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IN DETERMINING ADMISSIBILITY, IT IS RELEVANCY THAT MATTERS NOT CUSTODY

Dictum

Admissibility is a rule of evidence and it is based on relevancy. See Sadau v. The State (1968) 1 All NLR 124: Ogonzee v. State (1997) 8 NWLR (Pt. 518) 566. In determining the admissibility of evidence, the court will not consider how it was obtained; rather the court will take into consideration whether what is admitted is relevant to the issues being tried. See Igbinovia v. The State (1981) 2 SC 5. In Elias v. Disu (1962) 1 SCNLR 361, (1962) 1 All NLR 214, this court held that in determining admissibility of evidence, “it is the relevancy of the evidence that is important and not how the evidence was obtained.”

— N. Tobi JSC. Musa Abubakar v. E.I. Chuks (SC.184/2003, 14 DEC 2007)

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PUBLIC DOCUMENT CERTIFIED IS ADMISSIBLE THROUGH A PARTY WHO IS NOT TO THE CASE

By virtue of the provisions of Section 102(b) of the Evidence Act, 2011, public documents include public records kept in Nigeria of private documents. See: ONWUZURUIKE v EDOZIEM & ORS (2016) LPELR 26056(SC) at pages 10 – 11, paras. F-B, where the Supreme Court, per Onnoghen, JSC held that a private document sent to the Police formed part of the record of the Police and is consequently a public document within the provisions of Section 109 of the old Evidence Act, now Section 102 of the extant Evidence Act, 2011. It is also trite that a public document duly so certified, is admissible in evidence notwithstanding that it is not tendered by the maker. Indeed, a certified true copy of a public document can be tendered by person who is not a party to the case. See: MARANRO v ADEBISI (2007) LPELR-4663(CA); DAGGASH v BULAMA (2004) 14 NWLR (Pt. 892) 144 at 187; and MUSTAPHA SHETTIMA & ORS v ALHAJI BUKAR CUSTOMS (2021) LPELR-56150(CA). Exhibits RA1 and RA2, being in the public record of the 1st Respondent are public documents and are therefore admissible in evidence, having been certified by the 1st Respondent under Section 104 of the Evidence Act, 2011.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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ORAL EVIDENCE NOT ADMISSIBLE WHERE DOCUMENT EXIST

Where there is documentary evidence on an aspect of a party’s case, no oral evidence is admissible on that aspect. This is because our adjectival law does not admit oral evidence on an aspect or area covered by a document. A party cannot benefit from two ways: documentary evidence and oral evidence. He can only lead evidence in respect of one and not the two of them. But this principle of law is subject to an important qualification and it is this. If the parties by their ad idem agree by oral agreement to change part of the written agreement, the court will not reject the oral agreement.

– Niki Tobi, JSC. Brossette v. Ilemobola (2007)

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THREE MAIN CRITERIA FOR ADMISSIBILITY OF A DOCUMENT

A good starting point is to state the three main criteria that govern the admissibility of a document in evidence, namely:- (1) Is the document pleaded? (2) Is it relevant to the inquiry being tried by the court? and (3) Is it admissible in law? See Okonji v. Njokanma (1999) 11 – 12 SCNJ 259 @ 273 where Achike JSC stated thus: “The position of the law in relation to the question of admissibility of a document in evidence is that admissibility is one thing while the probative value that may be placed thereon is another. Generally, three main criteria govern the admissibility of a document in evidence, namely: (1) is the document pleaded? (2) is it relevant to the inquiry being tried by the court? and (3) is it admissible in law?”

— A. Jauro, JCA. Chevron v. Aderibigbe (2011) – CA/L/76/04

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REPORTS BY INTERESTED PERSONS ARE INADMISSIBLE

It is therefore evident from the above that PW4, PW7 and PW8 are persons interested in the outcome of this proceedings. The reports produced by PW4 and PW8 qualify as statements made by persons interested in anticipation or during the pendency of this Petition. As for PW7 she is admittedly an interested party having been a member of and even contested election under the umbrella of the 2nd Petitioner. Her interest is further underscored by the fact that she admitted under cross examination that she was attending court throughout the proceedings prior to her evidence. By virtue of Section 83(3) of the Evidence Act, 2011, the reports tendered by those witnesses which form part of their evidence are inadmissible.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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A DOCUMENT WHICH IS CONSISTENT WITH THE PLEADINGS IS ADMISSIBLE

A document is admissible in evidence if it is relevant to the facts in issue and admissible in law. The converse position is also the law, and it is that a document which is irrelevant to the facts in issue is not admissible. Documents which are tendered to establish facts pleaded cannot be rejected on the ground of irrelevancy in so far as they confirm the facts pleaded. See Oyetunji v. Akaniji (1986) 5 NWLR (Pt. 42) 461. In other words, a document which is consistent with the pleadings is admissible, if the document is admissible in law. —

N. Tobi JSC. Musa Abubakar v. E.I. Chuks (SC.184/2003, 14 DEC 2007)

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COURT CAN ONLY ACT ON ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE

There is no doubt, however, that a court is expected in all proceedings before it to admit and act only on evidence which is admissible in law (i.e. under the Evidence Act or any other law or enactment relevant in any particular case) and so if the court should inadvertently admit inadmissible evidence it has a duty generally not to act upon it. When, however, inadmissible evidence is tendered it is the duty of the opposite (or adverse) party or his counsel to object immediately to the admissibility of such evidence; although if the opposite party should fail to raise objection in such circumstances the court in civil cases may (and, in criminal case, must) reject such evidence ex proprio motu. On appeal, however, different considerations arise where a party failed to take objection to inadmissible evidence in the court of trial. It has frequently been stated (as, indeed, learned counsel for the appellant has done) that where a matter has been improperly received in evidence in the court below, even when no objection has been there raised, it is the duty of the court of appeal to reject it and to decide the case on legal evidence.

— Ogundare, JSC. Kossen v Savannah Bank (1995) – SC.209/89

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