Home ยป A Dinky Mistake In Citing A Case May Cause You To Lose The Whole Case Before The Court Of Law, By Mustapha Madugu

A Dinky Mistake In Citing A Case May Cause You To Lose The Whole Case Before The Court Of Law, By Mustapha Madugu

by Salisu Hamisu Ali
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I was sitting placidly one and half hour before the commencement of lecture, waiting for the lecturer to come. I was reading allied book to the course waiting. Before you could say Jack Robinson, the lecturer was in the class and the lecture begun. The lecture was very enthralling as people were laughing and giving their accolade to the lecturer.

After almost an hour, the past master (lecturer) cited a particular foreign case decided in England, but mistakenly ( _that’s humanity, everyone is fallible_ ) ended up his citation with N.L.R (Nigerian Law Report). I was not only devastated but wiped out completely the first time I heard him saying so. I was not an afraid student who is always scared to ask what he is in dilemma of whether to agree with what a lecturer says or what he reads in various books.

I bravely asked the lecturer to clarify his explanation on the case given which is OSCAR CHESS LTD. V. WILLIAMS (1957) EWCA Civ 5, the case is an English case, concerning the difference between a term and a representation.
I asked that:

“Sir, I have a bit observation on this case brought before us by you” He replied: “what is that?” I said: “Sir, this case was decided in England by Lord Denning and all the parties were English men, none of them had been to Nigeria before, including Lord himself (Denning) and the case has no any connection with Nigeria but only to be cited as a ‘stare decisis’ in Nigerian courts. Why do you put Nigerian Law Report despite only cases decided in Nigeria can be reported in Nigerian Law Report, and the claimant found out the defect of the car 8 months after the contract not 6 months”.

The lecturer replied with what I’m yet to understand by saying Nigeria was not independent in the year 1957. I was cluttered in the sense that I can’t be quietude by the explanation I listened from him. He went further and said: “there were English men (judges) in Nigeria before the independence, therefore, that’s the reason. No even many cars in Nigeria during 1957 even in Kano hardly to see a car owner but only Nagode had it at that time”.

I asked him again; “Sir, I thought Denning was the one presided the case”. He replied with a conundrum and puzzled question: “didn’t you see cases decided by Lord Denning in Nigeria?”. I replied with: “No, I didn’t see any”. The sage lecturer said: “Allah ya sawwakema” (the word said to a person in trouble). That’s the maneuver of a lawyer. He added: “you’ve to go back to level II and read legal system because the laws here in Nigeria are Mutatis Mutandis to that of English law. I rest my case there and remained mute.
After the lecture, I rushed to level II lecturer where I gave him a bell and instantly the lecturer picked up the call. I asked him that I was dishevelled on a particular issue. I narrated everything related to the fact in issue. The lecturer smiled and said: “go back to level III and ask there”. I quickly replied: “I was from there to here sir”. “Well, it’s a bit mistake and you know all humans are subject to make mistakes here and there”. He replied. Subsequently, he added that: “sometimes if you see a foreign case with N.L.R or W.L.R doesn’t mean Nigerian Law Report or Weekly Law Report related to Nigeria”.
Our discussion with that lecturer made me to remember the time during the moot court trial organised by the faculty to level IV students. I went there where I witnessed one student there stood before the panel in which the sagacious law of contract lecturer was there. The student stood bravely and confidently as if he’s to say one word and win the moot court. He cited a particular case decided in England by Lord Denning and ended up his citation with “Nigerian Law Report”. What a pity student! If that student had known the repercussions by saying those three words “Nigerian Law Report” he would have said something otherwise, even to say he forgets the citation is more sound reasonable than saying what he said ab initio. I really can’t explain the mood he put the law of contract lecturer, I can’t even describe the reaction I noticed on his face at that time. Only what I knew at that time was if the moot was a real proceeding before a court of law, that dinky mistake made by that student would cause him to lose the whole case.

Therefore, friends and colleagues, don’t rely completely on what your lecturers give you during a lecture. Make your own research and compare, and indeed, ask what you understand less. Law profession is not a such profession where you are expected to give exactly what you are given during the lecture. Law profession is not about memorizing and cramming just because you want to pass exams. If you only do so, you’ll be a fake lawyer one day (the one who’ll be finding it difficult to win a case). The journey is too long to go in our novel profession, some won’t understand till they’re enrolled. Sometimes you’ll see a lawyer doing it perfectly in court of law and winning cases, but if you trace his history when he was undergraduate, you may find it that he’s having a very bad grade in certificate but exceptionally good in practice. If you want to be a professor, Ph.d, lecturer or even a teacher, just cram and memorize, you’ll easily be so. But when you want to be a best lawyer not academically but practically, don’t mind the grade, mind the procedure, and the knowledge.

Finally, I only write this message for the benefit of some not for all of you, therefore, if you find it not interesting, I’m already not talking to you, the message is not for you. I really don’t want my colleagues to fall the situation that, that LLB IV found himself as a result of such mistake that we have in our lecture, which is difficult to be noted to some and very easy to be corrected by some.
Don’t afraid to make mistakes and to ask what you don’t understand in the class, no body is paying your school fees there in the class. Therefore, once you fail to ask what you don’t understand, your parent are being cheated by you.

Mustapha Madugu

A Student of Level III From Bayero University Kano.

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