RIGHT TO FAIR HEARING: Attributes of the principle of fair hearing  


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18/10/2018 10:01 am  

 "I am of the considered view that it will be most profitable to look into the cases to have an insight as to what fair hearing connotes in order to resolve Appellant's issues 1 and 2 above. In the case of DEDUWA V. OKORODUDU (1976) LPELR - 936 (SC) the Supreme Court dwelling on the concept of fair hearing not only made it clear to the effect that "a fair hearing must, of course, be a hearing that does not contravene the principles of natural justice" but that though the principles of natural justice are easy to proclaim, their precise extent is far less easy to define"; and in this regard referred to the case of Abbot v. Sullivan (1952) 1 KB 189, per Evershed M.R.

The Supreme Court in the case under reference however proceeded to resolve the issue of the breach to fair hearing raised in the appeal before it, against the backdrop of two essential elements of natural justice which they were concerned with in the appeal.

The two essential elements are that "(1) no man shall be Judge in his own cause; and (2) both sides shall be heard, or audi alterem partem."

These two elements were distilled upon the premises that the grounds 3 and 4 of the appeal before the Supreme Court appeared to be inextricably interwoven and, also, because the Supreme Court was of the opinion that the issues of 'real likelihood of bias' and 'fair hearing' are interdependent in the circumstances of this case and reliance was also placed on Section 22(1) of the Constitution then applicable. In my considered view, it would appear that the Supreme Court has in recent decisions expended the frontiers of the often stated two elements of fair hearing namely, "(1) no man shall be Judge in his own cause; and (2) both sides shall be heard, or audi alterem partem" in the case of NWOKOCHA V. A-G OF IMO STATE (2016) LPELR - 40077 (SC) wherein Ogunbiyi, JSC; said thus: -

"The use of the phrase concept of fair hearing: involves a fair trial and a fair trial of a case consists of the whole hearing. Therefore there is no difference between the two.xxxxxx The term fair hearing therefore has been defined variously by this Court to mean trial conducted according to all legal rules formulated to ensure that justice is done to all parties to the case. See Ogunsanya v. The State (2011) 12 NWLR (pt. 1261) 401 at 434; also Uguru v. State (2002) 4 SC (P 11) 13 at 19 where U. A. Kalgo, JSC said:- xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Broadly speaking, this Court had extended the interpretation of fair hearing from the perspective of a mere adherence to the twin pillars of justice so as to include anything improperly done during the trial which may cause an unbiased by-stander to feel that justice has not been done. See the case of Amanchukwu v. F.R.N. (2009) 8 NWLR (pt. 1144) 475 at 486 where Tabai, JSC extended the concept and said:

"It encompasses not only the compliance with the rules of natural justice, but also audi alteram partem. It also entails doing in the course of trial, whether civil or criminal, all things which will make an impartial observer leave the Court room with the belief that the trial has been balanced and fair on both sides to the trial." See also the case of ARDO V. INEC (2017) LPELR - 41919 (SC) where the learned jurist reiterated this position in these words: -

"The learned counsel for the appellant made reference copiously to Section 36 of the Constitution 1999 (as amended) and Sub-section (1) states as follows: "36(1) In the determination of his civil rights and obligations including any question or determination by or against any government or authority a person shall be entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time by a Court or other Tribunal established by law and constituted in such manner as to secure its independence and impartiality." The foregoing provision is very succinct and clear on the concept of fair hearing. The Sub-section in my view is open to all parties coming before a Court of law or a Tribunal.

There is no restriction or exclusion of one Party against or in favor of the other. By fair hearing in this context it simply denotes giving an equal opportunity to the parties to be heard. This principle was largely and expounded by this Court in the case of Pam v. Mohammed (2008) 16 NWLR (Pt.1112) 1 at 68 wherein Tobi, JSC had this to say. "Fair hearing, in essence means giving equal opportunity to the parties to be heard in the litigation before the Court. See INEC v. Alhaji Musa (2003) 3 NWLR (pt. 806) P.72. Fair hearing means a trial conducted according to all legal rules formulated to ensure that justice is done to the parties. See Ntukidem v. Oko (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt. 45) 909: Union Bank of Nigeria Limited v. Nwaokolo (1995) 6 NWLR (Pt.400) 127. Fair hearing in relation to a case means the trial of a case or the conduct of the proceedings therein in accordance with the relevant laws, rules of Court and principle of natural justice.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThe community reading and summary of the foregoing authorities lay down the confirmation that fair hearing is that process which is conducted in accordance with the relevant laws or rules."



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