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WITNESS DEPOSITION MUST BE FILED WHETHER WITNESS IS SUBPOENAED OR NOT IN AN ELECTION PETITION

Dictum

From the foregoing judicial decisions, it is clear that in election petition litigation, whether the witnesses which a party intends to call are ordinary or expert witnesses and whether they are willing or subpoenaed witnesses, their witness depositions must be filed along with petition before such witnesses will be competent to testify before the tribunal or court.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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WHO IS A VITAL WITNESS

A vital witness is a witness whose evidence may determine the case one way or the other and failure to call a vital witness is fatal to the prosecution s case. In other words, a witness who knows something significant about a matter is a vital witness. In Onah v. State (1985) 3 NWLR Pt. 12 Pg.236 a vital witness was described as a witness whose evidence may determine the case one way or the other and it is settled that the failure to call such a witness is fatal to the prosecution’s case.

– H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. State v. Ibrahim (2021) – SC.200/2016

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WHERE ACCUSED PERSON IS THE ONLY WITNESS TO AN EVENT

This court has stated in a legion of cases that where the evidence of an accused person is the only witness of an event, any other evidence given by another person not being an eye witness to that particular event will be hearsay or speculative. I commend the decision of this court in Ahmed v. State (1999) 7 NWLR (Pt. 612) 641 at 675 Belgore, JSC while allowing the appeal stated as follows: “In a situation where only the evidence of the accused person as to the actual stabbing is the only eye-witness account, he is either believed or there is no other evidence to believe.” Also in Bassey v. State (2019) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1103) 160 at page 166, para. F, Abba Aji, JSC while allowing the appeal stated as follows: “the testimony of appellant appears to me very striking and believable since there was no eye witness to the crime except the story of the appellant herein. His evidence seems consistent and correlated.”

Enobong v. The State (2022) – SC/CR/249/2020

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IT IS WITNESS WHO IS TO EXPLAIN INCONSISTENCY, NOT COUNSEL

A line of decisions of this court, including Onubogu v. The State (1974) 9 SC.1 at p.20; Ateji v. The State (1976) 2 SC 79 at pp. 83 – 84; Boy Muka v. The State (1976) 9-10 SC 193 at p.205, has held that in such a situation there is a failure to prove the criminal allegation beyond reasonable doubt. The person to explain the inconsistency is a witness(es) called by the party in whose case there are inconsistencies or contradictions, and not the counsel from the Bar. Afterall, a bare statement from the Bar has no force of legal evidence. The law is settled that the courts do not accept argument of counsel as substitute for evidence.

— Eko, JSC. Anyanwu v. PDP (2020) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1710) 134

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WITNESS SUBPOENAED BY THE COURT AND WITNESS SUBPOENAED BY A PARTY

The Petitioners have tried to argue that the said witnesses are witnesses of this Court. With respect, this argument is misconceived, because the subpoenas in respect of those witnesses were issued upon the request of the Petitioners. The applications for the issuance of the subpoenas were duly filed at the Registry of this Court by the Petitioners’ Counsel and the requisite fees, including filing fees and service fees as assessed were duly paid by them, before this Court approved and issued the subpoenas. Therefore, those witnesses are the Petitioners’ witnesses and not witnesses of this Court. Indeed, the procedure for calling of witnesses by the Court is by summons as stipulated in Paragraph 42(1) of the 1st Schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022. By the provisions of that Paragraph, “the tribunal or court may summon a person as a witness who appears to the tribunal or court to have been concerned in the election.” It is clear from the to provision of that paragraph that it is a person summoned by the Court suo motu in exercise of its powers under Paragraph 42(1) that is a witness of the Court and not person subpoenaed at the request of a party to the case.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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HOST OF WITNESSES IS NOT NEEDED FOR SUCCEEDING

In OCHIBA v. THE STATE (2011) LPELR 8245 (SC) where it was held as follows: “I need to say it that it is settled Law that the prosecution was not obliged to call a host of witnesses in order to discharge the burden placed on it to prove the charge against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt as dictated by section 138(1) of the Evidence Act. A sole witness like P.w.1, who has given credible and clear evidence which was believed by the trial Judge, will suffice. See OBUE V THE STATE (1976) 2 SC 141; SADAM v THE STATE [2010] 12 SC (PT.1) 73 at 87-88; AKPAN v THE STATE [1991] 3 NWLR (PT 182) 695”.

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A CASE IS PROVED BY THE QUALITY OF EVIDENCE, NOT QUANTUM

A case is proved by either oral evidence or documentary/real evidence or a combination of all of this. It is not the quantum of evidence/witnesses, but the quality of the evidence/witnesses that matters. See Onwuka v. Ediala [1989] 1 NWLR (Pt.96) 182 at 187 and Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc v. Owolabi [2014] LPELR-24385(CA).

— B.B. Kanyip, J. Awogu v TFG Real Estate (2018) – NICN/LA/262/2013 para. 67.

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