Do judges make laws? What is the stare decisis and what is judicial precedent? How do the concepts operate in the judicial system? These are important jurisprudential and legal questions that always deserve consideration. Studying the judgements of courts will provide answers to these and other important questions. Some legal philosophers like HLA Hart opine that judges make laws. Ronald Dworkin said that certain cases: … must be decided by some official, like a judge, ‘exercising his discretion,’ which means reaching beyond the law for some other sort of standard to guide him in manufacturing a fresh legal rule or supplementing an old one. It was Lord Denning M.R who stated in Gouriet vs. Union of Post Office Workers (1982) AC 435 that: Whenever a new situation arises which has not been considered before, the judges have to say what the law is. In doing so, we do not change the law, we declare it. We consider it on principle and then pronounce upon it. As the old writers quaintly put it, the law is in the breast of judges.
The Nigerian legal system is modeled after the British common law regime that thrives on judicial precedents. Judgements of the Court are the flesh and blood that give life to the skeletal bones of the statutes and laws that govern the lives and activities of the nation. Therefore, judges may not sit within the walls of Parliament to pass bills by two-thirds majority into law but in the hallowed chambers of the temple of justice, they ‘make’ laws that influence jurisprudence and the course of history. Other thinkers posit that judges do not make laws but merely declare them.
Whatever the opinion any interested observer has, there is a consensus that judges make important contributions to the development of the law and legal system. They do this through their judgements, which drip with wisdom, knowledge and experience and commendable ability to consider all relevant issues. This is a compendium of some judgements that have made significant contributions to jurisprudence. Topics covered in the judgement include election petition, landlords and tenants, recovery of judgements are drawn from decisions of various courts of records in Nigeria, including the Federal and State High Courts, National Industrial Court, Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the ECOWAS Court.
While we provided annotations to ease reading and understanding, we restrain ourselves from saying much in this publication as our preference has been to bring the judgements to the reader in the exact words used by their Lordships. In the judgments, their Lordship laid down important principles of law, which will facilitate easy resolution of disputes on similar issues which are presented before the Courts in future.
In this compilation of fourteen (14) cases decided at supreme courts of record in Nigeria, and the ECOWAS Court of Human Rights, we have attempted to present a robust vision of aspects of the law ranging from commercial law and the murky waters of merger transactions, to that ever-controversial election petitions. Furthermore, we have captured in this compilation cases touching among others on fundamental human rights, decided at the ECOWAS Court, detention of ships in Nigerian maritime law and the case on the suspension of the erstwhile Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
We hope that this work sits proudly on the library shelf of every jurist and lawyer and fuels the passion to see the law does not remain static, but lives and moves to adapt to the needs and expectations of society and in the end, lead to promotion of justice everywhere. We therefore give to you, these Brief Insights. Happy reading!
November 5, 2018
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