LG Autonomy the Finality of the Supreme Court – Part 1 – By Adetayo Adekunle

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In his ‘prediction’ theory of law, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr espoused the nature of law as follows: ‘the prophecies of what the courts will do in fact, and nothing more pretentious, are what I mean by the law’

A short while ago, members of the fourth estate of the realm reported that the Supreme Court has ordered the direct release of allocations to Local Governments from the Federation Account.

The judgment has been met with wide jubilation across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

While we wait for the CTC of the judgment to decipher the reasons for the decision, it is settled law that whatever the Supreme Court says is deemed to be the true position of the law. It is in fact THE LAW.

This is, however, without prejudice to the rights of the ‘losers’ to apply for a review to clarify any grey area(s) in the judgment.

One question that readily comes to mind is this: does the finality of the Supreme Court confer infallibility on the Justices of the apex court?

In answering this question, Hon Justice Robert H Jackson of the US Supreme Court in Brown v. Allen , 344 U.S. 443 posited that ”We are final not because we are infallible, rather we are infallible because we are final.”

Years later, the Socrates of the Nigerian Supreme Court, Hon Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC (as he then was) in the case of Adegoke Motors vs. Adesanya, 1989 13 NWLR, pt.109, 250 at page 275 made some minor amendments to Justice Jackson’s dictum when he stated that
We are final not because we are infallible; rather we are infallible because we are final. Justices of this Court are human beings, capable of erring. It will certainly be short-sighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth. It is also true that this Court can do inestimable good through its wise decisions. Similarly, the Court can do incalculable harm through its mistakes. When therefore it appears to learned counsel that any decision of this Court has been given per incuriam, such counsel should have the boldness and courage to ask that such a decision be overruled. This Court has the power to overrule itself (and has done so in the past) for it gladly accepts that it is far better to admit an error than to persevere in error.”

Was the Supreme Court right to hold that local government allocations be paid directly to them from FAAC?

The answer to that will come in part 2 of this piece when the author has read and dissected the judgment.

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