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DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE SHOULD BE A HANGER TO ACCESS ORAL TESTIMONY

Dictum

“No doubt the legal proposition that where there is oral as well as documentary evidence, documentary evidence should be as a hanger from which to assess oral testimony is a sound one.” – per Nnaemeka Agu, J.S.C. in Kimdey & Ors. v. Military Governor of Gongola State & Ors. (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt.77) 445; (1988) 1 NSCC 827, 851.

— Ogundare, JSC. Ibrahim v Barde (1996) – SC.74/1995

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TESTIFYING IN NATIVE LANGUAGE IS NOT PROOF OF ILLITERACY

It is also imperative to note that the fact that a witness opted to testify in his native language, is not a conclusive evidence that he is an illiterate. He may choose to do so because he feels much comfortable expressing himself in his mother-tongue, and not because he did not know how to write or read.

– T.N. Orji-Abadua, JCA. Kabau v. Rilwanu (2013) – CA/K/179/2001

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TESTIFYING IN NATIVE LANGUAGE IS NOT PROOF OF ILLITERACY

In Oyebode vs. Oloyede (1999) 2 NWLR Part 592 page 523, the present Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mukhtar, CJN, when she was in the Court of Appeal had this to say: “Agreed that he gave evidence in Yoruba, but the question is, is that sufficient to assure that he could not read or understand English, or that he is illiterate? It may well be that he found it easier to testify in Yoruba, in open court and so elected to speak in his native language.”

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DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE WEIGHS ORAL TESTIMONY

The Documentary evidence lends weight to oral testimony. It serves as an action from which oral testimony is weighed for good measure. – Nwodo, JCA. OLAM v. Intercontinental Bank (2009)

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WHERE ORAL EVIDENCE IN PRIOR TRIAL MAY BE USED

Ariku v. Ajiwogbo (1962) All NLR (Pt. 4) 630, Ademola CJF (of blessed memory) delivering the judgment of the Supreme Court stated the law as follows:- “This court has frequently directed attention to the practice, now not uncommon of making use of evidence of a witness in another case as if it were evidence in the case on trial. As was pointed out in Alade v. Aborishade (1960) 5 FSC 167 at 171, this is only permissible under section 33 or 34 of the Evidence Act. Where a witness in a former case is giving evidence in a case in hand, his former evidence may be brought up in cross-examination to discredit him if he was lying, but evidence used for this purpose does not become evidence in the case in hand for any other purpose. There are also prerequisites to the making use of the former testimony of a witness; for example his attention must be called to the former case where such evidence was given and he would be reminded of what he had said on the occasion.”

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ORAL EVIDENCE IN EARLIER TRIAL NOT RELEVANT IN A LATER TRIAL

With due deference to the learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria, it is settled law that evidence of a witness taken in an earlier proceedings is not relevant in a later trial or proceeding except for the purpose of discrediting such a witness in cross examination and for that purpose only. – Sanusi JCA. Enejo v. Nasir (2006)

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ORAL EVIDENCE CANNOT CONTRADICT DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE

Having regard to the provisions of section 132(1) of the Evidence Act, oral evidence cannot be admitted to contradict, alter, add to or vary a contract or document unless such evidence falls within any of the matters that may be proved by such oral evidence by virtue of the provisos thereto. The provisos only permit evidence which will not be inconsistent with the terms of the relevant contract or document.

– Uwaifo JSC. Fortune v. Pegasus (2004)

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