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Legal Snippets (1): Fair Hearing as the Pillar of Administration of Justice is not a Cut-and-Dry Principle

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By Prince A.S. Abimbola

(1) Fair hearing is the pillar of the administration of justice and same is enshrined in the Nigerian constitution (see section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999) and the determination of rights and liabilities that are inconsistent with the principles of fair hearing as provided in the constitution subject to its limitations will be void to the extent of their inconsistencies.

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(2) Fair hearing is espoused in the twin maxims of natural justice, audi alterem partem and nemo judex in causa sua meaning “hear the other side” and “no one shall be a judge in his own cause” respectively. Fair hearing is synonymous but not co-terminus with natural justice. ORI-OGE V A.G. ONDO STATE (1982) 3 NCLR 349.

(3) However, fair hearing is not a cut-and–dry principle which parties in the abstract always apply to their comfort and convenience. It is a principle which is based and must be based on the facts of the case before the court. Only the facts of the case can influence and determine the application or applicability of the principle.

(4) The duty of the court, trial and appellate, is to the create the atmosphere and environment for the fair hearing of a case but it is not the duty of the court to make sure that the party takes advantage of the atmosphere or environment by involving himself in the fair hearing of the case. A party who refuses to take advantage of the fair hearing process created by the court cannot turn around to accuse the court of denying him fair hearing. INAKOJU V ADELEKE [2007] 4 N.W.L.R. PT. 1025 at PG.474-475.

Prince A.S. Abimbola

Chairman NBA, Epe Branch

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