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RESPONSIBILITY OF TRIAL COURT TO EVALUATE EVIDENCE

Dictum

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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RELEVANCY, ADMISSIBILITY, AND WEIGHT ARE IN SEPARATE DEPARTMENT IN THE LAW OF EVIDENCE

In the Law of Evidence, Relevancy, Admissibility of evidence, and weight to be attached to evidence, all these are each in a separate department. What value or weight to be attached to a piece of evidence, once it is admitted as evidence, is for the Jury, the judges of facts. And here in Nigeria, the trial judges sit in a dual capacity, qua Judges of law in matters of law and qua jury in matters of fact In my view, with due respect to the counsel, his criticism of the Tribunal is unwarrantable and so unjustified. It was for the Tribunal to accept or not to accept the evidence by the p.w.5. It was for it as well to ascribe weight or no weight to the exhibits. To be in the best position to reach a conclusion on the testimony of the p.w. 5 and the value to attach to the exhibits it adopted, in my view, the proper and right approach to reach its conclusion.

— Nsofor, JCA. Ugo v Indiamaowei (1999) – CA/PH/EP/97/99

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WHERE ORAL EVIDENCE IN PRIOR TRIAL MAY BE USED

Ariku v. Ajiwogbo (1962) All NLR (Pt. 4) 630, Ademola CJF (of blessed memory) delivering the judgment of the Supreme Court stated the law as follows:- “This court has frequently directed attention to the practice, now not uncommon of making use of evidence of a witness in another case as if it were evidence in the case on trial. As was pointed out in Alade v. Aborishade (1960) 5 FSC 167 at 171, this is only permissible under section 33 or 34 of the Evidence Act. Where a witness in a former case is giving evidence in a case in hand, his former evidence may be brought up in cross-examination to discredit him if he was lying, but evidence used for this purpose does not become evidence in the case in hand for any other purpose. There are also prerequisites to the making use of the former testimony of a witness; for example his attention must be called to the former case where such evidence was given and he would be reminded of what he had said on the occasion.”

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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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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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SPECIAL DAMAGES WILL BE UPHELD UPON EVIDENCE ADDUCED AND NOT CHALLENGED

On special damages, it has been held that where the plaintiff plead the special damages and gives necessary particulars and adduce some evidence of it without the defendant challenging or contradicting the evidence, he has discharged the onus of proof placed on him and unless the evidence adduced is of such a quality that no reasonable tribunal can accept, it ought to be accepted. The reason is that where evidence called by the plaintiff in a civil case is neither challenged nor contradicted, his onus of proof is discharged on a minimal of proof.

– ARIWOOLA J.S.C. Union Bank v. Chimaeze (2014)

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EVIDENCE BY WITNESS IN PREVIOUS PROCEEDINGS CANNOT BE USED IN LATER PROCEEDING

It is settled law that evidence given in a previous case cannot be accepted as evidence in a subsequent proceedings except in conditions where the provisions of section 34(1) of the Evidence Act applies. Even where a witness who testified in a previous proceeding testifies again in a subsequent proceeding, the previous evidence has no greater value than its use in cross-examination of the witness as to his credit. Romaine v. Romaine (1972) 4 NWLR (Part 238) 650 at 669; Ayinde v. Salawu (1989) 3 NWLR (Part 109) 297 at 315; Alade v. Aborishade (1960) 5 FSC 167; Irenye v. Opune (1985) 2 NWLR (Part 5) 1 at 6-8 Sanyaolu v. Coker (1983) 1 SCNLR 168.

— F.F. Tabai JSC. Tijani Dada v Jacob Bankole (2008) – S.C. 40/2003

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