LEGAL IDEAS FORUM

THE APPLICATION OF TECHNICALITIES IN LITIGATION: AN AID OR ABATEMENT OF JUSTICE

INTRODUCTION:
“Technicality” and “justice” are two strange bed fellows. They are always opposed to each other and do not agree. While the former loves form and is a stickler to the rules and abstract principles of law irrespective of the intentions of the legislature and the Rule maker, the later abhors form and probes into the substance of a matter in its quest to locate its jurisprudence and thereby fulfill the intensions of the law and its maker.
Merriam Webster[1]  defines “Technical” thus: 
Having special, usually practical knowledge especially of a mechanical or scientific subject. 
Of or relating to a particular subject organized on scientific principles. 
Existing by application of laws or rules.
Of or relating to techniques.
By Merriam Webster’s definition, “technicality” emphasizes method, procedure, details of rules and laws, science, mechanics etc. yet Hormby [2]defines it as “connected with the practical use of machinery, methods etc. in science and industry.”4 Connected with the details of a law or set of rules e.g. their Lawyers spent time arguing over technical details.
In an old Indian authority of Gangadhar v. Premchand (1958) Madh. Page 182 the Court held that a technical defect in a case is one which may come within the four corners of the case, but does not affect the merit of the case: a mistake which might not go to the core of the matters.  By the above definitions, technicality appears to shun the question and concentrates on the procedure and form.
Without any intention of getting into the dialectics or often unnecessary rhetorics of the concept of justice, ‘justice’ as of common knowledge connotes a sense of fairness, equity and propriety. A more formal definition of justice however was offered by Allen Walker Read,[3] Professor of English at Colombia University thus:

1. Conformity in conduct or practice to the principles of right or of positive law; 2. Regard for or fulfillment of obligations, rectitude and honesty. 3. Adherence to truth of fact, impartiality 4. The rendering of what is due or merited, just requital or consideration 5. The quality of being just or reasonable, rightness, equitableness.

Salwan and Narang [4] defined Justice  simply as:
 the quality of being right and equitable and deserving fair treatment. Justice implies giving a person what he deserves, the equitable and fair judgment and punishment to the offenders in the light of the existing laws, morals and customs.

From the definitions of the two key concepts in this lecture, it is very clear that “technicality” and “justice” as key concepts in litigation despite their seeming individual asymmetry are congenitally opposed to each other; going back to reinforce our opening statement that both are indeed two strange bed fellows.
Observance of the Law and Rules of Court, Resort to Technicality?
It is pertinent to state that since the social contract theory of the early political philosophers including John Locke and Jean Jacques Rossou, individual power and might have given way to the social contract expressed by the collective will and decision of citizens to recognize the supremacy of the laws and the constitution and in turn receive protection from the State in so far as the citizens hold the laws and constitution sacrosanct.
The laws and the constitution therefore become the guiding principles by which the conducts of citizens are measured. Needless saying that otherwise would certainly lead to anarchy and chaos, akin to the scenario painted by Thomas Hobbes in his state of nature where life was said to be brutish, nasty and short where the powerful devoured the weak as might was right.       
The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) by the Constitution of the FRN (Promulgation) Decree No. 24 of 5th May, 1999 in S.6 vests the judicial powers of the Country in the Courts. By way of comparison, See the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany (as amended by the Unification Treaty of 31st August 1990 and the Federal Statute of 23rd September 1990, Sections 92, 93, 94, 95 and 96; Sections 87 and 88 of the Constitution of Greece 1975 (as amended in March 1986 and April 2001); Sections 45, 46, 47, 48 and 50 of the Constitution of the Republic of Hungary (as amended by Act LIX of 1997; Section 76 of the Constitution of Japan which was adopted November 3 1946 among others.
By these various provisions of the Constitutions of States and their embodying supremacy clauses (see for example Section 1(1) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended); Section 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Iraq adopted on 25th October 2005; Section 7 of the Constitution of Republic of Bangladesh (modified 17th May 2004); the rule of law became entrenched in almost all States of the world today. The constitutions established parliaments responsible for making legislations the body of which constitutes the laws of the various States of the world. The judicial powers being vested in the Courts, the Courts in turn make rules for the smooth administration of justice. These rules are called rules of Courts. It is the duty of Courts to interpret and apply the law in determining cases and ensure observance of the rules of Court.
At times, it is difficult to answer categorically whether a Court’s insistence on applying the law and ensuring observance of the rules of Court amount to technicality. Should the Judge jettison the law and rules of Court “in the interest of justice”? Which justice, a jurisprudence scholar may ask, Justice not according to law? Justice according to the perception of the Judge of what is right or what is wrong in the circumstance? Again, on the rules of Court, should the judge “throw away” a case because the litigant, who probably is not a lawyer and has no formal knowledge of the law, brought a matter by petition while the rules prescribed motion?
To proffer right answers to these scenarios, it is important to note that the foundation of every judicial enquiry is truth and justice; thus the paramount question is ‘how does a Court achieve justice at the end of its judicial intervention in the affairs of men’? The first duty of the Court (Judge) in this direction is to be fair to all. In Odutola Vs. Mabogunje [5] Alagoa JSC puts it thus:

