Legalpedia Electronic Citation: LER CA/A/90/2016
APPEAL NO: CA/A/90/2016
AREAS OF LAW:
ADMINISTRATIVE LAW, APPEAL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, COURT, INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE, LAND LAW, LAW OF EVIDENCE, PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE, STARE DECISIS, STATUTE
SUMMARY OF FACTS:
By a Writ of Summons filed at the Federal Capital Territory High Court, the 1st Respondent as plaintiff, sought against the Appellant and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Respondents as Defendants at the said Court the following reliefs; a declaration that the Plaintiff is the legal holder of title to the property known as House 7, Abdulkadir Baba Agba Street, Prototype Housing Estate, Gwarinpa; Abuja, covered with the Certificate of Occupancy No. D004926, registered as No. 84 at page 84 in Volume 134 of the Federal Lands Registry issued by the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development; a declaration that the invasion vi et armis and the vandalisation and demolition of the 4-Bedroom Detached Duplex and the Boy’s Quarters located at No. 7, Abdulkadir Street, Prototype Housing Estate, Gwarinpa, Abuja (The Plaintiff’s house) by the agents of the Defendants with armed Mobile policemen is wrongful, unlawful and amounts to trespass; and an order for perpetual injunction against them. The 1st Respondent also claimed special and general damages and 10% interest on the judgment sum from the date of delivery of Judgment till the entire judgment sum is fully liquidated. The Appellant filed a counter claim against the 1st Respondent and trial commenced. The Honourable Court at the end of the trial granted the 1st Respondent’s reliefs. The Appellant, being aggrieved by the decision of the trial court, has appealed to this Court.
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ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION:
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INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES – PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES
“The trite law is that a Constitution or Statute must be construed literally giving the words in such Constitution or Statute their ordinary grammatical meanings. It is also beyond argument that in ascertaining the true meaning of provisions of the Constitution or the statute being interpreted, they must be read as a whole and should not be interpreted in isolation in order to discover the real intention of the law maker See
In interpreting the provisions of the Constitution and indeed any statute, one of the important considerations is the intention of the lawmaker. In addition to giving the words used, their clear and ordinary meaning (unless such construction would lead to absurdity), it is also settled that it is not the duty of the court to construe any of the provisions of the Constitution in such a way as to defeat the obvious ends it was designed to serve where another construction equally in accord and consistent with the words and sense of such provisions will serve to enforce and protect such ends, See: Mohamrned v. Olawunmi (1990) 2 NWLR (pt. 133) 458; Rabiu v. The State (1981) 2 NCLR 293; Adetayo v. Ademola (20 W) 15 NWLR (supra) at 190-191 G-A; 205 D-F.”
From an intimate reading of the alluring reasoning in these decisions, the following broad rules, among others, may be concreted:
(a) there is the very fundamental prescription that, in interpreting the Constitution which is the supreme law of the land mere technical rules of interpretation of statutes are, to some extent, inadmissible in a way so as to defeat the principles of government enshrined therein, Nafiu Rabiu v. State (1980) N.S .C.C. 292, 300; (1981)2 NCLR 293; A-G for North Sough Wales v. BE.UN.S.W. (supra), approvingly, adopted in Bank of New South Wales v. The Commonwealth (supra). Accordingly, where the question is whether the Constitution “has used an expression in the wider or in the narrower sense … this court should, whenever possible, and in response to the demands of justice, lean to the broader interpretation, unless there is something in the text or in the rest of the Constitution to indicate that the narrower interpretation will carry out the objects and purpose of the Constitution, “Nafiu Rabiu v. State (supra).
(b) as a corollary, all sections are to be construed together and, hence, it is impermissible to construe sections in isolation, A-G, Federation v. Abubakar (2007) All FWLR (pt. 389) 1264, 1289-1291; (2007) 10 NWLR (Pt 1041) 1; Elelu-Habeeb v. A-G, Federation (2012) LPELR M 28/1/2010; (2012) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1318) 423; INEC v. Musa (2003) 3 NWLR (Pt. 806) 72,102; A. T. Ltd. V. A.D.H. Ltd (2007) 15 NWLR (pt. 1056) 118, 166-167; Marwa and Ors v. Nyako (2012) LPELR 7837 (SC) (2012) 6 NWLR (pt. 1296) 99.
