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PROSECUTION ONLY OBLIGED TO CALL VITAL WITNESS

Dictum

No doubt, the prosecution is only obliged to call witnesses whose evidence is vital to the determination of the case for the prosecution and whose evidence would settle vital points of facts one way or the other to remove any element of doubt in respect of the guilt of the Defendant from the case of the prosecution.

– H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. State v. Ibrahim (2021) – SC.200/2016

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A CASE IS PROVED BY THE QUALITY OF WITNESSES, NOT QUANTITY

As the Supreme Court per Tobi, JSC puts it in Nigerian Army v. Major Jacob Iyela [2008] LPELR-2014 (SC); [2008] 7-12 SC 35; [2008] 18 NWLR (Pt. 1118) 115: A case is not necessarily proved by the quantity of witnesses. A case is proved by the quality of the witnesses in the light of either inculpatory or exculpatory evidence, as the case may be. And so, it does not necessarily follow that because the respondent called four witnesses, they rebutted the evidence of the two witnesses of the appellant.

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DEMEANOUR OF WITNESSES IN THE EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE

The trial Judge should take into consideration the demeanour of witnesses in the evaluation of evidence. Demeanour, which is outward or overt behaviour or manner of a witness, is the exclusive domain of the trial Judge. It includes all open habits and mannerisms of the witness. These ooze out from the body of the witness spontaneously and not tutored. Some of such body movements include a spontaneous positive or negative reaction to a question; shouting at a particular moment or the opposite action of a pretentious mum conduct; movement of part of the body, particularly the hands and the sudden change in the face arising either from anger or happiness, the latter resulting in either a smile or laughter. Another is a sudden remorse on the part of the witness, usually exhibited by refusal to look at the Judge or Counsel, or others in the court, but a sudden drop of the face in the witness box. There are quite a number of behaviours in the determination of demeanour which cannot be exhausted. I can stop with the above as the major conducts of witnesses. I should complete the picture by saying that as appellate judges are deprived of watching the demeanour of witnesses, trial Judges owe the administration of justice a big duty to arrive at the correct conclusion. Of course appellate Judges are not completely hopeless or helpless. They can watch the evaluation of demeanour by the Judge in the cold records.

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

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NO OBLIGATION TO CALL A HOST OF WITNESSES BY THE PROSECUTION

Okonofua & Anor v. The State (1981) 6-7 SC 1 at 18 where this court per Bello, J.S.C., as he then was, dealing with the same subject put the matter thus:- “The correct state of the law relating to the duty of the prosecution to call witnesses, whether their names appear on the back of the information or not, has been recently stated by this court in these terms: ‘The law imposes no obligation on the prosecution to call a host of witnesses. All the prosecution need do is to call enough material witnesses in order to prove its case; and in so doing, it has a discretion in the matter.’ ” See also Samuel Adaje v. The State (1979) 6-9 SC 18 at 28.

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NO LAW SAYS A RELATION CANNOT GIVE EVIDENCE

No law says a relation could not give evidence of what he knew, simply because he is related to the party in whose favour he is to give the evidence.All that is necessary, in such situation, is for the Court to warn itself of the danger of the likelihood of partisanship – see Idowu v. The State (2011) LPELR-3597 (CA) 69-70, D-B.

— O.O. Arowosegbe, J. Danjuma v Royal Salt Ltd. & Anor. (2020)

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QUALITY OF TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES

The trial court does not come to a decision by the quantity of the witnesses but on the quality or probative value of the testimony of the witnesses. — O.O. Adekeye, JSC. Mini Lodge v. Ngei (2009) – SC.231/2006

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COURT OF LAW CAN CONVICT ON THE EVIDENCE OF ONE WITNESS

Accordingly, in arriving at a conviction in criminal cases, the court is concerned with whether or not there is sufficient credible evidence of probative value and not the number of witnesses called on an issue. See: Commissioner of Police v. Daniel Kwashie (1953) 14 WACA 319. Where a single witness called by the prosecution is neither an accomplice nor a tainted witness, a court of law is entitled to convict mainly on his credible evidence where his testimony did not by law require corroboration. Once the court is satisfied with the cogency, high quality and credibility of the evidence of a witness and accepts it, conviction based on such evidence should not be interfered with unless such evidence by law requires corroboration. So, in the Daniel Kwashie case, the learned magistrate convicted the appellant on the evidence of one witness. On appeal to the High Court, the learned Judge found that although, corroboration was not required by law, a court was generally reluctant to convict on the evidence of a single witness and proceeded to allow the appeal. On further appeal to the West African Court of Appeal, the appellate judge was reversed and his decision was set aside on the ground that there was sufficient evidence before the learned magistrate on which he based his conviction. It was further held that since the learned magistrate believed the witness and there was no imputation that the sole witness was an accomplice or a tainted witness, it was an error to reverse his decision and the conviction was restored.

— Iguh, JSC. Oguonzee v State (1998) – SC.131/97

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