The Primary duty of a Judge called upon to adjudicate on a matter between contending parties is to always strive to maintain balance. Like the referee on a football pitch, he should be ready to share and apportion blame and show the red and green cards firmly and equally as the need arises. He goes into the field without any clear favourites in mind so that at the end of the game he can say with a clear conscience ‘I did what I was called upon to do without fear or favour. I am convinced that I did my best’. That indeed in a nutshell is the whole essence in the art or science of judging.

The Supreme Court, as the Court at the zenith of the hierarchy of Courts in Nigeria, lent its weight on this issue when it authoritatively proclaimed.

No Court, a fortiori the Supreme Court, will allow itself to be used as an instrument of bad faith. This Court will be shirking in its judicial responsibility as the last Court of the land if it refuses to intervene to stop a party before it from foisting bad faith and subterfuge on the other party or even the Court itself. This is a proper case calling for the Court’s intervention because this is a Court of justice where justice is not only to be done but also to be seen to be done to the hilt.[6]

The second is to do justice according to law. Law and Justice are great companions. The end of every law should be justice. Thus justice is according to law and not against it. Thus when a Judge interprets and applies the law, he does so to fulfill the intention of the law maker and the intendment of the law; thereby ensuring that the law serves its very purpose which is justice. To this extent, application of the law serves as doing substantial justice whether in civil or criminal spheres. The Court of Appeal affirmed this position in Hassan v. EFCC [7] where it held:

Laws are made to regulate human conduct in the society and every facet of human life. Criminal Law is only a part of the laws and the moment it is offended or gone contrary to, the State comes in and act against the offender through its agencies because activities regarded as crimes are not only injury to the individual victim, but to the society as a whole.

When the law is therefore not employed to serve the end of justice, it becomes perversion of justice and any reason given to justify such unfortunate situation, no matter how the employer schemes to clothe the reasons with the toga of regularity, amounts to technicality. Justice therefore does not consist in the manipulation of the law nor is it a game of hide and seek. It was held to be an attempt, our human imperfections notwithstanding, to discover the truth and which should never be allowed to aid the slippery party. See Boye v. Adeyeye [8]. From the foregoing it is clear that justice though is according to law, it does not entail mechanical application or manipulation of the law. The law ought to be properly appraised and holistically applied. Oputa JSC in Josiah v. State[9] had stated that justice is not a one or two-way traffic, but a three-way traffic. i.e. justice for the victim of the crime, justice for the accused person and justice for the society whose laws have been desecrated by the act complained of.

Supremacy War between Technicalities and Substantial Justice. 

Technicality occurs in litigation when the rules of Court, or procedure or application of the law is strictly and slavishly observed in such manner that leads to injustice to any of the parties. Thus Courts in avoiding such circumstances ought to be liberal in their interpretation of the laws/rules and application of procedures in order to do substantial justice. See Oduah v. FRN [10]. See also A.G Bendel State v. A.G Federation [11]
There are however instances where the need for adherence to the law appear to favourably compete with the need to do substantial justice such that Courts’ pronouncements/judgments on those instances oscillate in the Court of public opinion.

