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KAYODE ESO, JSC
ANTHONY NNAEMEZIE ANIAGOLU, JSC
BOONYAMIN OLADIRAN KAZEEM, JSC
CHUKWUDIFU AKUNNE OPUTA, JSC
ABDUL GANIYU OLATUNJI AGBAJE, JSC
SALIHU MODIBBO ALFA BELGORE, JSC
Chief F.R.A. Williams – for the Appellant
Mr. Akinyemi – for the Respondent
[Sam Eleanya, Agboola Omolola Oluwafolakemi, Eleanya Kalu Vincent, Eleanya Ugochi Vine]
Administration of Justice- Interest of justice – Court has the right to ask questions directly from parties, that would assist it in resolving an issue in Interest of justice – To charge a court with bias is a very serious matter and to ask for its assurance is more serious
ESO, J.S.C. Delivering the Lead Judgment
This application of Chief Williams, SAN., is that this panel of the Supreme Court, as at present constituted, should not hear this appeal on the grounds that the panel has already taken its stand against the Appellant as a result of an order which the Court made yesterday. The order is as follows:-
(i) that the hearing of this appeal be accelerated;
(ii) that this appeal be adjourned till today for hearing; and;
(iii) that the parties including the present Registrar of the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria shall be personally present at the hearing of the appeal today.
The complaint is based on the third of the three items (supra).
This Order, Chief Williams submitted, is indicative of the Court having taken a stand already, on the appeal before the Court, and as I have earlier said, the stand is against the interest of his client – the Appellant in this case. Counsel
referred to his Brief – item (ii) – which reads –
“Whether the Court of Appeal was correct in holding that a trial court has the power, suo motu, in a case of this nature, to command the personal appearance of the deponent to an affidavit or to direct him to produce a record or document when –
(a) Other parties have agreed that there are no conflicts to resolve in the affidavit evidence before the court.
(b) There is no application by either party to cross examine the deponent to any of the affidavits, and
(c) The hearing of the relevant application had commenced.”
Indeed, what the complaint of learned counsel amounts to, is charge of bias against this Court, in an appeal, pending before it, as a result of its Order aforesaid, even though the Brief of learned counsel deals with commanding the
appearance of a deponent and not that of a party.
Let me give a background to the order which has led to this application by learned counsel and in respect of which, counsel is now charging this Court with bias:
When yesterday, the appeal was called, and an application was made for an accelerated hearing, by Mr. Akinyemi, learned counsel for the Respondent, the learned counsel representing the Appellant. Mr. F.R.A. Williams, Jnr. had no
objection to the application. This Court, before making the order sought, then observed, suo motu, that there is, on the record before it, a Court order which had been made by a Court of competent jurisdiction, that is, the Lagos High
Court, since 15lh January 1982, and which order was not appealed against, whereby the Architects Registration Council, by any of its members, officers or servants performing the duties in section 5 of the Architects (Registration
etc.) Act 1969, No. 10 was ordered, upon being served with the Order, to register the Respondent, Prof. Fassasi, in that part of the Register of Architects, which contains the names of fully registered persons as architects and which
would entitle the Respondent to practice as a principal architect, under the Act.
The present appellant is at all material times the Acting Registrar of the Council.
This Court, after raising the issue, was informed that the order aforesaid has still not been carried out. The Court wanted to know why an order by the Court parties including the Registrar (or Acting Registrar) of the Council.
Now, Chief Williams has complained that this order, by this Court, amounts to going above his head, as counsel, to his client, and in his years of practice (this is, no doubt, considerable), he has not been faced with such circumstance.
I think this Court has every right to ask question that would lead it to resolve an issue in the interest of justice. It is in fact the duty of this Court to see that justice is done and not inhibited by any paraphernalia of technicalities.
I am not aware of a single instance in the whole history of the Supreme Court, when the Court has been requested to give an assurance of impartiality. I do hope that that day will never dawn when this Court will be inhibited from asking any question which it considers necessary in pursuance of the interest of justice, nor when it would hesitate to make an order which it considers desirable in pursuance thereof, on the fear that learned counsel might interpret that
order as a bias!
To charge a Court with bias is a very serious thing indeed. To ask for Court’s assurance is more serious still!
Chief Williams has informed us that he does not represent the Council in question, and I wonder how an order by this Court, for any office of that Council, which he does not represent, to be present in the Court for the purpose of
investigation what looks like a total contempt of the Court, by default of the Architect Council to carry out an order of the Court, could remotely amount to bias against Chief Williams’ client, O.C. Majoroh, whose case in the appeal
before us is whether the procedure had been followed as to whether he should go to prison or not?
Chief Williams requested us to hear an explanation, which we would have got to our enquiry of yesterday from his junior counsel, Mr. Ogundipe, who was not in court yesterday. He has also told us that counsel, F.R.A. Williams Jnr.
Whom he sent to represent him yesterday, is not as conversant with the case as is Mr. Ogundipe or learned Senior Advocate himself. How would an explanation made today have helped us in an order which we made yesterday on the facts which were presented to us yesterday? Is the Court to bear the fault of Mr. Ogundipe not being in the Court yesterday if his explanation would have helped us had he been present! Are we to be responsible for Mr.
The Maxim is De fide Et officio non recipitur quaestio, sed de scientia sive error juris sive facti The honesty and integrity of a judge cannot be questioned, but his decision may be impugned for error, either of law or of fact (Bacon Max rep. 17).
There is no doubt (nor there has even been any) about the open-mindedness of this Court and there is no need for such assurance to learned counsel.
Consequently, the application for this panel to disqualify itself from hearing this appeal on the ground of bias hereby refused.
ANIAGOLU, J.S.C. I am in entire agreement ground of bias is hereby refused with the Ruling just read by my learned brother, Kayode Eso, J.S.C.
KAZEEM, J.S.C.: I agree with the Ruling just read by the Presiding Justice. Further hearing adjourned till 2nd June, 1987 at 11.30 a.m
OPUTA, J.S.C.: I agree with the ruling just read by my learned brother Eso J.S.C. I too will dismiss the application.
BELGORE, J.S.C.: Lead ruling read by Eso, J.S.C. I agree with the ruling.