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RAISING AN APPEAL ON ADMITTED EVIDENCE

Dictum

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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RESPONSIBILITY OF TRIAL COURT TO EVALUATE EVIDENCE

It is now settled law, that it is the primary responsibility of the trial court which saw and heard witnesses to evaluate the evidence and pronounce on their credibility or probative value and not the appellate court which neither heard the witnesses nor saw them to observe their demeanors in the witness box. It follows therefore that when a trial court unquestionably evaluates the evidence and appraises the facts of a case, it is not the business of the appellate court to substitute its own views for the views of the trial court. – Musdapher JSC. Gbadamosi v. Dairo (2007)

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PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE WHETHER NEW EVIDENCE SHOULD BE ALLOWED

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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SILENCE COULD AMOUNT TO ACCEPTANCE

It is a settled principle of law that where an adversary or a witness called by him testifies on a material fact in controversy in a case, the other party should, if he does not accept the witness’s testimony as true, cross-examine him on that fact, or at least show that the he does not accept the evidence as true, where, as in this case, he fails to do either, a court can take his silence as an acceptance that the party does not dispute the facts.

– Nnaemeka-Agu JSC. Amadi v. Nwosu (1992)

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AN UNDATED DOCUMENT HAS NO EVIDENTIAL VALUE

Exhibit C3 is a letter to the Honorable Minister for Sports by Joe McCormack, Business Development Manager – Lagos of the defendant requesting an appointment with the Honourable Minister for 26th February 2013. It is not dated. An undated document has no evidential value. See Global Soaps & Detergent Ind. Ltd v. NAFDAC [2011] All FWLR (Pt. 599) 1025 at 1047 and Udo & ors v. Essien & ors [2014] LPELR-22684(CA). Accordingly, Exhibit C3 has no evidential value and so would be discountenanced for purposes of this judgment.

— B.B. Kanyip, J. Awogu v TFG Real Estate (2018) – NICN/LA/262/2013

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EXTRINSIC EVIDENCE NOT ALLOWED TO VARY WRITTEN CONTRACT

The Supreme Court has held in Layade v. Panalpina (1996) 6 NWLR (Pt. 456) 544 at 558; (1996) 7 SCNJ 1 at 14-15 per Adio. J.S.C., as follows and I quote; ”The general rule is that where parties have embodied the terms of their agreement or contract in a written document, as it was done in this case, extrinsic evidence is not admissible to add to, vary, subtract from or contradict the terms of the written instrument … So, where the parties enter into a contract, they are bound by the terms of that contract and it is unfair to read into such a contract the terms on which there was no agreement.”

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IN LAND CASES THE PLAINTIFF MUST SUCCEED ON ITS OWN CASE

In land cases that the plaintiff when claiming a declaration of title must succeed on the strength of his case. The onus lies on the plaintiff to satisfy the court that he is entitled on the evidence brought by him to the declaration of title claimed. The plaintiff must rely on the strength of his case and not on the weakness of the defendant’s case. If this onus is not discharged, the weakness of the defendant’s case may not generally help him and the proper judgment will be for the defendant. Where, however, the case of the defendant lends support to the case of the plaintiff, it is recognised that the court cannot ignore it in arriving at a conclusion as to which side to believe.

– Iguh, JSC. Clay v. Aina (1997)

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