ACTION AGAINST A NON – JURISTIC PERSONALITY.
Salomon v. Salomon Co. Ltd.[12] at common law established the concept of corporate personality. See also Onuekwusi v. TCMZC [13].
Therefore an action in the name of an unincorporated body/organization is bound to fail. Courts have held that suing a non-juristic party renders whatever proceedings conducted thereon a nullity. See LASTMA v. Esezobo (2017) 5 NWLR (pt 1559). The above which represents the current position of the law has been criticized by many as ‘technical’ especially when counsel keeps silent on the issue till the end of litigation only to raise it as a point of law in his final address as an issue of jurisdiction or worse still, raise it for the first time at the Court of Appeal or even at the Supreme Court as preliminary objection on jurisdiction and it succeeds. The implication of the success of such an objection is that the merit of the matter was not considered, rather the law was applied. This has been held severally by the Supreme Court to be substantial justice and not technical justice.
The above however, could be contrasted with ‘misnomer’ in bringing an action to Court. Where it is a case of ‘misnomer’, it will not lead to the termination of an action or striking out the name of the party affected as the case may be, but could lead to correction of the name of the party in question while the action continues in Court. See NLNG Ltd v. Onwukwe [14] (2019) 10 NWLR (Part 10) P. 247 @ pp. 264, paras G-D .
1. ACTION IN RESPECT OF A DECEASED’S ESTATE: In the first place, an action in the name of a deceased person is bound to fail. The legal maxim is ‘Actio personalis Moritur cum persona’. However, where an action is such that could survive a party e.g. actions in rem, his estate is substituted and often as a matter of necessity a letter of administration ought to be taken out in the absence of which the action is bound to fail. See Administrators/Executors of the Estate of Late Gen. Sani Abacha (Deceased) V. Eke Spiff (2009) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1139) Page 97.
2. UNSIGNED DOCUMENT: The law is trite that an unsigned document is worthless and cannot be acted upon. Such document, the Courts have held is entitled to no weight at all and is void. See Seidu V. A.G Lagos State[16]; Attorney General Abia State v. Silas O. Agharanya, and Ors;[17] Ali v. Ambrosini Limited[18] Ojo v. Adejobi;[19] Anaeze v. Anyaso[20], Kwara State Investment Co. Ltd v. L.E.A. Garuba & Anor.

By the above authorities, an action therefore founded on an unsigned document is bound to fail. However See The State v. Ali SA’IDU (2019) 10 NWLR (Part 1680) page 308. In this case Respondent was among the persons that went to the house of one Alhaji Ummaru Masanawa, a Village Head in Kufur Local Government Area of Katsina State and demanded money from him and killed him. Respondent was found guilty at the Trial Court and was convicted of Armed Robbery and sentenced to death. Respondent appealed to the Court of Appeal which upheld his appeal and acquitted him. The Appellant (State) being dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal acquitting the Respondent, appealed to the Supreme Court.

It was argued at the Supreme Court on behalf of the Respondent that the confessional Statement of the Respondent (in Hausa Language) Exhibit. 8A though signed by him, the translation (to English) Exh. “B” was not signed by the Respondent (though signed by the IPO) and as such could not have grounded the action against the Respondent as the document was worthless. Rejecting the argument and upholding the State’s appeal, affirming the conviction of the Respondent by the Trial Court, the Supreme Court held @ p. 321 B – D Per Okoro JSC.

There is no doubt that Exhibit 8A, the main statement made in Hausa by the Respondent was actually thumb printed by him…the grouse of the respondent is that the translated version was not signed by the Respondent though signed by the translator. As far as the translator had signed the said translated version, I held that it does not make any difference that the accused did not sign it.

And Per Abba Aji JSC @ Page 329 paras E- H:

…If we will allow accused persons standing trial on capital offences like this one to be set free based on this technical wand (underlining mine) we will give the corrupt investigator another opportunity of making money by distorting records or not allowing the accused person to sign the interpreted version of his statement.

