It is perhaps one of the core aspects of litigation for hearing notices to be served on the other party. It is indeed rooted in the principle of fair hearing which is the guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 ( as amended). The plaintiff / claimant / Appellant / Applicant who is to move the court may however be faced with situations where non-service of hearing notices would stall the proceedings.
On a personal note, this is usually the main reason why litigation drag on so long. Sometimes the hearing notices are not served, and on other occasions, the affidavit / proof of service just goes missing in the court’s file… .I could go on.
In a more recent development, the apex court has held that service of hearing notices through phone calls is good service. Quite a number of Rules of procedure have also adopted the electronic mail as a mode of service. That notwithstanding, the issue of service of hearing notices still has lingering problems associated with it. The real question is, must it be served on each date of adjournment? In SIMON EZECHUKWU & ANOR v. I. O. C. ONWUKA, a decision of the Supreme Court delivered on On Friday, the 22nd day of January, 2016 SC.190/2005, the Supreme Court held as follows:

“For emphasis, it needs be said that since the trial Court had ascertained that the hearing notice was properly served on the Appellants, there was no extra requirement that fresh hearing notice should be served on the appellants on every adjourned date as the Court was satisfied that the opportunity to be heard was afforded the appellants and their keeping away was their choice and the repercussions they must live with and it does not lie in their mouth that the Court below ought to have allowed their appeal as they were not served on each adjourned date thereafter.” Per PETER-ODILI, J.S.C. (P. 32, Paras. C-E)

The reason behind the Supreme Court’s decision is not far fetched. It is rooted in the position of the law that a party who deliberately absconds from litigation cannot be heard on lack of fair hearing as the court has given adequate opportunity to the party to be heard. The apex court in that case held as follows;

“It is certainly not open to a litigant that had been served hearing notice commanding him to proceed to Court to defend the case instituted against him and who, the hearing notice apart, is otherwise aware of the proceedings taken against him by another, to assert a breach of his right to fair hearing if eventually a decision is given against him. Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which enshrines the doctrine of fair hearing the appellants’ wave with gusto does not avail them. The section only provides that before any decision is taken by a Court of law against them, the appellants’ be given the opportunity to present their side of the matter. The appellants who chose to voluntarily stay away from the Court after that opportunity had been extended to them are not covered by the Section of the Constitution they now assert provides for them. So be it. See Okafor V Ag Anambra (1991) 6 NWLR 659; (1991) LPELR-2414 (sc) and Baba v N.C.A.T.C. (1991) 7 SC (Pt.1) 58, (1991) LPELR-692 (SC).” Per MUHAMMAD, J.S.C. (Pp. 21-22, Paras. C-B)

I will pause here and end this post with the posers…. Would it be prudent enough not to serve hearing notices on each day?  What happens to orders of court directing hearing notices to be served against subsequent dates?

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