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PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE WHETHER NEW EVIDENCE SHOULD BE ALLOWED

Dictum

In Comfort Asaboro v. M.G.D. Aruwaji and Anor. (1974) 4 SC 87 at 90-91 (Reprint) this court had cause to consider the principles which are to be taken into consideration in an application to call additional evidence on appeal. The court per Coker JSC said:- “The decision also evidently applied the principles which time honoured practice has established and the matters which the courts have always taken into consideration in the judicious exercise of powers to grant leave to adduce new evidence, namely:- The evidence sought to be adduced must be such as could not have been with reasonable diligence obtained for use at the trial; The evidence should be such as if admitted, it would have an important, not necessarily crucial, effect on the whole case; and the evidence must be such as apparently creditable in the sense that it is capable of being believed and it need not be incontrovertible. See for these observations Roe v. R McGregor and Sons Ltd. (1968) 1 WLR 925 where the earlier decision of the Court of Appeal in Ladd v. Marshall (1954) 3 All ER 745 was considered and applied. Strictly speaking, under our own rule, the discretion to grant leave to adduce new evidence is properly exercised for the “furtherance of justice”. The exercise must however be judicious and it is in this respect that the guidelines set out above have been followed and applied. We are not unmindful of the fact that it would be a dangerous precedent to allow a person who did not call evidence in the lower court, or who, for one reason or another, had called insufficient evidence at the trial, with comparative ease, to bring forward for the first time before this court the evidence which could and should have been adduced before the trial Judge. Such an attitude would be disastrous to the principles of seeing an end to litigation. The stand taken by the Privy Council in the case of Edie Maud Leeder v. Nnance Ellis (1953) at 52 (sic) also illustrates this point. However one looks at the problem, it seems to be generally accepted that the guiding principles have always been applied to the special facts or circumstances of each application before the Court of Appeal, and in every case the question whether or not sufficient diligence has been put into the quest for such evidence has been decided as a matter of fact.”

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APPEAL COURT: WHERE FURTHER EVIDENCE WILL BE NECESSARY

A situation where further evidence will be necessary arises only when the evidence relevant to the issue in controversy to determine an issue and ensure substantial justice is absent and deplete from the proceedings. This court or the court below does not ordinarily go out of its way to fish for evidence to fill a vacuum that does not exist in a case, just to satisfy a party, when in fact all the pleadings and evidence, that are necessary material are already part of the record of proceedings before it.

– Mukhtar JSC. Goodwill v. Witt (2011) – SC. 266/2005

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ANY OFFICIAL CAN GIVE TESTIMONY FOR A COMPANY

Comet Shipp. Agencies Ltd v. Babbit Ltd (2001) FWLR (Pt. 40) 1630, (2001) 7 NWLR (Pt. 712) 442, 452 paragraph B, per Galadima JCA (as he then was ) held that: “Companies have no flesh and blood. Their existence is a mere legal abstraction. They must therefore, of necessity, act through their directors, managers and officials. Any official of a company well placed to have personal knowledge of any particular transaction in which a company is engaged can give evidence of such transaction.”

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RAISING AN APPEAL ON ADMITTED EVIDENCE

Chief Williams submits that a ruling on admissibility of evidence is provisional as a trial Judge in his final judgment may still exclude evidence that has been admitted if he discovers it has been wrongly admitted. In my respectful view, that submission appears rather too wide. The two authorities cited by him as supporting it do not go as far. In NIPC v. Thompson Organisation (1969) 1 NMLR 99, it is evidence that goes to no issue but wrongly admitted that is held should be expunged when considering the verdict. In Jacker v. International Cable Co. Ltd. 5 TLR 13, another case cited by Chief Williams, it was held there that where matter has been improperly received in evidence in the court of trial, 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. With profound respect to the learned Senior Advocate these two decisions which he cited in oral argument before us do not support the rather wide submission he has made. In my view where evidence is tendered and objected to and the trial Judge, after full arguments by counsel for the parties, admits or rejects same, he cannot later, when considering his judgment reverse himself without hearing the parties; he cannot sit on appeal over his own judgment. Where evidence which goes to no issue has been inadvertently admitted the trial Judge is under a duty to disregard it when considering his verdict. If he fails to do so, an appellate court will.

— Michael Ekundayo Ogundare, JSC. Saraki v. Kotoye (1992) – S.C. 250/1991

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PARTIES BOUND BY PLEADINGS – EVIDENCE NOT PLEADED

It is elementary law that parties are bound by their pleadings and facts not pleaded will go to no issue. In other words, evidence on facts not pleaded will not avail the party relying on the evidence.

– Niki Tobi JSC. Okonkwo v. Cooperative Bank (2003)

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CONSIDERATIONS AGAINST ADDUCING FRESH EVIDENCE AT APPELLATE COURT

Three prominent considerations tending to work against adducing fresh evidence at the appellate Court, when this Court exercises its power under Order 2, Rule 12 of the Rules of this Court in that regard, are –
i. Where issues are joined on pleadings at the trial Court no party shall be taken by surprise. Thus, the Appeal Court cannot consider the reception of new evidence without amendment of the pleadings. See ONIBUDO v. AKIBU (1982) 7 SC. 60; ADELEKE v. ASHERIFA (1990) 3 NWLR (Pt.136) 94 at 111; (1990) 21 NSCC 145 at 154.
ii. It is in the interest of public policy, particularly for the purpose of efficient and effective administration of justice, to obviate prolongation of litigation that the practice of adducing evidence, which ought to have been adduced at the trial Court, should not be postponed to after judgment: See ADELEKE v. ASHERIFA (supra).
iii. Appellate Courts generally exercise their jurisdiction to correct errors of law or fact made by the Courts below, after the latter’s consideration of the totality of evidential materials before them. Accordingly, the correctness of the decision of a trial Court or Judge should not be assessed or judged on the new evidence that the trial Court or judge never had an opportunity to consider: See ADELEKE v. ASHERIFA (supra). In other words the correctness or otherwise of the judgment of the trial Judge or Court should not be assessed on evidential materials he or it never had opportunity to consider.

– Ejembi, JSC. GTB v. Innoson (2017) – SC.694/2014(R)

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EVIDENCE ON MATTER NOT PLEADED

It is settled that evidence led on any matter not pleaded goes to no issue and ought to be disregarded when giving judgment. – Kutigi JSC. Amadi v. Nwosu (1992)

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