3. SIGNING/NON SIGNING OF LEGAL PROCESSES:
Where an action is brought by a legal practitioner for his client and the originating processes of the counsel were not signed, the action will be struck out or dismissed depending on the stage of the matter before the issue was raised. The Court can also suo motu raise the issue and deal with it. This is based on the principle that an unsigned document is worthless and void. In MCC Nig. Ltd. v. COSEDA Nig. Ltd. (2018) 11 NWLR (Pt 1629) @ P. 58 A-B. The Writ of Summons was not signed. The Court of Appeal voided it and set aside the judgment of N14 Milion got by the Respondent. A more worrisome situation however presents itself where a Legal Practitioner signs his legal or originating processes contrary to the stipulations of the law. See Sections 2(1) and 24 of LPA Cap. L11 LFN (2004). High profile cases involving renowned lawyers have collapsed on account of this. The Courts have firmly maintained their grounds that in such circumstances, the judgment of Court amounts to doing substantial justice and not technical justice. A few instances are hereby presented:
a)Okafor v. Nweke (2007) 10 NWLR (Pt 1043) 521:
 In this case, JHC Okolo & Co. signed the Court processes. The Supreme Court held that the processes were fundamentally defective as JHC Okolo & Co. was not called to the bar to practice law in Nigeria as Solicitor or Advocate of the Supreme Court or both and was not enrolled at the Supreme Court.
b)NLC v. FGN (2018) 7 NWLR (Part 1619) P. 561
In this case the Supreme Court held that the Notice of Appeal of the Appellant to the Supreme Court which was signed by “Falana & Falana Chambers” was defective and in contraventions of Sections 2(1) and 24 of the L.P.A Cap. 207 LFN 1990. All arguments in favour  of the Appellant by Mr. Femi Falana SAN that the said Notice of Appeal was actually signed by him Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) a recognized legal practitioner in Nigeria and that no miscarriage of justice was occasioned was rejected by the Supreme Court. The Court authoritatively (but in my view regrettably) stated the obvious at pages 570-571 paras A-F.

The above provisions are clear and not in any way ambiguous. We have stated times without number, that the law is settled that express written provision of the law must be given meaning irrespective of flowery embellishments in counsel’s written argument…. In my view, the above provisions are clear. It is not within the contemplation of the provisions of Section 2(1) and Section 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act that persons other than those listed in the roll of the Supreme Court of Nigeria should sign originating processes or any Court process whatsoever, I am in total agreement with the learned Counsel to the Respondents that this is a matter of law and that validity of originating processes in any proceedings is fundamental to the jurisdiction or competence of the suit…. Clearly, the word “Falana & Falana” is a clear breach of the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act. The breach gets to the root and uproots this appeal and snaps it off the list of pending appeals that should continue to receive the attention of this Court. It is not something that could be swept under the carpet “irrespective of the standing of the supposed counsel…”

c)Alawiye v. Ogunsanya (2013) 5 NWLR (Pt 1348) 444.
In this case, the Writ of Summons, Statement of Claim and Notice of Cross Appeal were signed by “Chief Afe Babalola, SAN & Co”. The Supreme Court held that the processess were void, being signed by a non-cognizable Legal Practitioner and as such inimical to the clear provisions of the LPA and therefore nullities. The decisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal were therefore voided.
Yusuf v. Mobil Oil Nig. Plc. (2019) 13 NWLR Page 374 @ Pp 389 – 390 paras E-B, 390 paras F-G, paras A-E; 396 paras F-G.
The Supreme Court held that processes signed in the business name of a law firm, are incompetent, null and void abinitio. It held further that such processes are incurably defective and cannot be amended. It therefore set aside the Court processes signed by Ayuide Sani & Co. as being void abinitio. 
4. ABSENCE OF LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FOR PROOF OF CASES:
 e.g. “Penetration” in rape cases and the fact that the accused person was responsible. Penetration is required to prove the offence of rape. Thus no matter the quantum of evidence showing for example lacerations around the labia majora or its walls, presence of semen on the victims private part and suggesting ejaculation, scuttle rupture of the complainant’s hymenal ring and deposit of blood clusters at the hymenal walls, injuries/bruises on the complainant’s abdomen and virginal, if penetration is not proved, an action in rape will fail. And even when penetration or sexual intercourse is proved without corresponding evidence linking the act to the accused person, the action will fail. Penetration however need not be full complete or several and need not result in ejaculation for the offence of rape to be established. In Francis Okpanefe v. The State [22], the complainant a 10 year old girl, alleged she was asked by the accused person to bring him water in his room and there, had sexual intercourse with her on two occasions against her will. On the second round, she was weak and distressed and was given a shilling as a result by the accused. Her mother confirmed seeing a shilling on her cloth upon examination. Part of the medical report reads:

I have examined the above 10 year old girl, who is alleged to have been raped yesterday. My findings: “Old rupture of the hymenal ring. No redness around the vaginal introitus. Hymen easily admits one finger… My opinion, the girl definitely had sexual intercourse with somebody, but had lost her virginity more than 7 days ago…

