THE PRINCIPLE OF NATURAL JUSTICE AND FAIR HEARING UNDER THE NIGERIA LAW
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Natural justice has meant different things to different peoples at different times. In its widest sense, it was formerly used as a synonym for natural law. It has been used to mean that reasons must be given for decisions; that a body deciding an issue must only act on evidence of probative value. Some have asserted that the maxim “Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea” is a principle of natural. Whatever the meaning of natural justice may have been, and still is to other people, the common law lawyers have used the term in a technical manner to mean that in certain circumstances decisions affecting the rights of citizens must only be reached after a fair hearing has been given to the individual concerned. On the basis of this, this research project was designed to examine the practicability of the Principles of Natural Justice and Fair Hearing in Nigerian Law.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CASES
TABLE OF STATUTES
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
1.1.0: BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.2.0: OBJECTIVES OF STUDY
1.3.0: FOCUS OF STUDY
1.4.0: SCOPE OF THE STUDY
1.6.0: LITERATURE REVIEW
ARTICLES ON THE INTERNET
Background to study
The rights of a person in legal proceedings or quasi-judicial proceedings consist of three main sets or groups of rights; pre-trial rights, trial-rights and post-trial rights. These three sets of rights are mainly and collectively protected by the constitution. The two main requirements or ingredients of fair-hearing or natural justice have been adequately incorporated into the Nigerian constitution by the words “fair hearing” (audi-alteram partem), and “Impartiality” (nemo judex in causa sua) which are inserted under section 36 of the 1999 constitution . The remaining requirements of natural justice or fair-hearing are comprehensively and adequately encapsulated in the rest of the fair-hearing clause of the Nigerian constitution. Thus, fair-hearing is the modern name or term for natural justice .
The principles of natural justice or fair hearing are rudimentary, elementary and fundamental rules of fairness. They are rules of procedure to ensure fairness and justice to parties in a legal process or quasi-judical process. Audi alteram partem is a Latin expression which means, hear the other party . It is a principle of natural justice or fair-hearing and no one should be condemned unheard.
For instance, in Federal Civil Service Commission-V-LAOYE , the Supreme Court unanimously frowned at the serious failure of persons exercising judicial and quasi-judicial powers to hear the other side before condemning and passing judgment: even though God knew what Adam and Eve had done, God himself who created all things, who has all powers and who knows everything, gave Adam and Eve the opportunity to state their defence before passing judgment . Therefore, it can safely be said that the requirement that there should be natural justice and fair-hearing in every matter and determination predates society. It is as old as the creation of man
Natural justice or fair hearing is common sense and proper uninterested and unbiased in the subject matter or proceedings before him. This rule of natural justice or fair-hearing is meant to prohibit interest and bias in a case on the part of a judge. Whenever, a judge has interest or stake in a matter or where he is likely to be biased or be accused of being biased, because of any interest or relationship, he should decline from hearing the matter at hand, and let the chief judge or administrative judge assign the matter to another judge for hearing.
An interest that will disqualify one, is probably an interest that makes one to desire earnestly, that the matters should go in favour of a particular side or that would likely occasion miscarriage of justice.
Objectives of the Study
The fundamental aim of this research is to critically analyze and attempt to unravel the principles of natural justice and fair hearing in Nigerian law. Specifically the study seeks to:
- Distinguish between the right to fair hearing and access to justice
2. Highlight the impediments to natural justice and right to fair hearing in Nigeria
3. Present a a comparative analysis of the application of principles of natural justice and fair hearing between Nigeria and other countries.
The Scope of Study
The research work seeks to look at the practicability of the principles of natural justice and fair hearing in Nigerian. This research also seeks to examine the hindrances, inadequacies and bottlenecks in administration of natural justice in Nigeria.
This research used the doctrinal research method, which is library oriented. The materials used are primary documents such as legislations (legislative enactment), decision of superior courts of records (case law) and secondary documents such as discussions, analysis and criticisms made by legal luminaries in textbooks and periodicals, articles and journals.
In the context of administration of justice, to hear a matter means to listen to a matter attentively, consider and decide it. For instance, in AKOH-V-ABUH , the Supreme Court said that to hear a cause or matter means to hear and determine the cause or matter. Delivery of the judgment in a matter is part of the hearing of the cause or matter. A matter is in the process of being heard from its commencement up to, and including the delivery of final judgment.
Fair hearing or fair trial is a fundamental prerequisite for a just determination of disputes between parties . The establishment of the likehood of bias on the part of a judge or persons exercising judicial function in a proceeding for violation of the legal maxim: nemo judex in causa sua which means: no one should be a judge in his own matter. Partiality destroys the very root of a fair adjudication and the administration of justice in any legal system anywhere in the world. The test of bias, is whether there is a reasonable suspicion of bias, looked at from the objective standpoint of a reasonable person and not from the subjective stand point of an aggrieved party .
According Prescott (2001) Fair-hearing is not a technical doctrine or principle, but a rule of substantial justice. To affect a judgment and have it set aside or quashed for breach of fair hearing, it has to be shown that: fair hearing was infringed, fair hearing was clearly threatened with infringement of fair hearing; or there was a likely-hood of infringement of fair-hearing. For Demin (2011), It is not sufficient that fair hearing was merely suspected to have been infringed Pre-trial rights include right to life, subject to exceptions under section 33 of the 1999 constitution; right to dignity of human person (Section 34) and right to personal liberty (Section 35). The trial rights of an accused person are mainly contained in the right to fair hearing provision of the Nigerian constitution . On the other hand, the post-trial rights of a person who has been convicted are many. When a convict is appealing the decision of the court, his rights are even more and cover the whole constitutional rights, that is, pre-trial rights, trial rights and post-trial rights. It must be said that the principle of fair-hearing being a constitutional concept could only thrive effectively in a democratic system of government.
 Davis 2003; justice and rule of Law P. 11.
 See e.g. D. O. Aihe & P. A. Otuyeds: Cases and Materials on 7’Iigerlan Constitutional Law (1971). The authors in the preface comment as if all the cases reported therein are constitutional law cases. Certainly, cases like Udekwe Okakpu v. Resident Plateau Province reported at p. 393 (a case dealing with discretionary powers of the Resident to license gold smiths) was riot a constitutional law case but a case on administrative law
 Paul Jackson: Natural Law (1973) pp. 1-2.
 See S. A. de Smith. Judicial Review of natural law in Nigeria (3rd Ed.) p. 134,
 Supra 3
 (1971)70 L.G.R. 27 of Akoh-V-Abuh  1 WLR 937
 Supra 3
 (1970) 1 WLR 1365
 See Ahmadu Bello University Statute 12 (d), (f) see also University of Lagos Decree 1967 SS. 4, 19; University of Nigeria Nsukka Statute 9 (d) (1) and LTniverSity of Ibadan Act 1962 s. 10 (1).
 Section 10 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999