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PRINCIPLES WHICH APPELLATE COURTS SHOULD CONSIDER IN THE EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE

Dictum

And that takes me to the principles which an Appellate Court should consider in the evaluation of evidence by the trial Judge: 1. Evaluation of trial evidence is the primary responsibility of the trial court and so an Appellate Court cannot interfere just for the asking by an appellant. 2. An Appellate Court will however evaluate the evidence before the court if the trial court fails to do so; and this is from the Record. 3. An Appellate Court will also evaluate the evidence before the court if the trial court failed to evaluate the evidence properly in the sense that the evaluation is perverse. And so, the evaluation of evidence, though the primary responsibility of the trial court, is not the exclusive preserve of that court. It becomes so only where the evaluation is borne out from the evidence before the court.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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EXTRINSIC EVIDENCE NOT TO CONTRADICT WRITTEN INSTRUMENT

Generally, where parties to an agreement have set out the terms thereof in a written document, extrinsic evidence is not admissible to add to, vary from, or contradict the terms of the written instrument.

– Augie JSC. Bank v. TEE (2003)

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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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COURT TO DECIDE CASE ONLY ON LEGALLY ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE

Thus where a court wrongfully admits inadmissible evidence, it ought as a duty, to disregard the inadmissible evidence in the consideration of the judgment in the matter. Where such evidence has been wrongfully admitted and acted upon and whether or not the opposing party objects or not, an appellate court has the duty to exclude such evidence and decide the case only on the legally admissible evidence, see Timitimi v Amabebe (1953) 14 WACA 374; Ajayi v Fisher (1956) 1 FSC 90, (1956) SC NLR 279.

— Musdapher, JSC. Shittu & Ors. v Fashawe [2005] – SC 21/2001

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COURT MAY RELY ON EVIDENCE UNCHALLENGED

It is trite that where evidence tendered by a party to any proceedings was not challenged or put in issue by the other party who had the opportunity to do so, it is always open to the court seised of the matter to act on such unchallenged evidence before it. See Isaac Omoregbe V Daniel Lawani (1980) 3-4 S.C. 108 at 117; Odulaja V Haddad (1973) 11 S.C. 357; Nigerian Maritime Services Ltd. V Alhaji Bello Afolabi (1978) 2 S.C. 79 at 81; Adel Boshali V Allied Commercial Exporters Ltd. (1961) All NLR 917; (1961) 2 SCNLR 322.

— Iguh, JSC. Yesufu v. Kupper Intl. (1996) – SC.302/1989

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COURT CANNOT PICK BETWEEN TWO CONTRADICTING EVIDENCE

The law is trite that where there are material contradictions in the evidence adduced by a party, the court is enjoined to reject the entire evidence as it cannot pick and choose which of the conflicting versions to believe or follow. See Mogaji v. Cadbury (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 7) 393, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu v. Alex Otti & Ors (2016) LPELR-40055 (SC), (2016) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1513) 38; Doma v. INEC (2012) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1317) 297 at 322 – 323 paragraphs G-C, Muka v. The State (1976) 9 – 10 SC (Reprint) 193 at 205, Onubogu v. The State (1974) 9 SC 1 at 20, Salami v. Gbadoolu & Ors (1997) 4 NWLR (Pt. 499) 277.

— Okoro, JSC. Anyanwu v. PDP (2020) 3 NWLR (Pt. 1710) 134

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PLAINTIFF MUST RELY ON THE STRENGTH OF HIS CASE

In Ngene v. Igbo (2000) 4 NWLR (Pt. 651) 131 at 142, this Court, per Ogundare, JSC said: “A long line of cases beginning with Kodilinye v. Mbanefo Odu (1935) 2 W.A.C.A. 336 has laid it down that in a claim for declaration of title the onus is on the plaintiff to prove his case. He must rely on the strength of his own case and not on the weakness of the defence – Jules v. Ajani (1980) 5/7 SC 96 except of course where the weakness of the defendant’s case tends to strengthen plaintiff’s case – Nwagbogu v. Ibeziako (1972) Vol. 2 (Pt.1) ECSLR 335, 338 SC or where the defendant’s case supports his case – Akinola v. Oluwo (1962) 1 SCNLR 352 (1962) 1 All NLR 224 (1962) (Pt. 1) All NLR 225 all of which is not the case here.”

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