The Supreme Court in discharging and acquitting the accused person held that although the medical report as well as other evidence before the Court proved rape or sexual intercourse, there was no evidence linking the act with the accused person as the person who had done it.
Also in the much recent case of alleged rape by Mrs. Busola Dakolo against Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, the Federal High Court sitting at Bwari Abuja dismissed the case. The Court held that the matter was purely sentimental and empty amounting to injustice and abuse of judicial process. Fatoyinbo had filed an objection at the Court that Mrs. Dakolo’s Statements were false and made up to embarrass, scandalise and ridicule him. Consequently the Court awarded N1Milion cost against the plaintiff – Mrs. Dokolo and held that it would have been 10 times more but for the sake of women with legitimate sexual assault claims [23]. Note however that the matter might get to the apex Court.
5. ACCIDENTAL SLIP OR ERROR BY A JUDGE:
Accidental slip or error by a Judge which did not go to the root of the matter before him and did not lead to miscarriage of justice would not vitiate a trial. Likewise, wrong stating of suit numbers or parties before the Court. See Section 222 of the CPC which provides that wrong stating of offence or particulars thereof in a charge shall not be deemed material except where it leads to miscarriage of justice. See Umar v. FRN [24]. Doing otherwise will amount to resort to technicality. In Akingbola v. FRN (2018) 14 NWLR (Part 1640) page 395 @ 418-419 the Supreme Court held that the error by the Court of Appeal in referring to EFCC as the government agency prosecuting the accused person (Appellant, Erastus Akingbola, then M.D/CEO of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc) instead of FRN was a typical case of unintended error of the Court which was neither meant for nor targeted at inflicting hardship or injustice on any of the parties to appeal. At paragraphs F-G of page 418, the Supreme Court Per Bage JSC held:

The need to do substantial justice and avoid delving into the error of technicalities is well settled. This Court has shown the way and all Courts below the judicial hierarchy should abide by embracing the trends of deliberately shifting away from the narrow technical approach to doing substantial justice irrespective of obstacles and hindrances. This case like the Opeyemi’s case amplified the attitudinal disposition of the Court against deciding cases on mere technicalities. The attitude of the Courts now is that cases should always be decided, wherever possible on the merit…. It is unjust to hold that because blunders have been committed, the party blundering is to incur the penalty of not having the dispute between him and his adversary, determined upon the merit. See also UBN Plc v. Ravih Abdul & Co. Ltd [25] where the Supreme Court held that difference or error in stating a particular of letter of credit is not enough to absolve the Respondent of liability under the letter of credit.

6. ACADEMIC AND FRIVOLOUS SUITS/APPEALS:
Where a case or appeal discloses no reasonable cause of action, or is speculative, academic, frivolous, or targeted at wasting the judicial time of the Court, and a party anchoring on that, wants to obtain judgment willy nilly, the Court might treat that as recourse to technicalities and no matter the subject matter or parties will certainly not allow such case to be. In Eco Bank Nig. Ltd. V. Anchorage Leisures Ltd and 2 Ors. (2018) 18 NWLR (Part 1650) Page 116 @ 131 – 132 paras G-B, Per Mary Peter Odili JSC, the Supreme Court holding that the appeal of the Appellant was merely academic and therefore a resort to technicalities stated:

…this Honourable Court Per Oputa JSC held in reliance on the dictum of Lord Penzance in Coombe v. Edwards (1878) L.R 3 P.D 142 thus:
“The spirit of justice does not reside in formalities, or words, nor in the triumph of its administration to be found in successfully picking a way between the pitfalls of technicality. After all the law is, or ought to be, the handmaid of justice…” If the choice is between legal technicality and justice, one ought to cast one’s lot with justice… I will at anytime, anywhere cast my lot for truth and justice rather than for mere formal objections.

