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DISTINCTION BETWEEN WITNESS STATEMENT ON OATH & AFFIDAVIT

Dictum

In Okpa v. Irek & Anor. [2012] LPELR-8033 (CA) held thus: This court has consistently held that a witness statement on oath is different from affidavit evidence. An affidavit is a statement of fact which the maker or deponent swears to be true to the best of his knowledge. It is a court Process in writing deposing to facts within the knowledge of the deponent. It is documentary evidence which the court can admit in the absence of any unchallenged evidence. Akpokeniovo v. Agas [2004] 10 NWLR (Pt. 881) 394. On the contrary a witness statement is not evidence. It only becomes evidence after the witness is sworn in court and adopts his witness statement. At this stage at best it becomes evidence in chief. It is thereafter subjected to cross examination after which it becomes evidence to be used by the Court. If the opponent fails to cross examine the witness, it is taken as the true situation of facts contained therein.

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DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN AFFIDAVIT & A STATEMENT ON OATH

✓ In OKPA v. IREK & ANOR (2012) LPELR-CA/C/NAEA/289/2011, the Court laid a strong brick we can safely stand on: ”… that a witness statement on oath is different from an affidavit evidence. An affidavit is a statement of fact which the maker or deponent swears to be true to the best of his knowledge. It is a court process in writing deposing to facts within the knowledge of the deponent. It is documentary evidence which the court can admit in the absence of any unchallenged evidence. Akpokeniovo vs. Agas (2004) 10 NWLR pt 881 page 394. On the contrary a witness statement is not evidence. It only becomes evidence after the witness is sworn in court and adopts his witness statement. At this stage at best it becomes evidence in chief. It is thereafter subjected to cross examination after which it becomes evidence to be used by the Court. If the opponent fails to cross examine the witness, it is taken as the true situation of facts contained there in.” Per NDUKWE-ANYANWU, J.C.A. (P. 9, Paras. C-G)

✓ SAMUEL LAMBERT & ANOR vs CHIEF A.S.B.C.OKUJAGU (2015) ALL FWLR (PART 808) Pp 665 – 666 paras E-A thus: “ … it is therefore very certain that even the rules of court admit that affidavit and statement of witness on oath are distinct and different from the other. The form of an affidavit under the Evidence Act is well specified by law. See section 117 and 118 of the Evidence Act 2011. There is no law that specified that all sworn documents or Oaths must comply with the provisions of the Evidence Act as relates to affidavit. It is therefore not a valid argument to say that sworn deposition or statement of witness under the civil procedure rules must accord with the form of an affidavit … ”

“There is no law that specified that all sworn documents or oaths must comply with the provisions of the Evidence Act as relates to affidavits. It is therefore not a valid argument to say that sworn deposition or statement of witnesses under the civil procedure rules must accord with the form of an affidavit”

“… the innovation of filing written statements on oath of witnesses to be called in a civil case is a very good proactive and progressive innovation of our learned drafts-men. The import is not to clone an affidavit or set up parallel affidavits evidence. The import is to reduce the time expended in taking notes from witnesses in court and by extension, reduce the stress of the trial judges whose lot it is within our jurisdiction and adjudicatory clime to record in long hand viva voce evidence of witnesses. The rules of the High Court do not intend to encrust the written statement on oath with the formal garb of an affidavit as tailored by Section 107 to 120 of the Evidence Act 2011. We must therefore be watchful not to upload written statements on oath simply devised by the civil procedure rules with the burden required to be borne by an affidavit under the Evidence Act.”

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AVERMENTS IN PLEADINGS VERSUS AVERMENTS IN AFFIDAVIT; ADDRESS OF COUNSEL NOT EVIDENCE

Averments of facts in pleadings must however be distinguished from facts deposed to in an affidavit in support of an application before a court. Whereas the former, unless admitted, constitute no evidence, the latter are by law evidence upon which a court of law may in appropriate cases act. The Court of Appeal, if I may say with the utmost respect, appeared to be under the erroneous impression that an averment in pleadings is synonymous with a deposition in an affidavit in support of an application. This is clearly not the case. So too, an address of Counsel in moving an application is not the evidence in support of such an application. The evidence is the deposition contained in the affidavit in support thereof.