“It is only when the words of the statute are capable of two interpretations; one leads to absurdity, and the other does not, that the court will conclude that the legislature does not intend the absurdity and will adopt the other interpretation that does not lead to any absurdity. The judex neither makes laws nor does it possess any power to amend any statute. Intent of the lawmaker and or the purpose informing the enactment of the particular provisions of a statute are intertwined. It is from the words of the statute and no other source, that the intention of the framers of a statute or Constitution must be ascertained. Thus, as Aderemi, JSC, stated in Action Congress v. INEC (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt 1048) 222 at 318 para. F, (2007) 6 SC (Pt. 11)212.
“a judge’s duty which is even a command on him” is to interpret the clear and unambiguous words according to their ordinary, natural and grammatical meanings and must not add to or remove any words therefrom; no onerous might or burden must be foisted on an otherwise clear and unambiguous provision.” PER P. O. IGE, J.C.A.
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JUDICIAL NOTICE – WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL COURT IS ENTITLED TO JUDICIAL NOTICE OF ALL LAWS, GAZETTE AND STATUTORY INSTRUMENT
“The lower Court is entitled to judicial Notice of all laws, Gazette and Statutory instruments and Legal Notice published for the information of the public. See Chief Emmanuel Olatunde Lakanmi v Peter Adebayo Adene (2003) 10 NWLR (PART 828) 353 at 374 per Kalgo, JSC who said:-
I have already found earlier in this judgment that Decree No. 28 of 1970, had completely nullified the effect of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Sc. 58/69. Therefore, the Western State of Nigeria Forfeiture Order 1967, WSLN 99 of 1967, stands valid and enforceable, and being a published legal enactment or instrument, it was not necessary in the circumstances of this case to plead it or tender it in court before a court can consider it. See S. 74 of Evidence Act and F.C.D. A. v. Naibi (1990) 3 NWLR (Pt 138) 270.”
POWERS OF THE MINISTER OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY – WHETHER THE MINISTER OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY HAS EXCLUSIVE POWER TO EXERCISE CONTROL OVER LAND IN THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY WITH THE EXCLUSION OF ALL OTHER AUTHORITIES
“The provisions of Section 298 and 299 (a)(b)(c) read as follows:-
“298. The Federal Capital Territory, Abuja shall be the Capital of the Federation and seat of the Government of the Federation.
(a) all the legislative powers, the executive powers and the judicial powers vested in the House of Assembly the Governor of a State and in the courts of a State shall respectively, vest in the National Assembly, the President of the Federal and in the courts which by virtue of the foregoing provisions are courts established for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja;
(b) all the powers referred to in paragraph (a) of this section shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution; and
(c) the provisions of this Constitution pertaining to the matters Aforesaid shall be read with such modifications and adaptations as may be reasonably necessary to bring them into conformity with the provisions of this section.”
There is nothing in the above provisions of Section 298 and 299 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and Section 18 of the Federal Capital Territory Act vesting the Federal Capital Territory Minister such pervasive and unbridled powers or authority to be the only one to exercise control over land when the President who is invested executive powers and functions has the right to perform his executive duties, and functions and he can exercise the said executive powers on behalf of the Federation through any of the Ministers of Government. See Sections 5(1)(a), 147, 148 and 302 of the Constitution all of which provide as follows:-
“5(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the executive powers of the Federation-
147(1) There shall be such office of Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President
148 (1} The President may, in his discretion, assign to the Vice – President or any Minister of the Government of the Federation responsibility for any business of, the Government of the Federation, including the administration of any department of government.
– PER P. O. IGE, J.C.A.
FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY ACT – INTERPRETATION OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY ACT
“The Federal Capital Territory Act is an existing law pursuant to Section 315(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended since it was enacted or made by the defunct Military Government in 1976. It must be read subject to all the express provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria as highlighted or given to Federal Capital Territory Minister in respect of matters mentioned in Section 18 of the Federal Capital Territory Act or the Constitution as aforesaid”. PER P. O. IGE, J.C.A.