7. INSISTENCE ON A PARTICULAR KIND OF EVIDENCE: The law requires that he who asserts must prove. In criminal cases, the prosecution must prove his case beyond reasonable doubt, while proof in civil cases is required to be minimal i.e. proof on balance of probabilities or on preponderance of evidence. See Sections 134 and 135 of the Evidence Act 2011.
No particular number of witnesses is required to establish a case and no particular kind of evidence must be produced to establish a matter. Provided the evidence is credible, cogent and compelling and establishes the ingredients of the matter before the Court, the Court will act and may convict on it. Oputa JSC elegantly articulated this position in Ademola v. State where he stated “The truth is not discovered by majority of votes, not by counting hands or heads. Except in cases where corroboration is required either by law or age old practice, one witness’s evidence if believed can establish even a murder case. [26]
Insisting otherwise will be recourse to technicality which the Court abhors. In Abdullahi v. State (2018) 16 NWLR (Part 1644) Page 121 @  p. 145 paras C-D, the Supreme Court rejecting the argument of the Appellant that since there was no medical evidence linking him with the murder of the deceased, one Abubakar Dayabu (whom Appellant and others beat with belt and stabbed to death), held that medical evidence was not indispensible in proof of murder. Court further held that medical evidence ceases to be of practical necessity especially in a situation in which the deceased died almost immediately from the act of the accused person. In deprecating party’s employment of technical tools to obstruct the course of justice, Bage JSC @ page 136 eloquently declared:

Courts generally have deliberately shifted away from narrow technical approach to justice which characterized some earlier decisions to now pursue the course of substantial justice. See Makeri Smelting Co. Ltd. v. Access Bank Nig. Plc (2202) 7 NWLR (Pt 766) 447 @ 471 para C-G.

8. NON PAYMENT OF FILING FEE/FAILURE TO ABIDE BY THE RULES OF COURT. 
Although Courts insist that rules of Court must be obeyed as they are meant to govern the means and methods of presenting cases to court; The attitude of Courts of this era is to ensure compliance with the rules of Court, while however insisting that cases must be heard on the merit . This has found justification in the popular expression ‘the offence or inadvertence of counsel should not be visited on the litigant’. In Rasaki v. Ajijiola (No 1) [27], the Court of Appeal struck out the appeal of the Appellant for non payment of default fees. Appellant went to the Supreme Court on the issue. The Supreme court Per Sanusi JSC @ P. 32 paras C-D berated the Lower Court and stated:

In my view such non payment of filing fees could not touch on the jurisdiction of the lower Court. It is a cardinal principle of law that Courts should always try to see that substantial justice is done to the parties before it evenly…. The Court below should have ordered the Appellants to pay such fees as requested in the circumstance … I feel that the lower Court was wrong to have struck out the brief… and by extension striking out the entire appeal…

9. APPLICATION OF STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS TO CASES:
The time within which to institute an action in Court for redress is regulated by law. This is evident in the Limitation Act of the Federation or Limitation Laws of the various states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. There are also other laws which regulate the time frame for instituting actions in Court such as the Public Officers Protection Act of the Federation or the Public Officers Protection Laws of the States. Usually when an action is brought outside the statutory period, such action is said to be time barred. In determining whether limitation has set in, the Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim are ostensibly considered to determine when the wrong that gave rise to the cause of action was committed. See Mobil Producing Nig. Unlimited v. Unwedimo (2006) All FWLR (Part 313) page 116 @ PP 133-134.
To rely on statute of limitation, it must be pleaded specifically, otherwise the defence being a special one will not avail the Defendant. See Olagunju v. Power Holding Company of Nigeria PLC. (2011) 10 NWLR (Part 1254) page 113 @ 124 paras F-G Per Onnoghen JSC.

There is a concatenation of authorities to the effect that when an action is brought outside the statutory period, such action will be struck out. Courts have hinged the justice behind such judgments on the need to apply the law and do justice according to law. See Olagunju v. Power Holding Company of Nigeria PLC. (Supra).

