The Principle Of Fair Hearing -By Abdulrauf Naheem

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It is a constitutional provision that every citizen shall be entitled to fair hearing irrespective of their age, ethnic, class, sex, background or religion. Sec. 36(1) of the 1999 CFRN (2011 as amended) provided thus:

 

 

“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.”

According to his lordship, Justice Bage (JSC) in EZE V FRN (2018) ALL FWLR, PT. 923, P137, defined fair hearing to means “a trial conducted according to all legal rules formulated to ensure that Justice is done to the parties in the case.”

The principle of fair hearing is so fundamental in the adjudication and administration of Justice that its breach is an act of injustice. If it is breached, the whole proceeding will be null. His lordship, Peter Odili (JSC) in EZE V FRN (Supra) says “The principle of fair hearing in the process of adjudication and administration of Justice is fundamental and so entrenched in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the common law. The concept is all the more preeminent that once it is established that there is a breach thereof the entire proceedings, no matter how well conducted, comes to naught.”

The principle of fair hearing as it is entrenched in the 1999 CFRN entails the following:

(1)  A speedy hearing within a reasonable time.

(2)  A court or tribunal established by law.

(3)  An independent court or tribunal.

(4)  An impartial court or tribunal.

(5)  The fair hearing of the parties to the suit.

(6)  The duty of the judge not to be a judge in his own case unless in the exceptions provided by law.

(7) In criminal matters, a presumption of innocence until the person is proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

(8) Prompt information in the language he understands, the nature and details of his offence.

(9) Provision of adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence.

(10)  Opportunity to defend himself in person or by a legal practitioner of his choice.

The principle of fair hearing is based on two rules of natural Justice; Nemo Judex In Causa Sua (No one should be a judge in his own case) and Audi Alterem Partem (A party should not be condemned unheard). However, his lordship, Justice SANUSI in DARMA V ECO BANK NIG. LTD (2017) ALL FWLR PT. 887, says thus: “By the provisions of section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, the criteria for fair hearing are as follows:

(a) That the court shall hear both sides to a case and also must consider the case of both parties too;

(b) That the court must also hear all material issues before reaching its decision which may be prejudicial to any party in the case;

(c) The court must give equal treatment and opportunity to all the parties;

(d) That the proceeding shall be held in public and all concerned shall have access and be informed of such place of public hearing;

(e) In every material decision of the case, Justice must be seen to have been manifestly done and not merely done.”

The principle of fair hearing is so fundamental to the concept of Justice that it cannot be ousted or displace by any legislation. In the word of KARIBI- WHYTE (JSC, as he then was) in LPDC V FAWEHINMI (1985) 2 NWLR pt. 7, p. 300 at 370 SC., his lordship said:

“In the circumstances of this country, fair hearing is an entrenched provision of the Constitution which cannot be displaced by legislation however unambiguously worded.”

However, it is pertinent to note that an individual may decide to waive this right by himself. The Supreme Court per MUHAMMAD (JSC) in EZE V FRN (Supra) says:

“Right to fair hearing can be waived. Thus, where a court has given every opportunity to a party to be heard that party decides not to utilize it, he will be deemed to have waived his right, hence he cannot be heard to complain that his right to fair hearing was breached…”

The right to fair hearing is a fundamental right which must be enjoyed by all citizens in any circumstances. This right is so sacred that it cannot be ousted by any legislation, unless an individual decide to waive it.


Call Bridget Edokwe Esq on 08060798767 or send your email to ngbarrister@gmail.com


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