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DEMEANOUR OF WITNESSES IN THE EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE

Dictum

The trial Judge should take into consideration the demeanour of witnesses in the evaluation of evidence. Demeanour, which is outward or overt behaviour or manner of a witness, is the exclusive domain of the trial Judge. It includes all open habits and mannerisms of the witness. These ooze out from the body of the witness spontaneously and not tutored. Some of such body movements include a spontaneous positive or negative reaction to a question; shouting at a particular moment or the opposite action of a pretentious mum conduct; movement of part of the body, particularly the hands and the sudden change in the face arising either from anger or happiness, the latter resulting in either a smile or laughter. Another is a sudden remorse on the part of the witness, usually exhibited by refusal to look at the Judge or Counsel, or others in the court, but a sudden drop of the face in the witness box. There are quite a number of behaviours in the determination of demeanour which cannot be exhausted. I can stop with the above as the major conducts of witnesses. I should complete the picture by saying that as appellate judges are deprived of watching the demeanour of witnesses, trial Judges owe the administration of justice a big duty to arrive at the correct conclusion. Of course appellate Judges are not completely hopeless or helpless. They can watch the evaluation of demeanour by the Judge in the cold records.

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

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PROSECUTION OWES NOT THE COURT A DUTY TO CALL HOST OF WITNESSES

The prosecution does not have the obligation to put forward two versions of one incident. See ONUBOGU v. THE STATE (supra); BOY MUKA v. THE STATE (supra); ALFRED ONYEMENA v. THE STATE (1974) ALL NLR 522. Once the prosecution can prove their allegation beyond reasonable doubt with the witnesses they have screened and selected, they would have discharged the burden of proof cast on them by law. They owe neither the Court nor the accused the duty to call a host of witnesses, or a particular witness.

— E. Eko, JSC. Galadima v. State (2017) – SC.70/2013

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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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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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WHETHER OR NOT A WITNESS IS AN ACCOMPLICE IS ONE OF LAW

The question whether or not a witness is an accomplice is one of law not of fact and if, as here, the learned trial Judge erred in regarding P.W.(18) as an accomplice (to the crime of conspiracy) it is certainly open to an appellate court (and in this instance, the Federal Court of Appeal) to reverse the erroneous view of the learned trial Judge.

— Idigbe, JSC. Ishola v State (1978) – SC.8/1977

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PROSECUTION MUST NOT CALL ALL WITNESSES, SUFFICIENT WITNESSES ARE ENOUGH

Secondly, it is a well established principle of law that it is not necessary for a person on whom the onus of proof lies, even in criminal cases, to call every available piece of evidence in order to discharge that burden. It is enough if evidence is tendered sufficient to discharge the onus which the law lays upon the prosecution. See: Francis Odili v. The State (1977) 4SC 1 or (1977) 11 NSCC 154 at 158 and Joshua Alonge v.I.G. of Police (1959) SCNLR 516; (1959) 4 FSC 203 or (1959) 1 NSCC 169. In the Francis Odili case, the appellant was convicted and sentenced to death. Following his arrest, the appellant was identified at an identification parade by one of the two Rev. Sisters they violently robbed with arms. At the trial, he pleaded alibi. The learned counsel contended inter alia that the evidence of identification was unreliable and that the prosecution failed to call two other eye witnesses to the incident. On appeal, this court per Alexander C.J.N. stated as follows:- “Counsel’s last submission was that the 2 night guards should have been called as witnesses as they were present throughout………………..The tribunal, in its judgment, pointed out that the defence had an equal opportunity to call the night guards if they considered that the evidence of the night, guards would be favourable to them. The tribunal found no merit in this submission and we unhesitatingly agree. The prosecution is not required to call very available piece of evidence to prove its case. It is enough if sufficient evidence is called to discharge the onus of proof beyond reasonable doubt.”

— Iguh, JSC. Oguonzee v State (1998) – SC.131/97

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NEGATIVES OF PHOTOGRAPH REQUIRES PHOTOGRAPHER TO BE CALLED TO TESTIFY

Photographs taken of the deceased’s corpse are secondary evidence. They become admissible only when the negative is also tendered and their inadmissibility has nothing to do with the maker or photographer. However in this age of digital photography where the negatives are stored electronically, it becomes necessary for the photographer to be called to testify. — K.B. Aka’ahs, JSC. Mati Musa v The State (2019) – SC.902/2014

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