However in Kwara State Pilgrims Welfare Board v. Alhaji Jimoh Baba [28], the Supreme Court in a somewhat legal summersault and with an air of finality citing the need to do substantial justice as its reason, brushed aside the Public Officers Protection Law of Kwara State Vol. 3 Cap 135, 1994 holding that the Respondent was properly convicted of stealing despite that the action was brought outside the 3 months period stipulated by that law. The Court further held that the law – Public Officers Protection Law of Kwara State was designed to protect the officer who acts in good faith and strictly within the confines of his official duties but does not protect Public Officers found to have violated public trust such as the Respondent.
10. APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF QUIC QUID PLANTATUR SOLO SOLO CEDIT:
This maxim which means ‘whatever is on the land belongs to the land’ or any fixture unto the land becomes part of the land is to the effect that where a person erects structure(s) on a land the title of which he has not acquired or validly acquired, such structure(s) belong(s) to the person who owns valid title to the land. In other words a fixture on land becomes the property of the true owner. It therefore follows that a trespasser cannot recover damages from the owner of the land. See Finnih v. Imade (1992) 1 NWLR (Part 219) p. 511 @ 533 para H.
The case of Administrators of the Estate of Late General Sani Abacha (Deceased) v. Eke Spiff [29] deserves a special mention here. Late General Sani Abacha erected a magnificent edifice at the popular Aba Road, Port Harcourt on the land the title of which belonged to Eke Spiff – a Civil Servant based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. The Supreme Court applying the doctrine of Quic Quid Plantatur Solo Solo Cedit held that the structure belonged to the Respondent – Eke Spiff since he possessed valid title to the land. The Court held further that the title (C of O) of Mr. Eke Spiff (Respondent) was not validly revoked and as such his title to the land was valid and intact.
CONCLUSION
From the case law analysis done above, it is clear that no ready-made measuring instrument exists for the determination of what amounts to “technicality” or “substantial justice”. Every situation is appraised peculiarly and judgment given based on individual merit. But one thing is obvious: that this is the age of substantial justice and not that of technicality. Thus in the supremacy war between technicality and justice, justice has won. The Supreme Court appears to have handed down THE FINAL VERDICT on this issue twelve years ago when it proclaimed: ‘The reign of technical justice is over, on the throne now sits substantial justice’ [30]
Thank you all and God bless you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

END NOTES


  1. Merriam Webster’s School Dictionary – Merriam Webster Incorporated, 2004, Library of Congress, Springfield, Massachusetts, USA, Page 1017.
  2. Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary Institute, Students Edition 2005, Oxford Clev. Pres.
  3. The New International Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language, Deluxe Encyclopedic Edition USA, 2013, Standard Media Holdings Page 693.
  4. Academic’s Legal Dictionary, 2007 Academic (India) Publishers, New Delhi India Page 192;
  5. (2013) 53 (Pt 1) NSCQR 31 @ 68-69.
  6. A.G Rivers State V.A.G. Akwa Ibom State (2011) 196 LRCN 23 @ 57-58
  7. (2014) 1 NWLR (Pt 1389) 607
  8. (2012) 12  (Pt. 1314) P. 357
  9. (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt 1) 125.
  10. (2012) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1310) P. 76
  11. (1982) 3 NCLR.
  12. (1897) AC 22
  13. (2011) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1243) P. 341
  14. Also Reg. Trustees, A.O.N. v. NAMA (2014) 8 NWLR, (Pt. 1408) 1; Emespo J. Continental Ltd. v. Corona Shifchrtsgesellshafi & Co. (2006) 11 NWLR (Pt 991) 365; The Owners M/V Lupex v. Nigerian Overseas Chartering & Shipping Ltd. The Lupex (No 22) Vol. 5 (1993-1995) Nigerian Shipping Cases 371; A.B Manu & Co. (Nig.) Ltd. v. Costain (WA) Ltd. (1994) 8 NWLR (Pt 360) 112 @ 165 Paras A-B.
  15. (2009) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1139) P. 97.
  16. (1986) 2 NWLR (Pt. 21) 165.
  17. (1999) 6 NWLR (Pt. 607) 362 @ 371.
  18. 7 WACA 148.
  19. (1978) 3 S.C 65 @ 74.
  20. (1993) 5 SCNJ 151 @ 168-169.
  21. (2000) 10 NWLR (Pt. 674) 25 @ 39.
  22. (1969) NSCC Vol. 6 382.
  23. Guardian Newspaper Friday November 15, 2019 Vol. 36, No. 14, 932 Pages 4.
  24. (2019) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1659) 203.
  25. (2019) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1660) Page 549 @ 560 Para G.
  26. (1988) 1 NSCC 465 @ 472.
  27. (2018) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1617) Page 13.
  28. (2018) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1623) Page 36.
  29. (2009) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1139) Page 97.
  30. Diapianlong & 5 Ors. v. Chief (Dr) Joshua Dariye (2007) 4 SCNJ 286.

                                  Copyright Reserved
©2019

For knowledge and Justice

 357 total views,  4 views today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Open chat