Dispute Resolution Litigaship Series Nigerian Law Procedural Law

LITIGASHIP SERIES: Between General and Specific Provisions in a Subject Matter

Looking at the arrays of Statutes that can be regulating a particular subject matter, and the countless number of provisions we may have therein, it is not impossible to have clashes between or among provisions. A situation of such possible provisional clashes is the specific-general provision conflicts.

Courts have pronounced myriads of that that when two provisions are in conflict and one of them deals specifically with the matter in question while the other is of more general application, the conflict may be avoided by applying the specific provision to the exclusion of the more general one. The specific prevails over the general; it does not matter which was enacted first.

The Supreme Court of Nigeria in NOCLINK VENTURES LTD & Anor v. AROH & Anor while faced with the clashing general provision of Order 26 rule 4(1) and the specific provision of Order 9 rule 42(3) High Court Rules of Anambra State, 1988 per Kekere-Ekun JSC pronounced as follows:

“Order 26 rule 4(1) provides:

‘‘An application to set aside for irregularity any proceedings, any step taken in any proceeding or any document, judgment or order therein shall not be allowed unless it is made WITHIN A REASONABLE TIME and before the party applying has taken any fresh step in the proceedings after becoming aware of the irregularity.”

This is no doubt, a general provision, which must be juxtaposed with the provisions of Order 9 rule 42(3), which provides:

‘‘Any judgment or order obtained by virtue of this rule shall be a final judgment, but the court has power to vary or reverse such judgment or order on an application by the affected party brought NOT LATER THAN 30 DAYS from the date of such judgment or order.” “

The Apex court held that the court below was therefore wrong in applying the general provisions of Order 26 rule 4(1) to derogate from the specific provisions of Order 9 rules 42(3) of the High Court Rules as the Judgment delivered by the trial court was a final judgment on the merit, thus, the general provision cannot derogate the specific provision_ Specialia generalibus derogant.

  • Wale Adeagbo, Esq LLB BL AICMC

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