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PLEA BEFORE TRIAL COMMENCES

Dictum

The trial does not commence until the plea is taken.

– Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C. Independent National Electoral Commission & Anor v. Ejike Oguebego & Ors (2017)

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A RETRIAL WILL NOT BE MADE WHERE THE PLAINTIFF FAILS TO PROVE HIS CASE

There are two options open to this court. 1. to remit the case to the trial court to be heard de novo by another judge, or 2. for this court to put itself in the shoes of the trial court and do what that court ought to have done after hearing arguments on the admissibility of both letters. It would be wrong to make an order of retrial if such an order would give the party that lost an opportunity a second time to prove what he failed to prove. A retrial should not be made where the plaintiff fails to prove his case and there is no substantial irregularity apparent on the record. See Thompson v. Arowolo (2003) 7 NWLR Pt.818 P.163 Solomon v. Magaji (1982) 11 SC. P.1. Wassah & Ors. v. Kara & Ors. (2014) – SC.309/2001

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A TRIAL BY A COURT IS THE ONLY PERMITTED WAY TO PROVE GUILT – EXCLUSIVE TO THE COURT

ACTION CONGRESS v INEC (2007) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1048) 220 at 259 – 260, as follows: “The disqualification in Section 137(1) clearly involves a deprivation of right and a presumption of guilt for embezzlement or fraud in derogation of the safeguards in Section 36(1) and (5) of the Constitution. The trial and conviction by a Court is the only constitutionally permitted way to prove guilt and therefore the only ground for the imposition of criminal punishment or penalty for the criminal offences of embezzlement or fraud. Clearly, imposition of the penalty of disqualification for embezzlement or fraud solely on the basis of an indictment for those offences by an Administrative Panel of Enquiry implies a presumption of guilt, contrary to Section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, 1999, whereas, conviction for offences and imposition of penalties and punishments are matters appertaining exclusively to judicial power.” See also on this: AMAECHI v INEC & ORS (2008) LPELR-446(SC) at pages 49-51, paras. E F; OMOWAIYE v A.G. OF EKITI STATE & ANOR (2010) LPELR-4779(CA) at pages 28 – 28, paras. A F, per Nweze, JCA (as he then was); and ABDULKARIM & ORS v SHINKAFI & ORS (2008) LPELR 3555(CA) at pages 24 32, paras. A C.

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WHERE ABSENT PANELIST RELIES ON REPORT OF OTHER COLLEAGUES

In Nwalutu v. NBA & Anor (2019) 8 NWLR Pt.1673 Pg.174 at Pg.195. wherein his Lordship stated thus: “It appears to me, and I so hold, that when an absent panelist relies on the colleague present when a witness (es) testified to render an opinion that such opinion is premised on hearsay evidence and it is perverse. A Decision in the circumstance is nothing but travesty of justice. In such circumstance also, it cannot be said that the person tried by the LPDC had received fair trial. Fair hearing, as this Court has consistently held, involves a fair trial and a fair trial of a case consists of the whole hearing. There is no difference between the two.”

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ALL MEMBERS OF PANEL MUST PARTICIPATE IN TRIAL

The LPDC is not an appellate body but an adjudicator of first instance, all the members who delivered the Directions must have participated in the full trial after utilizing the opportunity of seeing the demeanor of witnesses, etc.

– Ogunwumiju JSC. Gbenoba v. LPDC (2021)

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STATUTE SETTING TRIAL TIME LIMIT IS VOID

Bello, JSC, (later CJN, now of blessed memory) in the case of Unongo v. Aku and Ors. (1983) 14 NSCC 563 at 577-578 thus – “One of the powers which has always been recognised as inherent in courts has been the right to control their internal proceedings and to so conduct the same that the rights of all suitors before them may be safeguarded in such a manner that all parties are given ample opportunity to prosecute or defend the cases for or against them without let or hinderance. The old adage that delay of justice is denial of justice has the same force as the maxim that hasty or hurried justice is also a denial of justice. On this account any statute which prescribes time limit within which a trial court must try and determine cases or within which an appeal court must hear and determine appeals is inconsistent with the provisions of Sections 4(8) and 6(9)(b) of the Constitution and is therefore void by virtue of Section 1(3) of the Constitution.”

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HE IS NOT ON TRIAL FOR THAT

The Appellant himself testified that he was a narcotics dealer, but he is not on trial for that. – Ogunwumiju JCA. Okeke v. State (2016)

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