Human Rights

Fair Hearing

What is Fair Hearing?

This can be defined as the decision of a matter in accordance with due process of the law to prevent miscarriage of justice. This is the trial right of an accused person, i.e the just determination of disputes between parties.


This is nothing but what appears to be a fair trial to every right-thinking observer in the circumstance of the particular hearing¹. Justice must not only be done but must manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to have been done


No matter how stupid the opinion of a person may seem he has a right to be heard but it should be noted that the court is not bound by the opinion of a party but is required to heart each party and determine the case on its merits.² If this right is denied to a litigant, the whole trial will be an exercise in futility because it is very fundamental and entrenched in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.³’⁴


The principle of fair hearing is so important to all court procedure and proceedings, the absence of it vitiates the entire proceedings, no matter how well conducted; it can be linked to jurisdiction.

Principle of Fair Hearing

The two principles of fair hearing are Audi Altera Partem and Nemo Judex Incausa Sua.

Audi Altera Partem
This mean hear the other party, by this principle, a trial judge is mandated to hear the other side before he arrives at a judgement, the accused person is given the opportunity to state his defence before the trial judge will pass his sentence. By this an accused person must be afforded the opportunity to know why he was brought to court, defend himself or through a lawyer, to be present during the pendency of the trial.⁵ The tribunal or court must hear both sides not only in the case but also on all material issues in the case before reaching a decision.


Nemo Judex Incausa Sua
This mean do not be a judge in your own trial, no one should be both a prosecutor and judge in his matter, and this implies that when a reasonable man observes the trial, this requires a judge who has any legal interest in a matter before a court to disqualify himself. From the viewpoint of a reasonable man, the judge must not be seen to be biased.


Constitutional guarantee
This right is guaranteed and protected by the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, particularly in section 36 of the 1999 constitution.


By this section an accused person is entitled to defend himself or through a legal practitioner; speedy trial, the law frowns at unnecessary delay in the administration of justice.

The trial is to be conducted before an independent court or tribunal recognised by the law, the judge must the impartial and competent in an open court; the judge in question should not have a stake in the matter; each of the parties are given equal time, opportunity and facilities to present their cases no matter how frivolous it may seem;

An accused person is given the benefit of presumption of innocence in a criminal matter; no one should be tried in respect of a law which is no longer in force; when a person has been pardoned by the president or governor or chief justice of any state of the federation he cannot be tried again in respect of the same offence;

For illiterates, he must be given information of the offence in the language he understands; any person accused of a crime has the right to cross examine witness called by the prosecution; to obtain record of proceedings in the court; right to obtain copies of judgment within seven days of delivery of such judgement.

Footnotes

1. OLOWO C.T V the Nigeria ..(2007) 15 WRN 77 C A

2. APatia F.O(MRS) V. Lagos Island Local Government Canal (2007) 39n WRN 144 C.A

3. Section 36(4) 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria

4. Bank of the North Ltd V adegoke S Saheed (2007) 29n WRN 55 C.A

5. Oyeyemi V commissioner for Local Government, Kwara state 7 others (1993) 6 NWLR