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FAILURE OF COURT TO CONSIDER AFFIDAVIT IS A BREACH OF FAIR HEARING

Dictum

In Order 6 Rules (2) and (4) of the Rules of this court, in an application for leave to appeal or for enlargement of time within which to seek leave to appeal, a respondent may, if he so desires, file in reply a counter affidavit. It follows that in considering the application for leave to appeal, the court has a duty to also consider the counter affidavit of the Respondent before arriving at a decision. Failure to consider the counter affidavit, as was done in this case is not only an irregularity but a clear denial of fair hearing to the Respondent/Applicant herein.

— J.I. Okoro JSC. Citec v. Francis (SC.116/2011, 21 February 2014)

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AFFIDAVIT NOT DENIED OR POSITIVELY CONTROVERTED IS DEEMED ADMITTED

The law is now quite clear on the fact that, an affidavit not denied or positively controverted, is deemed to be admitted by the adverse party. And to deny an affidavit, the adverse party does not have to speak in tongues or in subterfuge, as he is required to deny the averment frontally and positively, leaving the court or any reader of his denial not in doubt of his adverse position to the one advanced or canvassed in the supporting affidavit. See the case of Hon. Maryati Audu Dogan & Ors. vs. A.G. Taraba State, an unreported decision of this court in CA/J/243/2010, delivered on 25/5/2011, pages 35 – 36 thereof. It is settled law that an affidavit evidence constitutes evidence and any deposition not challenged is deemed admitted. H.S. Engineering Ltd. vs. A.S. Yakubu Ltd. (2002) 175 LRCN 134, ratio 2, Ajomale vs. Yaduat (1991) 5 SCNJ 178, Nzeribe vs. Dave Engineering Co. Ltd. (1994) 2 SCNJ 161; Oyewole vs. Akande (2009) All FWLR (Pt.491) 813.

— I.G. Mbaba, JCA. Ogunleye v. Aina (2012) – CA/IL/22/2011

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AFFIDAVITS SHOULD NOT CONTAIN PRAYERS, LEGAL ARGUMENTS, AND CONCLUSIONS

I think the legal position is clear that in any affidavit used in the court, the law requires, as provided in Sections 86 and 87 of the Evidence Act, that it shall contain only a statement of facts and circumstances derived from the personal knowledge of the deponent or from information which he believes to be true, and shall not contain extraneous matter by way of objection, or prayer, or legal argument or conclusion. The problem is sometimes how to discern any particular extraneous matter. The test for doing this, in my view, is to examine each of the paragraphs deposed to in the affidavit to ascertain whether it is fit only as a submission which Counsel ought to urge upon the court. If it is, then it is likely to be either an objection or legal argument which ought to be pressed in oral argument; or it may be conclusion upon an issue which ought to be left to the discretion of the court either to make a finding or to reach a decision upon through its process of reasoning. But if it is in the form of evidence which a witness may be entitled to place before the court in his testimony on oath and is legally receivable to prove or disprove some fact in dispute, then it qualifies as a statement of facts and circumstances which may be deposed to in an affidavit. It therefore means that prayers, objections and legal arguments are matters that may be pressed by Counsel in court and are not fit for a witness either in oral testimony or in affidavit evidence; while conclusions should not be drawn by witnesses but left for the court to reach.

— Uwaifo, JSC. Bamaiyi v State (SC 292/2000, Supreme Court, 6th April 2001)

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INCONSISTENCY IN PARTY’S OWN AFFIDAVIT – COURT CANNOT HELP

In the case in hand, the contradictions or conflicts in affidavit evidence did not relate to the affidavit evidence filed by the appellant, on the one hand, and that filed by the respondent, on the other; rather, the contradiction arose only in respect of the appellant’s averments in his numerous affidavits. Therefore, the age-long principle of fielding witnesses to furnish oral evidence for the resolution of the contradictions between the two separate sets of evidence by the parties did not arise. Rather, it was self-evident from the judgment of the lower court that the contradictions alluded to were those that arose from the inconsistencies in the depositions in the appellant’s own affidavits. Clearly, where the appellant’s case is plagued by inconsistencies or contradictions, there is no obligation, in such circumstances, on the court seized of the matter to arrange for oral evidence to be called for the purposes of making or resolving the contradictions in the appellant’s case. The law frowns on a party who approbates in one breath and reprobates in another. But having said that, I must hurry to state that the onus is undoubtedly on the appellant confronted with its self-created contradictions to fully and properly explain away the contradictions to the satisfaction of the court. Failure to do so is bound to leave an indelible dent on the appellant’s case. It is not open to the court to enter into the arena of judicial conflict between the parties in order to resolve the contradictions within the appellant’s own affidavit evidence.

— Achike JSC. Momah v VAB Petro (2000) – SC. 183/1995

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WHERE CONFLICT IN BOTH AFFIDAVITS, COURT WILL CALL FOR ORAL EVIDENCE

On the question of conflict of affidavit evidence placed before the lower court which appellant’s learned Counsel had submitted should be resolved by oral evidence in order to act on such evidence, our case law is replete with authorities that where a matter is being tried on affidavit evidence and the court is confronted with conflicting or contradictory evidence relied on by the parties on a material issue before the court; it is the law that the court cannot resolve such conflict by evaluating the conflicting evidence but is obliged to call for oral evidence in order to achieve resolution of the conflict. (See Falobi v Falobi (1976) 9 & 10 SC 1 and Akinsete v Akidutire (1966) All NLR 137).

— Achike JSC. Momah v VAB Petro (2000) – SC. 183/1995

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A PARTY IS FREE TO CROSS-EXAMINE ON AN AFFIDAVIT ADMITTED IN EVIDENCE

I am in grave difficulty to agree with the submission of learned Senior Advocate. First, the first leg of his submission implies that an affidavit admitted as an exhibit is not open to cross-examination. This conclusion is drawn from his argument that the difference between an affidavit and a deposition which is a written testimony is that the latter is open to cross-examination. That is not my understanding of the law. A party is free to cross-examine on an affidavit admitted in evidence, particularly where there is a counter-affidavit. Where there is no counter-affidavit, then the deposition will be generally deemed to be correct. In the circumstances a blanket statement such as the one by Counsel, cannot be correct.

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

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MEANING OF AFFIDAVIT

Now, affidavit is simply a declaration on oath, a formal sworn statement of facts signed by the deponent and witnessed as to the veracity of the deposition’s signature by the taker of the oath such as the commissioner for oaths, notary public or even a magistrate. Thus, Affidavit evidence is a statement of fact which the deponent swears to be true to the best of his knowledge, information or belief. See Chief Chukwumeka Odumegu Ojukwu vs Miss Stella Onyeador (1991) 7 NWLR (pt 203) 286 at 317. A deposition literally means a formal, usually a written statement to be used in a law suit as evidence.

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

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