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THE APPELLATE COURT IS IN A GOOD POSITION TO EVALUATE EVIDENCE AS THE TRIAL JUDGE

Dictum

Indeed, if there is a complaint that a trial judge did not make findings based on the evidence placed before him, the appellate court is in as good position as the trial court to do its own evaluation of the evidence contained in the records of appeal. See: Narumai and Sons Nig. Ltd v. Niger Benue Transport Co Ltd (1989) 2 NWLR (Pt.106) 730. And where the appellate court finds that there are inadequacies on the part of the trial judge in reaching his decision or finding that is perverse, the appellate court has a duty to examine the inferences and conclusions drawn by the trial judge and then re-evaluate the evidence in order to come to its own judgment, to see that justice is done. See: Atolagbe v. Shorun (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt.2) 360; Eki v. Giwa (1977) 2 SC, 131; Lion Building Ltd v. Shadipe (1976) 12 SC 135.

— T.S. YAKUBU, JCA. Fayose v ICN (2012) – CA/AE/58/2010

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EVALUATION, ASCRIBING PROBATIVE VALUE, DUTY OF TRIAL JUDGE

Generally, and it is settled law that the evaluation of evidence adduced and ascription of probative value or weight to such evidence is the primary duty of the trial judge who saw and heard the witnesses testified. The trial judge is therefore in a position to access the credibility and watch the demeanour of the witnesses.

– O. Ariwoola, JSC. Tukur v. Uba (2012) – SC.390/2011

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GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE

However, when the evaluation of evidence by a particular trial judge is in issue or being challenged, the guiding principles are as follows: (i) whether the evidence is admissible (ii) whether the evidence is relevant (iii) whether the evidence is credible (iv) whether the evidence is conclusive (v) Whether the evidence is probable than that given by the other Party.

– O. Ariwoola, JSC. Tukur v. Uba (2012) – SC.390/2011

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THERE MUST BE IMPROPER EVALUATION FOR APPEAL COURT TO RE-EVALUATE EVIDENCE

Unless and until the appellate Court comes to the conclusion that the trial Court had not carried out its duty of proper evaluation and ascription of probative value to the evidence before it, the duty of the appellate Court to re – evaluate the evidence on the printed records would not arise. The law is that for an appellate Court to embark on such a duty it must be demonstrated that the Court below had either not carried out its duty of evaluation of the evidence led before it or had carried out an improper evaluation of the evidence and had arrived at findings which are perverse, and which ought in law to be set aside so that proper findings as dictated by the proved evidence as in the printed record are made by the appellate Court in the interest of justice and to avoid the perpetuation of injustice should the perverse judgment of the trial Court be allowed to stand.

– B.A. Georgewill, JCA. Ganiyu v. Oshoakpemhe & Ors. (2021) – CA/B/12A/2021

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WHEN WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE IS ALLEGED, MEANING

In the case of AWUSA v. NIG. ARMY (2018) LPELR-44377 (SC) the Apex Court held that: “The position of the law is that when an Appellant alleges that a decision is against the weight of evidence, he means that when evidence he adduced is balanced against that of the Respondent. Judgment in the Respondent’s favour is against the weight that should have been given to the totality of the evidence adduced – See Akinlagun v. Oshoboja (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt. 993) 60 at 82 SC. The complaint is only concerned with appraisal and evaluation of all the evidence and not the weight to be attached to any particular piece of evidence…”

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EVALUATION AND PERCEPTION OF EVIDENCE

In carrying out its sacrosanct function of evaluation of evidence, the trial judge begins by receiving into its record all relevant evidence on the case or the fact in issue, and this is perception of evidence. He then proceeds to weigh the evidence in the light of the surrounding circumstances; this is evaluation of evidence. The findings of fact by a trial Court involves both perception and evaluation. See ONI vs. JOHNSON (2015) LPELR (24545) 1 at 35-38.

— A.A. Wambai, JCA. Aliyu v. Bulaki (2019) – CA/S/36/2018

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WHAT APPELLANT MUST DO WHEN HE ALLEGES FAULTY EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE

Evaluation of evidence entails the trial Judge examining of all evidence before him before making a finding. This is done by putting all the evidence on an imaginary scale to see which side outweigh the other by way of credible evidence. See LAFIA L. G. v. EXEC. GOV. OF NASARAWA STATE (2012) LPELR-20602 (SC). So where the Appellant complained that the judge did not evaluate evidence properly as in this case, he has the duty to show the Appellate Court how the correction of the omission will make the decision wrong and liable to be set aside. For example, the Appellant must show which admissible evidence the trial Judge rejected or inadmissible evidence he relied upon to the extent that resulted in a miscarriage of justice. In other words, it is not just enough to complain against the evaluation of evidence, but the Appellant must show that the decision of the trial Court was wrong. See PETROLEUM (SPECIAL) TRUST FUND v. WESTERN PROJECT CONSORTIUM LTD and ORS. (2006) LPELR-7719 and ODUNUKWE v. OFOMATA and ANOR. (1999) 6 NWLR (PT. 602) 416 at 425 (CA). The law has been stated and re-stated in uncountable number of decisions of this Court and the Supreme Court that the duty of evaluation of evidence and the ascription of probative value to such evidence is the primary duty of the trial Court. This is especially so where the evaluation of evidence is on the conflicting oral testimonies and belief or disbelief of such evidence. The Appellate Court cannot be in a position to recapture that advantage that the trial Judge had in observing the witnesses as they testified. Therefore, unless the Appellant satisfied this Court as an Appellate Court that the decision of the trial Court was wrong vide improper evaluation of evidence, we have no business re-evaluating the evidence to substitute our own decision for that of the trial Court.

— B.B. Aliyu, JCA. Oboh v. Oboh (2021) – CA/B/372/12

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