An Examination of the Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation as a Ground of Review of Administrative Decisions in Nigeria
Keywords:Procedural fairness, Unlawful representation, legitimate expectation, Nigeria, Judicial review.
Legitimate expectation, as a ground of judicial review, is rooted in ideas of procedural fairness and reasonable belief that a public body should be bound by its representations where persons have relied on such representations to their detriment. Generally, the court’s intervention in judicial review has been limited to purely procedural matters. However, under legitimate expectation, the court has been seen to tilt towards protecting substantive rights. The protection offered by the court under legitimate expectation is not absolute as the doctrine will not apply where the representation made by the public body is contrary to the provision of statutes. This paper adopted a doctrinal method towards examining specific Nigerian and foreign cases on substantive legitimate expectation to determine how the courts have interpreted and analysed same, most specifically where the representations are unlawful. This paper finds that the position in some selected European countries is the same as in common law, that is, legitimate expectation will notbe anchored on unlawful representation. Though the doctrine is not well developed in Nigeria, case law show that Nigerian courts are willing to grant substantive rights as long as the representations are within the law. This paper recommends that considering the frequency with which administrative bodies in Nigeria are making ultra vires representations, the court should adopt a case to case approach instead of ruling out all unlawful representations.