Whether a Judgment Delivered on a Weekend/Public Holiday is Valid

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CASE TITLE:  OBIORA UHARA v. STATE (2021) LPELR-55512(CA)

JUDGMENT DATE: 10TH SEPTEMBER, 2021

JUSTICES:

  • AHMAD OLAREWAJU BELGORE, JCA
  • ITA GEORGE MBABA, JCA
  • JOSEPH OLUBUNMI KAYODE OYEWOLE, JCA

COURT DIVISION: ENUGU

PRACTICE AREA: Judgment and Order – Delivery of Judgment

FACTS

The Appellant, as the accused person, was charged with the offence of armed robbery, contrary to Section 1(2)(a) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act, Cap 11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. The Appellant, along with some others at large, were alleged to have robbed one Ogochukwu Maduka of his Carter Motorcycle, while armed with guns.

The Appellant was arraigned, and he pleaded not guilty to the charge. After hearing the case and considering the evidence and addresses of Counsel, the trial High Court found the Appellant guilty and sentenced him to death by hanging.

Dissatisfied, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal. He contended, inter alia, that the judgment of the trial Court was delivered on a Saturday and was therefore not valid.

ISSUES:

The Court determined the appeal upon consideration of the sole issue thus:

“Whether the trial Court was right to hold that the offence of armed robbery was established against Appellant in this case, and that Appellant was properly identified as the person who robbed the PW2 of the motorcycle.”

COUNSEL SUBMISSIONS:

Learned Counsel to the Appellant contended that having regard to the totality of the evidence, a case of armed robbery was not proved, as the Appellant was not properly identified as the armed robber, to warrant his conviction and sentence.

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That what took place in the case, between the victim and his assailant, was not armed robbery, as it was not proved or established that arms were used in the encounter, and the Appellant was not identified or otherwise shown to be the assailant.

Furthermore, Counsel to the Appellant contended that the judgment of Enugu State High Court which is the subject of the appeal was delivered on Saturday, 15th June, 2019 (a non-working day) and so it was not valid. He stated that the law forbids Courts in Enugu State to sit on Saturdays, Sundays and on public holidays. Learned Counsel, however, finally mentioned that delivery of judgment on Saturday or Sunday may not be void, where the parties to the suit did not object. He urged the Court to resolve the issues in favour of the Appellant, allow the appeal, set aside the decision of the trial Court, and discharge and acquit the Appellant.

Respondent’s Counsel, on whether the Judgment was delivered on Saturday 15th June 2019 and had occasioned a miscarriage of justice, contended that the Judgment was not delivered on 15th June 2019, but on 15th July 2019, which was a Monday. He referred to the pages of the Records of Appeal, where it was indicated on the heading of the Judgment that it was delivered on “Monday 15th Day of June 2019” and contended that it was an error, as the Judge clearly signed on other pages of the Records that the Judgment was delivered on 15th July 2019.

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Learned Counsel contended that 15th July 2019 was a Monday, not Saturday and that the judgment was delivered in the presence of the Appellant and his Counsel. It was therefore puerile for Appellant’s Counsel to argue, vociferously, that the judgment was delivered on a Saturday. Counsel also contended that even if the judgment was delivered on a Saturday (which was not conceded), that fact cannot vitiate the decision.

Counsel submitted that the Respondent had satisfied the three modes of proof in the case, beyond a reasonable doubt. He urged the Court to resolve the issues against the Appellant and to dismiss the appeal.

DECISION/HELD:

On the whole, the Court of Appeal found the appeal unmeritorious and thereby dismissed the same.

RATIO:

JUDGMENT AND ORDER – DELIVERY OF JUDGMENT – Whether a judgment delivered on a weekend/public holiday is valid

“The law is also trite that even where a judgment is delivered on Saturday or any public holiday, the same cannot be vitiated or nullified, merely for that reason, especially where the parties consented to the delivery. See the case of Anie & Ors Vs Uzorka & Ors (1993) NWLR (Pt.309) 1; (1993) 9 SCNJ 223; (1993) LPELR – 490 (SC). In this era of time bound cases, particularly, in election-related cases, no date or day is sacred, anymore, to outlaw or prohibit the delivery of judgment by Court in Nigeria. Even in ordinary cases (outside election matters), where a Court runs the risks of flouting the constitutionally stipulated 90 days for delivery of judgment, after final addresses (Section 295(1) of the 1999 Constitution), I do not see any impediment in delivering a judgment on Saturday or Sunday, or any public holiday, whether Civil or Criminal, to save the judgment from lapsing.” Per Mbaba, J.C.A.

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