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INCONSISTENCY IN PARTY’S OWN AFFIDAVIT – COURT CANNOT HELP

Dictum

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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NO LAW PRESENTLY PROHIBITS A COUNSEL FROM DEPOSING TO AN AFFIDAVIT

The preliminary point raised by the Petitioner/Respondent that the motion of the 3 rd Respondent be dismissed, because the affidavit in support is sworn to by a legal practitioner in the law firm of counsel representing the 3 rd Respondent, is not sustainable. Our simple answer to this, is that there is no law that prohibits a counsel from deposing to an affidavit, if the counsel is conversant with the facts, or where the facts are within his personal knowledge. See the case of SODIPO VS LEMMINKAINEM (1986) 1 NWLR (PART 15) 220. In view of this, the motion of the 3 rd Respondent cannot be dismissed for the aforesaid reason.

— A. Osadebay, J. APC v INEC & Ors. (EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023, 20th Day of September, 2023)

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MOTION – WHAT AN AFFIDAVIT SHOULD NOT CONTAIN

A motion for a stay of execution is usually accompanied by an affidavit deposing to facts (not law, not speculation) which will persuade and incline the court to grant a stay … Paragraphs 14, 15 and 17 reproduced above offend all known rules relating to affidavits. One of those rules is that “an affidavit shall not contain extraneous matter, by way of objection, or prayer, or legal argument or conclusion”.

– Oputa, JSC. Military Governor v. Ojukwu (1986) – SC.241/1985

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ANY DEPOSITION IN AFFIDAVIT UNCHALLENGED IS DEEMED ADMITTED

IN H.S. ENGINEERING LTD VS. AS. YAKUBU LTD (2009) 175 LRCN 134, ratio 2, it was held – ‘It is now settled law that an affidavit evidence constitutes evidence and any deposition therein not challenged is deemed admitted.’ See also the unreported decision of this court in CA/IL/83/2010 (Adebiyi v. Umar), delivered on 31/1/2012, page 11.

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CONTRADICTIONS IN APPLICANT’S OWN AFFIDAVIT

Based on the above findings, the applicant cannot be heard to contend that the court below did not exercise its discretion judicially and judiciously. With the inconsistent, dishonest and woolly averments in the affidavits of the applicant, no reasonable tribunal could have granted his application. The court below was even charitable to him to have gone into the merits of the application … The applicant having contradicted himself on very serious and important issues of fact in his application which bordered on dishonesty, should not have turned round to complain. He did not approach the court with clean hands and those averments disqualified him from the exercise of the court’s discretion in his favour.

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

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DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN AFFIDAVIT & A STATEMENT ON OATH

✓ In OKPA v. IREK & ANOR (2012) LPELR-CA/C/NAEA/289/2011, the Court laid a strong brick we can safely stand on: ”… that a witness statement on oath is different from an affidavit evidence. An affidavit is a statement of fact which the maker or deponent swears to be true to the best of his knowledge. It is a court process in writing deposing to facts within the knowledge of the deponent. It is documentary evidence which the court can admit in the absence of any unchallenged evidence. Akpokeniovo vs. Agas (2004) 10 NWLR pt 881 page 394. On the contrary a witness statement is not evidence. It only becomes evidence after the witness is sworn in court and adopts his witness statement. At this stage at best it becomes evidence in chief. It is thereafter subjected to cross examination after which it becomes evidence to be used by the Court. If the opponent fails to cross examine the witness, it is taken as the true situation of facts contained there in.” Per NDUKWE-ANYANWU, J.C.A. (P. 9, Paras. C-G)

✓ SAMUEL LAMBERT & ANOR vs CHIEF A.S.B.C.OKUJAGU (2015) ALL FWLR (PART 808) Pp 665 – 666 paras E-A thus: “ … it is therefore very certain that even the rules of court admit that affidavit and statement of witness on oath are distinct and different from the other. The form of an affidavit under the Evidence Act is well specified by law. See section 117 and 118 of the Evidence Act 2011. There is no law that specified that all sworn documents or Oaths must comply with the provisions of the Evidence Act as relates to affidavit. It is therefore not a valid argument to say that sworn deposition or statement of witness under the civil procedure rules must accord with the form of an affidavit … ”

“There is no law that specified that all sworn documents or oaths must comply with the provisions of the Evidence Act as relates to affidavits. It is therefore not a valid argument to say that sworn deposition or statement of witnesses under the civil procedure rules must accord with the form of an affidavit”

“… the innovation of filing written statements on oath of witnesses to be called in a civil case is a very good proactive and progressive innovation of our learned drafts-men. The import is not to clone an affidavit or set up parallel affidavits evidence. The import is to reduce the time expended in taking notes from witnesses in court and by extension, reduce the stress of the trial judges whose lot it is within our jurisdiction and adjudicatory clime to record in long hand viva voce evidence of witnesses. The rules of the High Court do not intend to encrust the written statement on oath with the formal garb of an affidavit as tailored by Section 107 to 120 of the Evidence Act 2011. We must therefore be watchful not to upload written statements on oath simply devised by the civil procedure rules with the burden required to be borne by an affidavit under the Evidence Act.”

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CONCLUSION DRAWN IN AFFIDAVIT NEED NOT BE LEGAL CONCLUSION FOR STRIKING OUT

Besides, I do not think that view has any merit either by way of the interpretation of the said Section 87 of the Evidence Act or by looking broadly at the word “conclusion” which covers any conclusion based on fact or law as a result of a process of reasoning. It is the same process by which opinion or deduction is arrived at or inference drawn. Therefore to say that the conclusion meant under Section 87 is legal conclusion is restrictive and misleading.

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

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