Understanding the relevance and judicial precedents of conflicting judgement in the Nigerian legal system

On the 30th of August, 2021, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (as he then was), His Lordship, Muhammed Tanko summoned six Chief Judges for issuing different and conflicting judgements from their courts. The then Chief Justice of Nigeria, who, by the virtue of that position, serves as the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), was said to have been completely embarrassed by the development. The perceived attempt at judicial rascality was later forwarded to the National Judicial Council (NJC), a statutory body responsible for the promotion and discipline of judicial officers.

In a similar vein, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN โ€“the distinguished lawyer and incumbent Chairman of the Body of Benchersโ€“ had on October 19, 2022, at the valedictory court session held in honour of Justice Mojeed Owoade who retired as Court of Appeal Justice, described as “worrisome” the disturbing trend of conflicting decisions of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. In his words:

There is no gainsaying the fact that nowadays, our appellate courts give conflicting decisions at very regular intervals, thus throwing the profession into confusion. More particularly so, when those conflicting decisions interfere with and derail the agelong doctrine of ‘stare decisis’.

The learned silk conclusively added that the conflicting judgements significantly obstructed lawyers’ ability to effectively predict the position of the law in the delivery of legal opinions for clients.

In the face of this seeming judicial haphazardry, this article attempts to shed light on the relevance, judicial hierarchy and precedence and the position of law on such conflicting judgements, especially if the lower courts were to follow and apply such judgements in subsequent instances.

๐—œ๐—ก๐—ง๐—ฅ๐—ข๐——๐—จ๐—–๐—ง๐—œ๐—ข๐—ก

The doctrine of judicial precedent simply emphasizes the established standard whereby judges of lower courts are to follow and apply the decisions of higher courts on decided cases where the facts are of sufficient similarity to the present case before the court. In ๐™ฒ๐™ป๐™ด๐™ผ๐™ด๐™ฝ๐šƒ ๐šŸ. ๐™ธ๐š†๐š„๐™ฐ๐™ฝ๐šˆ๐™ฐ๐™ฝ๐š†๐š„, the Supreme Court, per Oputa, JSC held:

“๐˜ˆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ซ๐˜ถ๐˜ฅ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ข ๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ง๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฆ๐˜น๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ข๐˜ถ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜บ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ณ ๐˜ฒ๐˜ถ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข๐˜ง๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ธ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฅ๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ณ ๐˜ฒ๐˜ถ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ธ.”

In practice, this means that inferior courts are bound to apply the legal principles set down by superior courts in earlier cases. This provides consistency and substantial predictability on the position of law on certain issues or causes of action. In fact, the doctrine mandates the strict application of the decisions of the higher courts, no matter the purported level of ingenuity and wit professed by the lower courts (See ๐™ด๐™ผ๐™ด๐™ป๐š„๐š†๐™ฐ ๐šŸ. ๐™พ๐™ฝ๐š„๐™ธ๐™ถ๐š†๐™ด (2011) 13 ๐™ฝ๐š†๐™ป๐š ๐™ฟ๐š.1265 ๐™ฒ๐™ฐ). Such is the significance of the doctrine that even the Supreme Court held that lower courts are inexcusably expected to follow the decisions of the higher courts however wrong they are and whatever injustice they may inflict. (See ๐™ฝ๐™ฐ๐šƒ๐™ธ๐™พ๐™ฝ๐™ฐ๐™ป ๐™ด๐™ป๐™ด๐™ฒ๐šƒ๐š๐™ธ๐™ฒ ๐™ฟ๐™พ๐š†๐™ด๐š ๐™ฐ๐š„๐šƒ๐™ท๐™พ๐š๐™ธ๐šƒ๐šˆ ๐šŸ. ๐™พ๐™ฝ๐™ฐ๐™ท (1997) 1 NWLR (Pt. 484) Page 680 at 688 ๐š‚๐™ฒ).

However, what happens when a lower court is faced with two conflicting judgements of a superior court of equal jurisdiction? In practice, which decision will the High Court apply when faced with two conflicting judgements of the Court of Appeal? In a similar vein, which decision will the Court of Appeal adopt and follow when two conflicting decisions of the Supreme Court are presented before it?

๐—Ÿ๐—˜๐—š๐—”๐—Ÿ ๐—ฆ๐—–๐—ฅ๐—จ๐—ง๐—œ๐—ก๐—ฌ

The issue in this regard was put to rest by the Supreme Court in the case of ๐™พ๐š‚๐™ฐ๐™บ๐š„๐™ด ๐šŸ. ๐™ต๐™ด๐™ณ๐™ด๐š๐™ฐ๐™ป ๐™ฒ๐™พ๐™ป๐™ป๐™ด๐™ถ๐™ด ๐™พ๐™ต ๐™ด๐™ณ๐š„๐™ฒ๐™ฐ๐šƒ๐™ธ๐™พ๐™ฝ, where His Lordship, Ogbuagu, JSC held:

…๐˜๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ถ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฑ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ซ๐˜ถ๐˜ฅ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต, ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ญ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ช๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ณ๐˜ค๐˜ถ๐˜ฎ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ.