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INTERPRETATION OF THE CONSTITUTION – PRINCIPLE OF INTERPRETATION OF THE CONSTITUTION
“One cannot read into a Constitution and a Statute meanings and intention not intended or contemplated by the framers of the Constitution and the Lawmakers. See:- Comptroller General Of Customs & Ors Vs Comptroller Abdullahi B. Gusau (2017) 18 NWLR (PART 1598) 353 AT 385 F – per EKO, JSC who said:-
“Where the main object and intention of a statute are clear the court in its interpretative power, must give effect to those main object and intention. The words and language used in the statute] to convey its main object and intention shall be given their ordinary meaning. See Unipetrol v. E.S.B.I.R. (2006) All FWLR 413 at 423, (2006) 8 NWLR (Pt. 983) 624; Obuset v. Obuse: (2007) 30 NSCQR 329, (2007) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1043) 430. The Constitution, in the powers or function it has vested in the Federal Civil Service Commission, should be so construed to achieve the purpose and object it is intended to achieve. See F.C.S.C. v. Laoye (Supra). The principle of the interpretation of the Constitution laid down by this Court in Nafiu Rabiu v. Kano State (1980) 8 – 11 SC 130; 148 149 (1981) 2 NCLR 293 is that the words of the Constitution or statute are not to be read with stultifying narrowness, but are to be read and given the meaning that will effectuate the purpose. See also A.- G. Fed. v. A-G. Abia State (2001) 7 SC. (Pt 1) 32, . (No. 2) (2002) 6 NWLR (Pt. 764)542.
DELEGATED POWERS OF THE MINISTER OF THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY- WHETHER THE DELEGATED FUNCTIONS OR POWERS BESTOWED ON THE HON. MINISTER OF FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY BY VIRTUE OF SECTION 18 OF FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY ACT, IS ABSOLUTE
“It is also of paramount importance to note that Section 19 of the Federal Capital Territory Act makes it clear that the delegated functions or powers bestowed on the Hon. Minister of Federal Capital Territory by virtue of Section 18 of Federal Capital Territory Act is not by any means absolute. The donor of the power or the delegator can equally at his own discretion and right wields or exercises the powers delegated-without recourse to the person to whom the functions or powers are delegated. Section 19 of the Federal Capital Territory Act provides:-
The powers delegated to the Minister under the provisions of Section 1 of this Act shall not include:-
AUTHORITY – DEFINITION OF AUTHORITY
Authority is defined to include government under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of (Nigeria 1999 as amended.”
LAND USE ACT– STATUS OF THE LAND USE ACT VIS-À-VIS THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY ACT
“The Land Use Act is one of the existing laws incorporated into the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and its provisions have been taken and regarded as forming part of the 1999 Constitution. For ease of reference Section 314(5) of the Constitution aforesaid provides:-
“314(5) Nothing in this Constitution shall invalidate the following enactments that is to say:
(a) – the National Youth Service Corps Decree 1993;
(b) the Public Complaints Commission Act.
(c) National Security Agency Act.
(d) the Land Use Act;
And the provisions of those enactments shall continue to apply and have full effect in accordance with their tenor and to the like extent as any other provisions forming part of this Constitution and shall not be altered or repealed except in accordance with the provisions of Section 9(2) of this Constitution. ”
It is thus clear and remains clear and immutable that Land Use Act is higher in status and hierarchy of laws and towers above the provisions of Federal Capital Territory Act. PER P. O. IGE, J.C.A.
DELEGATION OF POWER- POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT TO DELEGATE HIS DUTIES UNDER THE LAND USE ACT
“The Land Use Act Section 51(2) thereof makes it clear that any Minister of Government of the Federation can be designated by the President to perform any duty or function or powers given to Mr. President under the said Land Use Act pursuant to the Constitution of Nigeria.” PER P. O. IGE, J.C.A.
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TITLE TO LAND – POSITION OF THE LAW WHERE TWO PARTIES CLAIM TO HAVE PURCHASED LAND FROM THE SAME OWNER OF LANDED PROPERTY
“The law is settled that where two persons or purchasers of land, postulated or pleaded in their case that they bought from the same owner of a landed property in dispute as in this case the law ascribe valid and sound title to the first in time. This because the first purchaser for value is stronger in law.” PER P. O. IGE, J.C.A.
