The Kano State Gubernatorial Election Tribunal is currently making headlines in Nigeria, particularly in the North, as controversies escalate. Opinions vary, with some supporting the red carpet, while others stand with the authoritative family.
A cloud of doubt looms over the matter, becoming a focal point of intense scrutiny and debate, dominating headlines and conversations nationwide, as uproarious supporters on both sides clash.
The Certified True Copy of the judgment serves as the stream of contention, with many viewing the alleged inconsistencies on pages 67 and 68 as a mortal mistake—a blunder etched in the annals of time.
So, the burning question here is: “Can a clerical mistake be corrected on matters before the Court of Appeal?” In answering this lingering controversial issue, the principle of the “slip rule” must be considered in force. Thus, this article is an attempt to educate the general public on the highlighted issues.
- Conceptual Clarification
The Supreme Court, in the case of Emeka Nwana v. Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) (2007) LPELR-2101 (SC), delivered by Justice Christopher Mitchell Chukwuma-Eneh, defined the term under the “Slip Rule” as an accidental slip or omission, a clerical mistake in a judgment or order, capable of being amended even without notice to the other party. See: Thynne v. Thynne (1955) P. 272.
Additionally, in the Supreme Court case of Gano vs. State 1968 LPELR 25436 SC, the court held that Section 26(3) of the Supreme Court Act grants the Court a wide range of powers to correct clerical mistakes in judgment, as established in the case of Nwana vs. FCDA (2007) LPELR-2101 (SC) and Asiyanbi & ORS vs. Adedeji (1996) NMLR 106.
- Can a Clerical Mistake be Corrected on Matters Before the Court of Appeal?
In the case of KH Management & Integrated Services Ltd. vs. J. Moyero General Enterprises & Ors 2017 LPELR 42355 CA, the Court of Appeal held that Order 28 rule 7 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) of Kwara State provides that a judge may at any time correct clerical mistakes in judgement or orders or errors arising therein from any accidental slip or omission upon appeal without an appeal being filed. See also First Bank v. T. S. A. Industries (Nig) Ltd. (2018) LPELR-43563(CA).
Also, it has been observed that “a Court is imbued with power to correct error under a principle called the slip Rule.” See Enterprises Bank Limited v. Deaconess Florence Bose Aroso & ors (2011) LPELR-24720 (SC).
Meanwhile, it is natural that human beings commit errors, including judges because they are not angels but men. This undeniable truth extends even to judges, necessitating the rule known as the ‘slip rule’ to be established in order to address these unavoidable human errors.
The Court of Appeal has addressed with a resounding voice, the confusion surrounding the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the judgment on the Kano Governorship election.
The appellate court affirmed the decision of the tribunal that sacked Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), and that judgment still remains valid.
- The Stream of Contention
In the lead judgment delivered by Justice Moore Aseimo Abraham Adumein, the judge held in one of the concluding paragraphs on Page 68 that
“I will conclude by stating that the live issues in this appeal are hereby resolved in favour of the 1st respondent and against the appellant.”
The appellant in the appeal is Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf, while the 1st respondent is the All Progressives Congress (APC) with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the NNPP as 2nd and 3rd respondents respectively.
The judge went further to hold that:
“In the circumstances, I resolve all the issues in favour of the appellant and against the 1st respondent.”
This particular page of the CTC of judgment ignited controversial arguments, inflaming a firestorm of debate and opinions. The controversy stemmed from the stark contrast between the judge’s assertion on page 68 and the subsequent ruling in favour of Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna.
This apparent contradiction fuelled heated discussions and raised questions about the consistency and impartiality of the judicial process.
The judge’s declaration on page 68, stating that “I will conclude by stating that the live issues in this appeal are hereby resolved in favour of the 1st respondent and against the appellant,” seemed to suggest a victory for Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) against the subsequent ruling in favour of Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In response to the controversy surrounding a clerical error in a recent judgment, the Chief Registrar of the Appeal Court, Umar Mohammed Bangari, affirmed that the error did not alter the unanimous decision of the three-member panel of justices.
The Chief Registrar emphasized that the error would be promptly corrected upon receiving a formal application from the parties involved. He cited Order 23 Rule 4 of the Court of Appeal Rules, which grants the court the authority to rectify any clerical mistakes that come to light. He further reiterated that despite the error, the judgment remains valid and enforceable.
The Counsel to Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf of New Nigeria People’s Party filed a fresh notice of appeal with the Supreme Court, seeking to uphold the favourable aspects of the judgment on pages 67 and 68 of the Certified True Copy.
- The Application of Slip Rule
As extensively discussed earlier, the Court of Appeal bears the weighty responsibility of ensuring the integrity of any legal process before it, possessing the discretion to rectify clerical mistakes and errors that may arise during or after proceedings.
This authority can be based on self-initiated corrections or rectifications initiated through formal applications filed by parties involved in the proceeding.
This is to help the Court of Appeal to act effectively in addressing errors to uphold the principles of fairness and justice, thereby providing a good environment for the administration of justice in Nigeria.
Despite the clerical error yet to be resolved, the matter has reached a critical juncture. The eyes of the legal community and the public now turn to the Supreme Court, the final arbiter in this case, the apex authority in the realm of justice.
The Supreme Court’s decision will not only determine the validity of the Court of Appeal’s judgment but will also shape the general public understanding of clerical errors in future legal proceedings.
The next destination serves as the final bus stop, just as a weary traveller eagerly anticipates his final destination, the legal system yearns for the Supreme Court’s verdict, the definitive end to protracted disputes, the last resort.
Once the gavel has been banged and the judgment has been delivered, there is no further recourse, a plea to the Divine tribunal where objections cease to exist.
As rightly quoted by Justice Chukwudifu Oputa in the case of Adegoke Motors Ltd V. Dr. Babatunde Adesanya & Anr (1989),
“We are final not because we are infallible; rather, we are infallible because we are final.”
Thus, the statement emphasizes on the gravity of the decisions of the Supreme Court, the finality of their judgements carries an inherent authority, acknowledging the inevitability of human error but affirming the conclusive nature of their determinations.
About the Author
Salisu Abdulazeez Lawal is a 200 level law student at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He is an ardent reader, passionate about research and writing. Salisu can be reached via email at: [email protected]