The right to a fair hearing is a fundamental principle of justice in Nigeria. Accordingly, a court decision made in breach of the right to a fair hearing might be set aside by an appellate court.
Importance of the right to a fair hearing in Nigeria
The right to a fair hearing requires that all parties be allowed to hear any allegations against them in a case and be allowed to respond to such allegations. In some cases, a delay might also constitute a breach of the right to a fair hearing because the principle of fair hearing in Nigeria requires that parties be heard within a reasonable time.
Constitutional law and Nigerian cases on the right to a fair hearing
The right to a fair hearing is enshrined in section 36 of the Constitution (as amended), and it is one of the most common grounds of appeal in litigation in Nigeria. Section 36 (1) of the Constitution (as amended) provides that: ‘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’
In the case of Obomhense v Erhahon (1993) 7 NWLR (pt. 303) 22, the Court of Appeal had declined to rule on an oral application for adjournment and proceeded to dismiss the appeal. The Supreme Court held that such conduct of the Court of Appeal ‘amounted to a breach of fair hearing of the Appellant’ and set aside the judgment.
In the case of Daewoo (Nig) Ltd v Alamina & Anor (2022) LPELR-56588(SC), the Supreme Court held that the right to a fair hearing has always been recognized and protected to formidably protect all parties to a case.
Other notable Nigerian Supreme Court cases on the right to a fair hearing
- Eke v Ogbonda (2006) LPELR-1075 (SC)
- Onyekwuluje v Animashaun (1996) 3 NWLR (pt. 439) 637 @ 644