DOCTRINE OF STARE DECISIS – APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF STARE DECISIS
“Now the doctrine of stare decisis is well known in law. It has been given a place of pride in Section 287 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. See the case of Alhaji M. Dingyadi & Anor V. INEC & ORS (2011) 10 NWLR (PART 1255) 347 at 401 F – .H TO 402 A – E per ADEKEYE, JSC who lucidly put it thus: –
“Section 287(1) of the Constitution of the Federal & public of Nigeria 1999 stipulates that-
1 The decisions of the Supreme Court shall be enforced in any, part of the Federation by all authorities and persons and by courts with subordinate jurisdiction to that of the Supreme Court.
This is the doctrine of stare decisis et non quieta movere or judicial precedent. The meaning and import is to abide by former precedents where same points come again in litigation. It presupposes that the law has been solemnly declared and determined in a previous case. It does preclude the judges of subordinate courts from changing what has been determined. Under the doctrine of stare decisis, lower courts are bound by the theory of precedent. It is in effect a doctrine which enjoins judges to stand by their decisions and the decisions or their predecessors however wrong they are and whatever injustice they inflict. All courts established under the Constitution derive their powers and authority from the Constitution The hierarchy of courts shows the limit and powers of each court. It is to ensure that hierarchy of the court is never in issue. Mohammed v. Olawunmi (1993) 4 NWLR (Pt. 287)pg. 254. 7Up Bottling Co. Ltd. v. Abiola & Sons (Nig) Ltd. (1995) 3 NWLR (Pt. 383) pg. 254. Osho v. Foreign Finance Corporation (1991) 4 NWLR (Pt. 184) pg. 157 Dalhatu v. Turaki (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt. 843) pg. 310 University of Lagos v. Olaniyan (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt. 1) pg. 156 —
The doctrine of judicial precedent does not involve an exercise of judicial discretion at all – it is mandatory. PER P. O. IGE, J.C.A.
CASE – SCOPE OF USE OF CASES AS PRECEDENTS
“Cases are authorities for what they decided depending on the facts and principles applicable to the facts in each case. See The Executors of Estate of General Sanni Abacha (Deceased) v Samuel David Eke-Spiff & Ors (2009) 7 NWLR (PART 1139) 97; (2009) LPELR 64 per Osbuagu, JSC.” PER P. O. IGE, J.C.A.
SPECIAL AND GENERAL DAMAGES- PRINCIPLES GUIDING AN AWARD OF SPECIAL AND GENERAL DAMAGES
“The settled position of the law is that special and general damages must be pleaded and cogent evidence must be led to support them. In case of special damages it must be specifically pleaded strictly proved while it can be said that general damages must flow from the injury suffered and it is always at large and at the discretion of the Court. In all cases the Court must exercise its discretion judicially and judiciously. See the cases of
The law is trite that special damages must be strictly proved by the person who claims to be entitled to them. The nature of the proof depends on the circumstances of each case. See: Okunzua v. Amosu (1992) 6 NWLR (Pt. 248) 416 @ 432E- 6. See also: Oshinjinrin & Ors. v. Elias & Ors. (1970) I All NLR 153 @ 56, where it was held inter alia that a person claiming special damages must establish his entitlement to the particular type of damages by credible evidence of such a character as would suggest that he indeed is entitled to an award under that head, otherwise the general law of evidence as to proof by preponderance or weight usual in civil cases operates. The object of an award of damages is to compensate .a person for the injury he has sustained by reason of the act or default of another, whether the act or default is a breach of contract or tort. The measure of damages on the other hand, is an amount that would reflect what would put the injured party in the same position as he would have been had the injury not occurred. See: Umudje v. SPDC Nig, Ltd (1975) 9 – 11 SC (Reprint) 95: Okongwu v. NNPC (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 115) 296; SPDC (Nig) Ltd. v. High Chief Tiebo VII & Ors. (1996) 4 NWLR (Pt.445) 657 @ 680 0- E; Cameroon Airlines v. Otutuizu (20 II) 4 NWLR (Pt.1238) 512. It (is also trite that an appellate court would not interfere with an award of special damages unless the award is based on some wrong principle of law, or where the amount awarded is so high or so low as to make it an entirely erroneous estimate of the damage suffered by the claimant. See: SPDC Nig. Ltd. v. Tiebo VII (2005) 9 NWLR (Pt;931) 439, where it was held that the evidence proffered must be qualitative and credible such as lends itself to quantification and that each case depends on its own facts and circumstance.
