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DEMEANOUR OF WITNESSES VIS-A-VIS DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE

Dictum

An appellate court should not ordinarily substitute its own views of fact for those of the trial court. See: Ebba v. Ogodo (1974) 1 SCNLR 372; Balogun v. Agboola (1974) 1 All NLR (pt. 2) 66. Ascription of probative value to the evidence of witnesses is pre-eminently the business of the trial court which saw and heard the witnesses. An appeal court will not lightly interfere with same unless for compelling reasons. But where evidence has nothing to do with the demeanour of witnesses or relates to interpretation to be placed on documents tendered before the court, an appellate court will be in a good position to act accordingly. See: Ebba v. Ogodo (supra); Ogbechie Onochie (1998) 1 NWLR (Pt.470) 370. An appellate court will not interfere with findings of fact except where wrongly applied to the circumstance of the case or vital documents tendered were jettisoned or conclusion arrived at was patently perverse or wrong, See: Nwosu v. Board of Customs & Excise (1988) 5 NWLR (Pt. 93) 225; Nneji v. Chukwu (1996) 10 NWLR (pt. 378) 265. And where there is conflict in the evidence of witnesses, documentary evidence will serve as a hanger on which the truth shall be resolved. Documents tendered as exhibits are very vital as they do not embark on falsehood like some mortal beings. See: Olujinle v. Adeagbo (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt.75) 238.

— J.A. Fabiyi, JSC. BFI v. Bureau PE (2012) – SC.12/2008

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TO CONTRADICT A WITNESS BY HIS PREVIOUS WRITING; MUST SHOW WITNESS THE WRITING

Bello, JSC, in AJIDE v. KELANI (1985) 3 NWLR (pt.12) 248 at 200 – 261, (1985) 16 NSCC (pt.2) 1298 at 1309, stated the options thus – “He may cross-examine the witness on the writing and if he is satisfied with the answer given by the witness or if he does not intend to pursue the matter further, he is not required to show the writing to the witness or to prove the writing. But if the cross-examiner intends to contradict the witness by the writing, then he must show the writing to witness and call his attention to those part of the writing which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting the witness. It is only after this condition has been complied with that the writing can be admitted in evidence.”

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COURT SHOULD DISALLOW IRRELEVANT QUESTION DURING EXAMINATION

A court has a duty to disallow a question which is not relevant to the proceedings; but a question which is relevant can freely be put to a witness and must be answered, although the weight to be attached to the answer is an entirely different matter. Thus relevance and admissibility are closely knit together while the question of weight appertains to the province of evaluation and should, as always, be kept in separate compartment.

– Achike JCA. Adeyemi v. Edigin (1990)

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NO LAW SAYS A RELATION CANNOT GIVE EVIDENCE

No law says a relation could not give evidence of what he knew, simply because he is related to the party in whose favour he is to give the evidence.All that is necessary, in such situation, is for the Court to warn itself of the danger of the likelihood of partisanship – see Idowu v. The State (2011) LPELR-3597 (CA) 69-70, D-B.

— O.O. Arowosegbe, J. Danjuma v Royal Salt Ltd. & Anor. (2020)

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QUALITY OF TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES

The trial court does not come to a decision by the quantity of the witnesses but on the quality or probative value of the testimony of the witnesses. — O.O. Adekeye, JSC. Mini Lodge v. Ngei (2009) – SC.231/2006

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

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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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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