Can a Judge Deliver a Judgment Written and Signed by a Retired Judge?

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CASE TITLE: SULEJA & ORS v. JIBRIN (2022) LPELR-58153(CA)

JUDGMENT DATE: 8TH JULY, 2022

PRACTICE AREA: PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE (JUDGMENT AND ORDER)

LEAD JUDGMENT: BIOBELE ABRAHAM GEORGEWILL, J.C.A.

SUMMARY OF JUDGMENT:

INTRODUCTION:

This appeal borders on the delivery of the judgment of a retired judge.

FACTS:

This is an appeal against the judgment of the High Court of Niger State, written by Ahmed A. Bima J.(rtd.) on 14/6/2019, but delivered by Ishaku Usman J.

The case of the Respondent, as Claimant before the trial Court, was that he is the owner of the disputed land situate in Niger State and that the land was given to his late uncle, one Mallam Abdullahi Kuspa, Zaria, as a gift by the then Emir of Suleja, Late Alhaji Ibrahim Dodo Musa. However, the Respondent and his uncle were the first to deforest the land in dispute and put it into cultivation, and after the death of his uncle he continued to farm on the said land and he has since been in undisturbed and unencumbered possession thereof until in 2011 when the 1st-3rd Appellants sold part of the land to the 4th Appellant.

In 2013, the 3rd Appellant sold more portions of the said land to the 4th Appellant, who proceeded to build a Church thereon despite the protestations by the Respondent. However, upon intervention by one Mallam Adamu Tanimu, the Dagaci to whom the Respondent reported the matter, the 4th Appellant on realizing that the land belongs to the Respondent, offered him N200,000.00, in the house of one Abubakar Hassan Leda, as settlement for the land, but the Respondent rejected the offer. The Respondent had customary tenants on the said land who used to pay tributes of farm produce to him, including. Danjuma Jega. Musa Akoshi Koro. Mr. Amadi and Tunde Dauda.

The trial commenced after the parties filed and exchanged pleadings. On 22/3/2019. the matter was adjourned by Ahmed A. Bima CJ. the trial Chief Judge, to 15 5/2019, for judgment, but the judgment was not delivered until when the trial Chief Judge retired as Judicial Officer on 14/6/2019. However, on 18/7/2019, a serving Judge of the trial Court. Ishaku Usman J, proceeded to deliver the judgment written and signed by the trial Chief Judge who had since retired from Judicial Services on 14/6/2019. The trial Court in the said judgment granted the claims of the Respondent against the Appellants.

Dissatisfied, the Appellant appealed.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION:

The appeal was determined upon consideration of a lone issue viz:

“Whether Hon. Justice Ishaku Usman can lawfully deliver or read a judgment written by Hon. Justice Ahmed A. Bima after he has retired as a Judge of the High Court of Niger State and ceased to be a Judicial Officer?”

DECISION/HELD:

The appeal succeeded. The matter was remitted back to the trial Court for a trial de novo.

RATIOS:

  • JUDGMENT AND ORDER – DELIVERY OF JUDGMENT: Whether a Judge has the power to deliver a Judgment written and signed by a retired Judge
  • APPEAL – NOTICE(S) OF APPEAL: Position of the law as regards unilateral alteration/change of name(s) parties when filing a notice of appeal
  • PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – SERVICE OF COURT PROCESS(ES): Importance of service of Court process (es) and effect of non-service/or improper service
  • CASE LAW – JUDICIAL PRECEDENT/STARE DECISIS: Whether a case is solely an authority for what it decides
  • EVIDENCE – DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE: Effect of a signature on a document

SOURCE: LAW PAVILLION

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