Reporting the Reporters

‘The Write Partner’ assesses, criticizes, or praises the language of selected passages from Nigeria’s leading law reports.

Aikhadueki [2014] 15 NWLR (Part 1431) 530- Supreme Court of Nigeria

Under Facts, the law reporter begins as follows:

The appellant was arraigned with other accused persons at the High Court of Imo State, Orlu and charged with the murder of one Christian Owerreoma on the 15th day of August 2002 along Orlu Road Junction by Mgbidi, Orlu Judicial Division contrary to section 319(1) of the Criminal Code, Cap. 30, Vol. 11, Laws of Eastern Nigeria 1963 as applicable to Imo State.

This passage is faulty in several respects:

1. It should have started: Police Corporal Bonny Aikhadueki . . . . This would humanize the appellant. Facts sections (whether in briefs, law reports, or judgments) should read like stories. Using parties’ names enhances the story element.

2. Why couple arraigned and charged. The report should have started: Police Corporal Bonny Aikhadueki was charged, along with others, with murdering Christian Owerreoma.

3. There is no need to precede the victim’s name with one.

4. The court and date are unnecessary. They appear in other, more formulaic parts of the report.

5. The venue of the crime is unnecessary, being irrelevant to the finding.

6. The judicial division is unnecessary, as territorial jurisdiction was never an issue.

7. The statutory citation should not include chapter and volume of the Laws of Eastern Nigeria.

8. The passage should have read:

Police Corporal Bonny Aikhadueki was charged, along with others, with murdering Christian Owerreoma. The charge was brought under section 319(1) of the Criminal Code Law as applied in Imo State.

Law Degrees and Their Meanings

The undergraduate degree in law is Bachelor of Laws (LLB). In Nigeria and the US, you need a law degree (LLB in Nigeria; JD or LLB in the US) before you can become a lawyer. LLB is spelt LLB or LL.B., never L.L.B.

But many lawyers do not understand how come or why this strange abbreviation. Well, it comes from Latin. The Latin word lex means law. The plural of lex is legum. In Latin, you abbreviate a plural noun by doubling the first letter of the noun. An example is cc for copies, and pp for pages; hence LL for laws. LLB stands for Legum Baccalaureus, Latin for Bachelor of Laws. Your degree is Bachelor of Laws, not Bachelor in Law, and not Bachelor of Law.

LLM (or more rarely LL.M., but never L.L.M.) stands for Legum Magister, Latin for Master of Laws.

LLD (or more rarely LL.D., but never L.L.D.) stands for Legum Doctor, Latin for Doctor of Laws.

The discipline, law, is already expressed inside these degree titles. So you cannot have “LLB in Law”, or “LLM in Law”, or “LLD in Law”- just LLB, LLM, or LLD. Please review your CVs.

JD (Juris Doctor) is the American equivalent of an LLB. An SJD (Doctor of Juridical Science, Doctor of the Science of Law, or Scientiae Juridicae Doctor) is a research doctorate in law. It originated from the US and is offered in that country as well as in Canada.

Types of contract clauses

The following types of clause are typical in contracts:

An assignment clause permits, prohibits, or restricts a complete transfer of contractual rights by one or more of the contracting parties to a non-party.

A confidentiality clause prohibits or restricts disclosure of specified information (usually related to intellectual property or trade secrets) to non-parties.

A consideration clause sets out what one party undertakes to do or not do in return for the other party’s entry into agreement. It also typically provides the price of the contract or terms of payment.

An entire-agreement clause provides that the contract represents the parties’ entire understanding on the subject matter of the contract. It expressly or impliedly incorporates and consolidates into the contract any oral or prior agreements the parties had reached on the subject matter.

A force majeure clause shields parties from liability for failures to perform contractual obligations when unavoidable events beyond the responsible party’s control have caused the failures. Such unavoidable events include natural disasters and wars, and are sometimes called ‘Acts of God.’

An indemnification or indemnity clause imposes on a party financial responsibility for specified types of claims, damages, or losses. The responsible party undertakes to ‘hold harmless’, ‘indemnify’, or reimburse the other party in the event of any such claims, damages, or losses.

A liquidated-damages clause imposes a fixed financial penalty that a party who breaches the contract or any specified clause must pay to the innocent or injured party.

A severability clause provides that even if some provisions of the contract are declared invalid, unenforceable, or void, the rest of the contract remains in force. Severability clauses are common in agreements with arbitration clauses.

A termination clause sets forth how, when, by whom, and why the contract may be terminated.

Call a spade a ‘spade’- Kayode Sofola SAN

Kayode Sofola SAN reminds advocates to call a spade a spade, and not an agricultural implement. Sofola has a firm command of English and an ear for the apt expression. He is blessed with a literary turn of mind. He also points out that people would say methodology when method would do just fine; conditionality for condition; and usage for use. Emulate the eminent silk and prefer the shorter, simpler, punchier word.

Miss or Mrs- What’s the court’s business?

Whenever I appear in court, I proudly announce myself as “Chinua Asuzu, [usually] for the Defendant.” I am visibly male, and extremely proud of it. The judge, observing my maleness etched on my rugged face, jots my name down as “Mr Chinua Asuzu.” Knowing this, I smile in silent gratitude for the judge’s graciousness. I never introduce myself to the court as Mr. The judge respectfully assigns the title to me. Unknown to many Nigerian Alhajis, Ambassadors, Architects, Barristers, Chiefs, Doctors, Engineers, Pharmacists, and Professors, “Mr” is a title of high respect and honour for gentlemen. The judge puts this title in front of my name. I am a man of respect. I am a gentleman.

The title Mr does not indicate my marital status—only my gender, and the fact that I am deemed worthy of respect by the honourable judge. The judge is not interested in my marital status. He couldn’t care less. He respects me whether I’m married or single, no matter my age. He’s just waiting to hear whether I’ll talk cool law or hot air.

But when a female colleague announces herself as, say, “Fatima Bala,” the judge retorts, as if a fatal omission had been made: “Miss or Mrs?” If she’s single and on the “wrong” side of 40, the lady would then confess in an apologetic whisper: “Miss,” as if being single was comparable to leprosy, or as if the title of Miss was a matter of intense personal shame.

Female lawyers are supposed to announce their court appearances with a clear and loud indication of their marital statuses summed up in the title Miss or Mrs, for example, “Nkechi Olajide (MRS)” or “MRS Nkechi Olajide”. When they are married, they shout the title: MRS; when they are single and mature, they whisper … miss … as if something is amiss with Miss.

Nothing is amiss with Miss!

Whether a lawyer, male or female, is married should not be the concern of any court or judge. But if it must be, then courts and judges should be interested not only in the marital statuses of female attorneys but also in those of males.

Ms (pronounced Miz) should do for women what Mr does for men: as married and single men use Mr, so married and single women should adopt Ms. Women all over the world should reject any discriminatory or unjustifiably differential treatment in forms of address. Ms is a woman’s best and smartest title.

As in other phases of gender issues, women are often their own worst enemies. Why must you advertise your marital status on your business card and in other business and social contexts when your men don’t announce theirs? Men introduce themselves as, say, Jonathan, or Mr Goodluck, while women scream Mrs Abiola. Women should demand and expect respect on their own footings as individual human persons and not as appendages to some man.

The egregious discrimination built into the judicial inquiry about female lawyers’ marital statuses is a subtle and nuanced assault on the spirit of section 42(1) of the Nigerian Constitution and articles 3 and 18(3) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. These statutory provisions and treaty obligations frown severely on any species of discrimination, no matter how disguised, against women.

“And now, Ms Okorodudu, what were you saying about the case of Heaven v Pender?”