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INTERFERING WITH FINDINGS OF FACT

Dictum

I agree with the law that an appellate court should not interfere with the findings of fact by a trial court once the findings are based on the evidence upon the pleading of the parties. The appellate court can however interfere where the trial court failed to inter alia make findings or arrived at inconsistent findings on a crucial issue raised by the parties.

– Onnoghen JCA. Union Bank v. Akinrinmade (1999)

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PROPER EVALUATION OF FACT NEEDS NO INTERFERENCE FROM APPELLATE COURT

The law is also common knowledge that where a trial Court fails to properly discharge that primary duty or the evaluation value ascribed to and inference/findings made thereon cannot be supported by the evidence adduced before that Court, then an appellate Court is entitled to intervene and interfere with such decisions of the trial Court … However where a trial Court has unquestionably and properly evaluated the evidence adduced before it, an appellate Court has no business to and is usually slow in interfering with decisions arising from such an exercise.

– M.L. Garba JCA. Odogwu v. Vivian (2009) – CA/PH/345/05

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FACTS ACCEPTED AND NOT CONTROVERTED WILL LEAD TO CONVICTION

In Peter Igho v. The State (1978) 3 SC 87 the facts as set out in the judgment were that the deceased, lfoto Oboluke, left her house on Sunday 20th August, 1972 for a religious service but never returned alive. When the mother did not see her return in the evening she made a report and a search party was organised by the villagers. Those who saw her last said she was riding at the back of a bicycle. The corpse of the deceased was later found that night. This Court per Eso JSC upholding the verdict of the trial court on the conviction of the appellant said: “The only irresistible inference from the circumstances presented by the evidence in this case is that the appellant killed the deceased. We can find no other reasonable inference from the circumstances of the case. The facts which were accepted by the learned trial Judge amply supported by the evidence before him, called for an explanation and beyond the untrue denials of the appellant (as found by the learned trial Judge) none was forthcoming. See R. v. Mary Ann Nash (1911) 6 C.A.R. 225 at page 228. Though this constitutes circumstantial evidence, it is proof beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the appellant.”

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MEANING OF A PERVERSE FINDING

A perverse finding is a wrong, unreasonable or unacceptable finding, having due regard to the evidence before the court. A perverse finding is one not supported by the evidence before the court. It is a finding raised on a wrong assessment of the evidence before the court. A finding of fact based on exaggerated or bloated evidence on the part of the trial court could be perverse. So too finding of fact borne out from addition or subtraction from the evidence before the court.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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INFERENCE NOT FRESH POINT OF LAW

An appellate court can draw conclusion or make inference from the record before it. Conclusion or inference borne out of/from the record cannot be branded as raising fresh point of law. A fresh point of law is a new point of law which was not raised by any of the parties at the trial of the case. A point of law which was raised by the parties at the trial cannot be a fresh point of law.

– Niki Tobi JSC. Gbadamosi v. Dairo (2007)

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NATIVE CUSTOM IS A QUESTION OF FACT

Native law and custom being a question of fact in an action in the High Court, it is true that the findings in these cases are not binding as precedents, and it is also true, as has been pointed out by Mr Oseni on behalf of the respondents, that however learned and experienced the Judges whose judgments are relied on may have been, they could only act on the evidence which the parties in the cases concerned chose to call before them.

Odunsi Lasisi Ajibola v. Aminu Akindele Ajani Ojora (1961)

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COURT IS TO RECORD WHAT SIDE HE BELIEVES BEFORE RECORDING FINDING OF FACT

My only quarrel with the judgment of the learned trial Judge is that he recorded his findings before indicating what side he believed. This is a very wrong approach. After a review of the evidence of witnesses who gave conflicting accounts, the trial Judge ought to have indicated what side he believed before recording his findings because it is on the credibility of those witnesses that proper findings can be made. If a witness is not believed no finding of fact can be founded on his evidence.

— Oputa JSC. Onwuka & Ors. V. Ediala & Anor. (SC.18/1987, 20 January 1989)

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