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ORAL EVIDENCE MORE CREDIBLE IF SUPPORTED BY DOCUMENT

Dictum

The position of the law is that once documentary evidence supports oral evidence, such oral evidence becomes more credible. The reasoning is premised on the fact and the law that documentary evidence serves as a hanger from which to assess oral testimony.

– Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Ukeje v. Ukeje (2014)

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NO LAW PROHIBITS RELATIONS FROM TESTIFYING IN A CRIMINAL TRIAL

There is no law, it should be pointed out, which prohibits relations of the victim of a crime or otherwise from testifying for the prosecution in a case against an accused person charged in the commission of such crime. As a result, a witness cannot properly be described and treated as a tainted witness by reason only of his blood, marriage or other relationship with the victim of the crime in respect of which he testified as a witness for the prosecution.

– M.L. Garba JCA. Odogwu v. Vivian (2009) – CA/PH/345/05

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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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ORAL EVIDENCE CANNOT CONTRADICT DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE

Can this evidence pass for its content of oral agreement of a yearly tenancy to vitiate the termination of the lease in 1980? Can the bare ipse dixit of a witness of the existence of oral evidence turn around in his favour in the face of clear documentary evidence to the contrary? I have a few more questions to ask but I can stop here.

– Tobi JSC. Odutola v. Papersack (2007)

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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 MUST BE DIRECT – SECTION 126 EVIDENCE ACT 2011

It is correct, as submitted, that Section 126(a)-(d) of the Evidence Act, 2011 provides inter alia that “oral evidence must, in all cases whatever, be direct”. The rationale for the rule can be said to be: (1) The unreliability of the original maker of the statement who is not in Court and not cross-examined; (2) The depreciation of the truth arising from repetition; (3) Opportunities for fraud; (4) The tendency of such evidence to lead to prolonged inquiries and proceedings; (5) Hearsay evidence tends to encourage the substitution of weaker evidence for stronger evidence.

— J.H. Sankey, JCA. Brila Energy Ltd. v. FRN (2018) – CA/L/658CA/2017

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