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PRESUMPTION AS TO CORRECT FINDING OF FACT

Dictum

When there is an appeal where there is a finding of fact affirmed by the Court of Appeal, this court would presume that the trial judge’s conclusions are correct. This is so since the trial judge was the only judge who saw and heard the witnesses. When the Court of Appeal affirms the conclusions of the trial court the presumption becomes much stronger. The presumption can only be displaced by the appellant who seeks, to upset the judgment on facts.

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

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APPRAISAL OF FACT

It is settled law that the appraisal of facts is the duty of the trial Judge and the Appellant court will only intervene when the finding is perverse or wrongly made. – Nwodo, JCA. OLAM v. Intercontinental Bank (2009)

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CASES SHOULD BE DECIDED ON ITS OWN FACTS

It is also of paramount importance to always have it as a central theme that each case must be examined and decided on its own facts and circumstances as no two cases are alike in all particulars.

– Gumel, JCA. Ehanire v. Erhunmwuse (2007)

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TWO TYPES OF FINDING OF FACTS – WHEN APPEAL COURT CAN INTERFERE

In a trial, there are generally two sets of findings of facts: A finding of fact may be based on the credibility of witnesses or may be informed from other facts proved before the trial court. Where a witness gives direct evidence that is the evidence of the facts in issue as seen, heard or perceived by any other sense by him. (Section 77 of the Evidence Act). The finding of the trial court on such evidence depends on whether or not it believes that witness (credibility of the witness). Such a finding on such evidence is a primary finding of fact, i.e. the way the witness testifies, his demeanor in the box tells much of his credibility. The trial court that saw and heard the witness is in the best position to assess his credibility and make findings of primary facts. But, where on the other hand, other facts are put in evidence from which the facts in issue can be inferred, or where a witness gave circumstantial evidence, the finding of the trial court on the facts in issue depends on inference. This is a secondary finding of fact as it is not based on the credibility of the witness but on logical process of inference. In the former’s case, i.e. primary findings of fact, an appeal court should always be loathe in interfering with such a finding as it did not have the privilege of seeing, hearing or observing the demeanour of the witness. There are several decided authorities on this: Ebba v. Ogodo & Anor (1984) 4 SC 75; Akintola v. Olowa (1962) 1 All NLR 224; Fatoyinbo v. Williams (1956) 1 FSC 87; Egri v. Uperi (1974) 1 NMLR 22; just to mention a few. In the latter’s case, i.e. where findings of fact are secondary, i.e. drawn from inferences, an appeal court is in as good position as a court of trial to do this. It can differ from the trial court. See: Akpopuma V. Nzeka (1983) 2 SCNLR 1.

— T. Muhammad, JSC. VAB Petroleum v. Momah (2013) – SC.99/2004

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IF NO PERVERSITY IS SHOWN, FINDINGS OF FACT WILL NOT BE DISTURBED

The trial Tribunal and the court below have arrived at concurrent findings of fact and the attitude of the Supreme Court is replete in a number of judicial authorities which is that except there is established miscarriage of justice or violation of some principle of law or procedure or the findings are perverse the Supreme Court will not disturb such findings. See ADAKU AMADE V. EDWARD NWOSU (1992) 6 SCNJ 59. ONWUJUBA V. OBIENU (1991) 4 NWLR (PART 188) 16; OGUNDIYAN V. STATE (1991) 3 NWLR (PART 181) 519; IYARO V. THE STATE 1 NWLR (PART 69) 256. The list is indeed inexhaustive. I do not find the findings of fact bedeviled by any of these lapses.

— Alaoga, JSC. Akeredolu v. Mimiko (2013) – SC. 352/2013

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FINDING OF FACT IS PERCEPTION & EVALUATION

If I may add, the duty of the trial court is to receive all relevant evidence. That is perception. Thereafter the judge is to weigh the evidence in the context of the surrounding circumstances of the case. That is evaluation. A finding of fact involves both perception and evaluation.

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

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COURT IS TO RECORD WHAT SIDE HE BELIEVES BEFORE RECORDING FINDING OF FACT

My only quarrel with the judgment of the learned trial Judge is that he recorded his findings before indicating what side he believed. This is a very wrong approach. After a review of the evidence of witnesses who gave conflicting accounts, the trial Judge ought to have indicated what side he believed before recording his findings because it is on the credibility of those witnesses that proper findings can be made. If a witness is not believed no finding of fact can be founded on his evidence.

— Oputa JSC. Onwuka & Ors. V. Ediala & Anor. (SC.18/1987, 20 January 1989)

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