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HOW COURT ARRIVES IN DETERMINING PREPONDERANCE OF EVIDENCE

Dictum

In determining either the preponderance of evidence or the balance of probabilities in the evidence, the court is involved in some weighing by resorting to the imaginary scale of justice in its evaluation exercise. Accordingly, proof by preponderance of evidence simply means that the evidence adduced by the plaintiff,(in our context the petitioner or appellant) should be put on one side of the imaginary scale mentioned in Mogaji v Odofin (1978) 3 SC 91 and the evidence adduced by the defendant (in our context, all the respondents) put on the other side of that scale and weighed together to see which side preponderates. In arriving at the preponderance of evidence, the Court of Appeal in its capacity as a court (tribunal) of first instance need not search for an exact mathematics figure in the imaginary “weighing machine” because there is in fact and in law no such machine and therefore no figures, talk less of mathematical exactness. On the contrary, the Court of Appeal, in its capacity as a court (tribunal) of first instance, should rely on its judicial and judicious mind to arrive at when the imaginary scale preponderates; and that is the standard, though oscillatory and at times nervous. I will be guided by the above principles on burden and standard of proof when considering Issues 2 and 4 of the appellant’s Brief which I will take anon.

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

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BURDEN OF PROOF LIES ON THE PLAINTIFF

The general rule in civil cases is that the burden of proof rests upon the party who substantially assert the affirmative before the evidence is gone into. Therefore, the burden of proof lies on the person who will fail assuming no evidence had been adduced on either side…Where the plaintiff as in this case, pleads and relies on negligence by conduct or action of the defendant, the plaintiff must prove by evidence the conduct or action and the circumstances of its occurrence, which give rise to the breach of the duty of care owed the plaintiff. And that it is only after this, that the burden shifts to the defendant to adduce evidence to challenge negligence on his part.

– Shuaibu JCA. Diamond Bank v. Mocok (2019)

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BURDEN TO PROVIDE DOCUMENT IS IN THE PARTY WHO IS IN POSSESSION OF THE DOCUMENT

Para. 68: “It is trite law that when a document is in the custody of the adverse party, the burden of proof of same shifts from the claimant to the custodian of the document. It is common knowledge that information about pension benefits especially the matrix of calculation is domiciled with the employer. The employee, more often than not upon retirement is presented with the total entitlement due same having been calculated by the employer. Thus when the records and the metric of calculation are in the custody of the employer, as in this instant case, the Respondent, the onus lies on them to provide.”

— Boley v Liberia & Ors. (2019) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/24/19

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SUSPICION IS NO PROOF

Suspicion no matter how strong or how grave can never take the place of legal proof.

– OMOBONIKE IGE, J.C.A. Etumionu v. AG Delta State (1994)

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HE WHO ALLEGES MUST PROVE

✓ Para. 25: In Petrostar (Nigeria) Limited V. Blackberry Nigeria Limited & 1 or (2011) CCJELR, the Court in its consideration reiterated the cardinal principle of law that “he who alleges must prove”.

✓ Para. 27: In Front for Liberation of the State Of Cabinda V. Republic Of Angola 5th November 2013, ACHPR, 328/06, 54TH Ordinary Session, where the Plaintiffs brought the application on behalf of the People of Cabinda on alleged violations of Articles 19, 20, 21, 22 and 24 of the African Charter, by infringing on their rights to natural resources, authorizing exploitation activities that did not favor the development of the people of Cabinda and allowing companies to operate in manners that are harmful to the environment and human health. The Commission held that the complainant failed to adduce evidence to support that the people of Cabinda were treated unequally in comparison to other people in Angola in violation of Article 19 of the Charter.

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BURDEN OF PROOF WHERE PARTY ALLEGES THE NEGATIVE

DASHE & ORS V DURVEN & ORS (2019) LPELR-48887 where my learned brother Ugo, JCA held: “While it is true that the burden of proof is generally on the person who substantially asserts the positive of an issue, and not on the person who makes a negative assertion, there is a caveat to that principle to the effect that where a negative assertion forms an essential part of a plaintiff’s case (as it evidently is in the case of the appellants) the burden of proof of such allegation rests on him. The law on this point was lucidly stated by Bowen L.J. in Abrath v. N.E. Railway. Co 11 QBD 440 at 457 when he said that: “Now in an action for malicious prosecution, the plaintiff has the burden throughout of establishing that the circumstances of the prosecution were such that the Judge can see no reasonable and probable cause for instituting it. In one sense that is the assertion of a negative, and we have been pressed with the proposition that, when a negative is made out, the onus of proof shifts. That is not so. If the assertion of a negative is an essential part of a plaintiff’s case, the proof of the assertion still rests upon the plaintiff. The terms’ negative and affirmative’ are after all, relative, and not absolute.” ?See also Phipson on Evidence, 15th Edition, Paragraph 4.03 at page 56; The Article Burden and Standard of Proof, by Justice Niki Tobi in Chief Afe Babalola’s Law & Practice of Evidence in Nigeria, and Muraina & Ors v. Omolade & Ors (1968) 359 @ 362. See also Sections 131, ?132 and 133 of the Evidence Act 2010 stating that whoever desires any Court to give judgment as to any legal right or liability dependent on the existence of facts which he asserts shall prove that those facts exist; that the burden of proof in a suit or proceeding lies on that person who would fail if no evidence at all were given, and that in civil cases, the burden of first proving existence or non-existence offact lies is on the party against whom judgment would be given if no evidence were produced on either side.”

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 2023)

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BURDEN OF PROOF LIES ON THE PROSECUTION AND IT NEVER SHIFTS

In Alonge v. I.G.P. (1959) 4 FSC 203 at 204; (1959) SCNLR 516, Ademola, CJF stressing the burden of proof on the prosecution in a criminal case observed: “Now, the commission of a crime by a party must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. The burden of proving that any person is guilty of a crime rests on the person who asserts it and this is the law as laid down in section 137 of the Evidence Ordinance. Cap. 62. The burden of proof lies on the prosecution and it never shifts; and if on the whole evidence the court is left in a state of doubt, the prosecution would have failed to discharge the onus of proof which the law lays upon it and the prisoner is entitled to an acquittal”

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