The Court of Appeal, in its elaborate position in regard to the subject matter, held in ๐™ฒ๐™ฑ๐™ฝ ๐šŸ. ๐š‰๐™ฐ๐™บ๐™ฐ๐š๐™ธ, thus:

๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ธ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ข ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ฏ, ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฉ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด, ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ช๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต, ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ. ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ซ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ซ๐˜ถ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ชe๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜บ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜บ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ท๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ต ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ฉ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜š๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต, ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ญ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ. ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜š๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ฃ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ค๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ต ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜จ๐˜ฏ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜บ ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ฎ๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜บ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ต” (See also ๐™ฒ๐™ฑ๐™ฝ ๐šŸ. ๐™พ๐™บ๐™พ๐™น๐™ธ๐™ด (2015) 14 ๐™ฝ๐š†๐™ป๐š (๐™ฟ๐š.1479) 239 ๐™ฟ.263 ๐š™๐šŠ๐š›๐šŠ ๐™ถ. ๐š‚๐™ฒ)

To put it more succinctly, the Court of Appeal, in the case of ๐™ถ๐™ป๐™ฐ๐š‡๐™พ ๐š‚๐™ผ๐™ธ๐šƒ๐™ท๐™บ๐™ป๐™ธ๐™ฝ๐™ด ๐™ฟ๐™ป๐™ฒ ๐šŸ. ๐™ฐ๐™ป๐™ธ ๐š‰๐™ฐ๐™บ๐™ฐ๐š๐™ธ ๐™น๐™ธ๐šˆ๐™ฐ, further held thus:

…๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ฃ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ธ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ง๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜ต๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜š๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต. ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ถ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜š๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ณ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ญ๐˜ง. ๐˜๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ค๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ง๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ต ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฉ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ณ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ.

Based on the foregoing, can it then be safely held that the previous decision that the latest decision has overruled is completely useless or nugatory? Also, can it be held that the decisions that were made on the basis of the overruled decision are vitiated or automatically nullified? It would not seem so.

In fact, the Court has held that the overruled decisions of the higher courts should not be treated with disdain but with respect. The Court would further posit, in the case of ๐™ฒ๐™ท๐š๐™ธ๐š‚๐šƒ๐™พ๐™ฟ๐™ท๐™ด๐š ๐šŸ. ๐™ผ๐š„๐™พ๐™ฑ๐™ธ๐™บ๐™ด, thus:

๐˜ž๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜š๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜Š๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต, ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜บ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ณ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ง๐˜บ ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ญ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ด ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ด ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ง๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ. ๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ต๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ท๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ต ๐˜ข ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ธ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ง๐˜ฐ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ธ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ง๐˜ง๐˜ฆ๐˜ค๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ถ๐˜ด ๐˜ฒ๐˜ถ๐˜ฐ.

Emphasising the position of law in regard to the consequential part of overruled judgements, the Court held further:

“๐˜›๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ธ ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ข ๐˜ค๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ธ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ง๐˜ช๐˜ค๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ฉ๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ฃ๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ด ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ธ. ๐˜–๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฃ๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ฐ๐˜ง ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ญ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ค๐˜ช๐˜ฑ๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ, ๐˜ช๐˜ต ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ธ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ท๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜จ๐˜ฉ๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด๐˜ต ๐˜ข๐˜ค๐˜ค๐˜ณ๐˜ถ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข ๐˜ด๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ถ๐˜ข๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ธ ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ธ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ๐˜ฎ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ด ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ท๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜บ.” (๐˜š๐˜ถ๐˜ฑ๐˜ณ๐˜ข)

๐—–๐—ข๐—ก๐—–๐—Ÿ๐—จ๐—ฆ๐—œ๐—ข๐—ก

In recognition of the summation of all aforementioned points and expatriation of judicial rulings expressed herein, it can be tenably held and substantially deduced that the position of law is crystal clear that should there be an instance of conflicting judgments of Courts of equal jurisdiction, the decision that is latter in time prevails, hence, such decision would and must be applied by lower courts of record.

In addendum, it is also important to note that the decisions reached on the basis of the overruled judgements are not vitiated or nullified by the later decision that takes precedence over it.

***

Oki Al-Hassan

๐—ข๐—ธ๐—ถ ๐—”๐—น-๐—›๐—ฎ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฟ, popularly known as ๐˜ˆ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฃ๐˜ช๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜น๐˜ต๐˜ณ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ด, is an undergraduate at the Faculty of Law, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko. He can be reached via okihassanvictor@gmail.com

Editor’s note: This op-ed was published with minimal editing to preserve author’s original intent.

๐‘๐„๐…๐„๐‘๐„๐๐‚๐„๐’

Ejekwonyilo, A. (August 30, 2021). Conflicting Court Orders: CJN summons six Chief Judges, NBA laments. Premium Times. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/482106-conflicting-court-orders-cjn-summons-six-chief-judges-nba-laments.html

Vanguard (October 11, 2022). Appellate Courts’ conflicting decisions worrisome, says Olanipekun. Vanguard. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2022/10/appellate-courts-conflicting-decisions-worrisome-says-olanipekun/

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  • Osakue v. Federal College of Education (Technical) Asaba 2010 5 SCM 185
  • Glaxo Smithkline Plc v. Ali Zakari Jiya (2014) LPELR-22902(CA)
  • CBN V. ZAKARI (2018) LPELR-44751(CA)
  • Christopher Ogidi & Ors v Muobike Okoli & Ors (E 201 of 2008) [2014] CA

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