Nigerian Coat of Arms
ARAKA v. EGBUE
CITATION: (2003) LPELR-sc.167/1999
  OTHER CITATIONS:
1 ARAKA v. EGBUE (2003) 17 NWLR (PT.848)1
2
3
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ISSUE
 
DUTY OF COURT: Duty of court in interpreting a statute
   
PRINCIPLE
 
"The duty of the court is to interpret the words contained in the statute and not go outside the words in search of an interpretation which is convenient to the court or to the parties or one of the parties. Even where the provisions of a statute are hard in the sense that they will do some inconvenience to the parties, the court is bound to interpret the provisions once they are clear and unambiguous. It is not the duty of the court to remove the chaff from the grain in the process of interpretation of a statute to arrive at favourable terms for the parties outside the contemplation of the lawmaker. That will be tantamount to traveling outside the statute on a voyage of discovery. This court cannot embark upon such a journey.

The primary function of the court is to search for the intention of the lawmaker in the interpretation of a statute. Where a statute is clear and unambiguous, as it is in this case, the court in the exercise of its interpretative jurisdiction, must stop where the statute stops. In other words, a court of law has no jurisdiction to rewrite a statute to suit the purpose of one of the parties or both parties. The moment a court of law intends to rewrite a statute or really rewrites a statute, the intention of the lawmaker is thrown overboard and the court changes place with the lawmaker. In view of the fact that that will be against the doctrine of separation of powers entrenched in the Constitution, a court of law will not embark on such an unconstitutional act. Courts of law follow the literal rule of interpretation where the provision of the statute is clear and no more. And that is the position in this appeal." Per TOBI, J.S.C (Pp. 28-29, paras. E-F)