CASE CITATION: ERASTUS B. O. AKINGBOLA v. THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2018) 5-6 S.C. (Pt. I) 116
DATE OF JUDGMENT: FRIDAY, THE 18TH DAY OF MAY, 2018
COURT: SUPREME COURT
SUIT: SC. 306/2015
1. IBRAHIM T. MUHAMMAD (Presided)
2. OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA
3. KUMAI BAYANG AKAAHS
4. PAULADAMU GALINJE
5. SIDI DAUDA BAGE (Delivered the Leading Judgment)
ISSUE(S): Wrongly headed appeal – whether vitiates appeal whose parties are not in doubt
Issue three represents a typical case of unintended error of the court which is neither meant nor targeted at inflicting hardship or injustice on any of the parties to the appeal save for courting technicalities to defeat the ends of justice. In Oyeyemi & Ors. v. Owoeye & Anor. (2017) 2-3 S.C. (Pt. IV) 117, I have had cause to state the position of law and attitude of this court to justice and the need to avoid technical justice in whatever coloration it might be presented. For the avoidance of doubt, I wish to restate that:-
“Our duty as an apex court is to do substantial, justice-stark justice, based on fairness which to all intent and purposes, seeks to not only ensure fairness in dispensing justice, but which is manifestly seen and duly acknowledged by all and sundry as justice both in content and context. We are not judicial technicians in the workshop of technical Justice. The jurisprudence or logic of our reasoning is and as humanly possible, would be devoid of technicalities.”
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 narrow technical approach to doing substantial justice irrespective of obstacles and hindrances. See for example the case of Makeri Smelting Co. Ltd. v.Access Bank (Nig.) Plc (2002) 7 NWLR (Pt.766) 411 at 476-417. This case, like the Oyeyemi’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 merit. Even in cases where errors of omission or commission called blunders have been made, 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 merits. See alsoAjakaiye v. Idehia (1991) 8 NWLR (Pt.364) 504, Artra Ind. Ltd. v. NBC (1997) 1 NWLR (Pt. 483) 574; Dakat v. Dashe (1997) 12 NWLR (Pt.531) 46, Benson v. Nigeria Agip Co. Ltd. (1982) 5 S.C.1 (1982) 5 S.C. (Reprint) 1.
As rightly held by this court in Regd. Trustee,A.O.N. v. N.A.M.A (supra), per Okoro, JSC., where the parties to an appeal are not in doubt but the appeal is wrongly headed, it cannot affect the competency of the case. I also wish to amplify this position by quoting from the decision of this court in the suit, per Peter-Odili, JSC., thus:
“It is now settled law that an appeal is a continuation of the case from the court of trial to and the appeal does not stand alone as an independent process without the linkage to the proceedings in the court of first instance. It is therefore with that fact that the wrong heading of a party at the appeal stage as happened in this instance in the court below would not have the effect of rendering the appeal incompetent or described as an appeal against a person, as that against a party unknown to law which would have the effect of a fatality……”
Clearly, no injury is intended or inflicted on the parties by the inadvertence of stating the name of Respondent as EFCC at the lower court as against the Federal Republic of Nigeria. At every stage of the matter, from the trial court up to this stage of the appeal here at the Supreme Court the facts, issues, parties and records have been consistent as to the intended parties. It is my considered position on issue three, that no one is left in doubt that this appeal arose from the case of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Erastus B.O. Akingbola. Therefore, I also resolve issue three in favour of the Respondent.