Chief Aminu Are V. Attorney-general Western Region (1960)
LawGlobal-Hub Lead Judgment Report
This is an appeal against the judgment of Doherty, J., sitting at the High Court, Ibadan. The proceedings were commenced in the lower Court by a Petition of Right brought under the Petitions of Right Ordinance, Cap. 167 of the 1948 Edition of the Laws of Nigeria. Thereby the petitioner claimed from the Government of the Western Region a large sum of money for compensation for land acquired by the Government or its predecessor some twenty years ago. Section 10 of the Public Lands Acquisition Ordinance Cap.185 of the same edition, provides that disputes as to compensation shall be settled by the High Court. An amendment to this section, by adding a further subsection to it, was affected by the Public [and Acquisition (Amendment) Law, 1958, of the Western Region Legislature. This amending Law came into operation on the 19th June, 1958. The Petition of Right already referred to was filed in the High Court on the 29th May, 1958, was duly endorsed with the fiat of the Governor on the 9th October, 1958. The subsection added by the Western Region Law No. 15 of 1958 read as follows:
“Subject to the provisions of section 20, no claim to any estate, interest or right in or to any lands in respect of which a notice has been served and published in the Gazette in accordance with section 9, or to any compensation or rent in respect of any such estate, interest or right, made after the expiration of twelve months from the publication of the notice, shall be entertained by any public officer whose duty it is to receive such claims or by any court.”
The learned trial Judge, holding that the new subsection “affects practice and procedure” decided that it affected the petition retrospectively and that as more than 12 months had expired between the publication of the Gazette notices provided for by section 10 and the filing of the petition, it could not be entertained.
It seems to me that the important words in this section are “shall be entertained.” It is beyond doubt, in my view, that the claim In this case, represented as it is by the Petition of Right, was “entertained” by the Court on the day of its filing, namely, 29th May, 1958, some three weeks prior to the coming into operation of the amending law. The effect of the wording of the amending law is clearly in futuro, and it is not possible to say that it could by necessary implication have the effect of putting a stop to proceedings which had already been validly commenced. To hold otherwise would be tantamount to saying that the amending statute secured the undoing of something already done. It is a cardinal principle that unless it affects purely procedural matters (and in my view this is not such a matter) a statute cannot apply restrospectively unless it is made to do so by clear and express terms.
Mr. Eboh, who appeared for the respondent, very fairly admitted that there was little he could say in opposition to this appeal.
I am clearly of the opinion that the learned trial Judge erred in regarding the amending law as one which merely affected procedure. It follows, therefore, that I would allow this appeal and remit the matter to the High Court to be heard on its merits. The appellant is entitled to the costs of his appeal, which are fixed at 30 guineas. The order for costs made in the Court below is set aside.
HUBBARD, AG, FJ:
Appeal allowed: case remitted for trial.
Other Citation: (1960) LCN/0870(SC)