v. OJELABI & ORS (2021-LCER-40456-SC) (Pp 11 – 15 Paras F – B)

Add to LawKit (0)