The law is well settled, that special damages must be specifically pleaded with distinct particularity and it must also be strictly proved. The court should not act within the realm of conjecture in awarding special damages and also should not rely simply on fluid and speculative estimate of alleged loss or injury sustained by the plaintiff. See B.J. Ngilari v. Mothercat Ltd. (1999) 12 SC (Pt. II) I; (1999) 13 NWLR (Pt. 636) 626; Osuji v. Isiocha (1989) 6 SC (Pt. II) 158; (1989) 3 NWLR (Pt. Ill) 623. In the case of Neka BBS Manufacturing Co. Ltd. v. African Continental Bank Ltd. (2004) I SC (Pt. I) 32; (2004) 2 NWLR (Pt. 858) 521 at 540,
…where the claimant specifically alleges that he suffered special damages he must per force prove it. The method of such proof is to lay before the court concrete evidence demonstrating in no uncertain terms easily cognizable, the loss or damages he has suffered so that the opposing party and the court as the umpire, would readily see and appreciate the nature of the special damages suffered and being claimed.”
The law in fact is also well settled, that special damages must be strictly proved by the person who claims to be entitled to them even though the nature of proof depends on the circumstances of each case. See Gabriel O. Okunrua v. Mrs. E.B. Amosu & Anor (1992) 6 NWLR (Pt.248) 416 or (1992) 7 5CNJ 243. In proof of special damages, the claimant must therefore lead evidence to prove the type of damages of such a character as would suggest that he is indeed entitled to such award under the head. See Oshinjinrin & Ors v. Elias and Ors (1970) 1 All NLR 153 at 156).”
On distinction between special and general damages, the learned Justice of Supreme Court said:-
“Now, coming to general damages, I am aware that it is settled law too, that unlike special damages which is special in nature and must be pleaded specially and proved strictly, the quantum of general damages need not be pleaded or proved. The manner in which general damages is quantified is by relying on what a reasonable man judgment would be in the circumstance. See Hon. Nze Herbert Osuji & Anor v Anthony Isiocha (supra). However, in this instant case the plaintiff who made a claim on trespass did not state any amount he was claiming as general damages in his statement of claim and also did not lead any evidence in that regard, even though as I said above, it did not require any proof of such damages.” PER P. O. IGE, J.C.A.
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ADMISSIBILITY OF DOCUMENTS- WHAT GOVERNS THE ADMISSIBILITY OF DOCUMENTS?
“The law is trite that admissibility of document is governed by Evidence Act and Pleadings while value or weight to be attached to an admitted document is another matter entirely and at the discretion of the Court depending on what use the document was made at the trial.” PER P. O. IGE, J.C.A.
GROUNDS OF APPEAL- STATUS OF A GROUND OF APPEAL FROM WHICH NO ISSUE FOR DETERMINATION IS DISTILLED
“The settled position of the law is that any ground(s) of Appeal from which no issue for determination is distilled or nominated will be deemed abandoned and liable to be struck out. See the case of: Mr Victor Adelekan vs Ecu – Line NV (2006) LPELR -113 (SC) Page 14 – 15 per Onnoghen, JSC now CJN who said:-
It is settled law that where no issue is formulated from any ground of appeal, the said ground is deemed abandoned. The same principle of law applies to a situation where it is found that issues formulated by an Appellant do not relate to the grounds of appeal the said grounds must be deemed abandoned since no issue(s) has/have been distilled from them and are therefore liable to be struck out.”
STATUTES REFERRED TO:
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)
Evidence Act, 2011
Federal Capital Territory Act Cap F6 2004
Land Use Act LFN 2004