— Iguh JSC. Magnusson v. Koiki (1993) – SC.119/1991

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WEIGHT OF AN AFFIDAVIT EVIDENCE OF TITLE TO LAND

I turn to Exhibit 2. It is an affidavit deposing to title. An affidavit evidence of title to land is not sacrosanct, evidential value wise. Such deposition can only be admissible if it is not challenged by the adverse party. If the deposition is challenged, then the parties have joined issues and the onus is on the deponent or any other witness as the case may be, to prove by oral evidence the veracity or authenticity of the deposition. Exhibit 2 is yet another evidence of traditional history which unfortunately the learned trial Judge, from the totality of the oral evidences before him, rejected. I therefore hold that Exhibit 2 does not have any probative value of any record found therein.

— Tobi, JCA. Abraham v Olorunfunmi (1990) – CA/L/83/89

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NOT ALL UNCONTRADICTED AVERMENTS WILL BE ACCEPTED BY THE COURT

✓ In B.B.B. Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Vs A.C-Bc Ltd (2004} 2 NWLR (Pt. 858) 527@ 550551 F-A, per Pats-Acholonu, JSC as follows: although it is the general rule that uncontradicted evidence from which reasonable people can draw but one conclusion may not ordinarily be rejected by the court but must be accepted as true; it is also true to say that the court is not in all the circumstances bound to accept as true testimony an evidence that is uncontradicted where it is willfully or corruptly false, incredible, improbable or sharply falls below the standard expected in a particular case.

✓ It was held in R-Benkay (Nig) Ltd. v. Cadbury (Nig) Pie. (2012) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1306) 596 @ 624 C – per Peter-Odili, JSC, inter alia, as follows: “… it is not fl fait accompli that once there are averments in an affidavit which are not controverted the result would be a favourable disposition to the position of the party who had proffered the disposition. This is so because all averments must go under the surgical knife of evaluation which is done by the court as a matter of duty to see its acceptability as happened in this case. See also: Gonzee (Nig) Ltd Vs NERDC (2005) 13 NWLR (Pt. 943) 634@ 650 D, cited and relied upon.

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AFFIDAVIT NOT CHALLENGED IS DEEMED ADMITTED

In Badejo V. Fed. Min. of Education (supra) at page 15; it was held by the Supreme Court that:- “where an affidavit is filed deposing to certain facts and the other party does not file a counter affidavit or reply to a counter affidavit, the facts deposed to in the affidavit would be deemed unchallenged and undisputed…they are therefore admitted.”

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AFFIDAVIT PARAGRAPHS THAT OFFEND SECTION 115 EVIDENCE ACT 2011 WILL BE STRUCK OUT

The stipulations of Section 115 of the Evidence Act, 2011 is a reproduction of the provisions of Sections 86, 88 and 89 of the Evidence Act, 1990. It is rudimentary law that any paragraph of an affidavit which offends against the provisions of Section 115 of the Evidence Act may be struck out, but if it is not struck out, no weight should be attached to it: JOSIEN HOLDINGS LTD vs. LORNAMEAD LTD (supra), FMG vs. SANI (NO. 2) (1989) 4 NWLR (PT 117) 624 and EDU vs. COMM. FOR AGRIC. (2000) 12 NWLR (PT 681) 318. Indeed, it seems to be settled law that any paragraph of an affidavit which offends Section 115 of the Evidence Act ought not to be acted upon. It is liable to be discountenanced and struck out. See OSIAN vs. FLOUR MILLS (1968) 2 ALL NLR 13, EURO BATI CONCEPT S.A. vs. TROPICAL INDUSTRIAL CO. LTD (2001) 18 NWLR (PT 744) 165 and A-G ADAMAWA vs. A-G (FED) (2005) 18 NWLR (PT 958) 581 at 625 and 657-658.

— U.A. Ogakwu, JCA. Lagos State v NDIC (CA/L/124/2003(R), Court of Appeal, June 2nd 2020)

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