By Paul Elebute | Osun, Nigeria. Imposition of Obligations Courts generally do impose obligations but tribunals may not. The earli...

The Application of Nemo Judex in Causa Sua Rule in Administrative Adjudication in Nigeria (2)

By Paul Elebute | Osun, Nigeria.

Imposition of Obligations
Courts generally do impose obligations but tribunals may not. The earlier cited S.6 (6)(a)(b) of the 1999 Constitution empowers the courts to determine and make pronouncements on any dispute between persons and authority. S 46(2) appears to be more explicit about this;

(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a High Court shall have original jurisdiction to hear and determine any application made to it in pursuance of this section and may make such orders, issue such writs and give such directions as it may consider appropriate for the purpose of enforcement or securing the enforcing within that State of any right to which the person who makes the application may be entitled under this Chapter.

By virtue of SS. 6(6)(b) and 46(2) of the Constitution the courts possess overwhelming powers to give binding orders. This position has been judicially flavoured in Mil. Gov Lagos & ors v Ojukwu.  On the other hand, tribunals, such like Industrial Arbitration Panel, National Industrial Panel, Rent Tribunals, and professional tribunals do impose obligations but those under the Chiefs Law, Trade Disputes Act merely make recommendations which may or may not be accepted by the appropriate authority.

Finality of Decisions
Court decisions are final and conclusive. They do remain in force and they are not subject to any executive or legislative ratification. They could solely be upturned by a court of appellate jurisdiction. But Professor Adediran has well noted that for tribunals this is often not so because such orders can be rendered nugatory by simply setting up persons to look into the legal and judicial correctness of the decisions.

Rules of Evidence
Rules of evidence are the vehicles upon which most court proceedings are conducted. Tribunals do not operate with rules of evidence but are mandated on the strength of the ethos of natural justice and equity to act in a fair manner to all parties concerned. Prof M Adediran clarifies that seeing most tribunals are presided over by legally trained persons and handled by legal practitioners, the procedure is not any different from what applies to what goes on in the court. Notwithstanding, this poition can be subject to logical criticism on the basis of the fact that some tribunals have their matters conducted by non-legal practitioners i.e. laymen, hence the strict rules of evidence could not be held relevant for such adjudicatory platform.

Superiority of Courts
Courts are regarded as superior courts of record while tribunals are referred to as the inferior. S. 6(3) of the 1999 Constitution provides strongly thus;

(3) The courts to which this section relates, established by this Constitution for the Federation and for the States, specified in subsection (5) (a) to (i) of this section, shall be the only superior courts of record in Nigeria; and save as otherwise prescribed by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly of a State, each court shall have all the powers of a superior court of record.

Apart from the judicial tribunals, where appeal lie to the Special Appeal Tribunal, the Armed Forces Ruling Council, all other tribunals, whatever name called, are regarded as inferior and where a party is not content with their decisions, he may appeal to a High Court with original jurisdiction.

Designated Venue of Setting
Courts sit normally at designated venues given by instruments or directions of the Chief Judge as designated as such. Tribunals employ diverse locations on the basis of convenience and their decisions would not be vitiated for failure to sit in a particular locale.

Other characteristics of tribunals could only be more comprehended when compared with inquiries as has been with courts. Courts and inquiries, notably, are dissimilar.

Hierarchy of Jurisdiction
All courts of law are either of a coordinate or lower jurisdiction. Many times, it is not so with tribunals as they exercise separate as different from coordinate jurisdictions. For instance, in commonwealth nations we have the High Courts having and performing coordinate jurisdictions. The Courts of appellate jurisdictions are as well there to brood upon whatever decisions reached by these lower courts. This is not always the situation with tribunals as they are either seen with professional associations like the LPDC, statutorily-formed like the Rent Tribunals and administrative as in the power of Governors, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) having power to make judicial or quasi-judicial decisions in resolving issues. Notably however, many tribunals are yet subject to administrative judicial control. This has been given judicial blessing in some cases. According to Awogu J.C.A. in National Electoral Commission (N.E.C) v Nzeribe:
“A tribunal, no matter how highly clothed with power is still a tribunal and so an inferior Court and subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of a superior Court of record, such as the High Court of Lagos.”

Genesis of Dispute Resolution Exercises and Operations
According to Prof. Wade, “Tribunals are of a 20th Century phenomenon…” The learned pundit explained that the duty of fact-finding and dispute resolution has originally belonged to the courts from time immemorial. Many legal systems the world over just came to reckon with the usage of tribunals even constitutionally. Post-independent Nigeria has likewise been of the same stance.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended
Professor M.O. Adediran, Classification and Characterization of Tribunals and Inquiries in Nigeria, OAU, Ile-Ife
Ajay R. Singh, Advocate, Legal Maxim: Audi Alteram Partem and Nemo Judex in Re Sua: Doctrine Of Natural Justice
L.O. Alimi, Administrative Justice within The Framework Of The 1999 Constitution, the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos.