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TWO EVIDENCE CONTRADICT ONE ANOTHER WHEN THEY AFFIRM THE OPPOSITE

Dictum

A piece of evidence contradicts another when it affirms the opposite of what that other evidence has stated not when there is just a minor discrepancy between them. Two pieces of evidence contradicts one another when they are themselves inconsistent. A discrepancy may occur when a piece of evidence stops short of, or contains a little more than what the other evidence says or contains some minor difference in details. See Gabriel v State (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt.122) p.460. If a witness makes a statement before trial which is inconsistent with the evidence he gives in Court and he does not explain the inconsistency to the satisfaction of the Court, the Court should regard his evidence as unreliable. See Onubogu & Anor v State (1974) (NSCC) p.358. I must say straightaway that it is only material contradictions that are to be considered.

– Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Nwankwoala v FRN (2018) – SC.783/2015

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WHERE PROSECUTION CASE CONTRADICTS, COURT MUST REJECT BOTH, EXCEPT PROSECUTION LAY FOUNDATION

In Onubogu v. State (1974) 9 SC 1, this court per Fatayi-Williams, JSC (as he then was) said at page 20: “We are also of the view that where one witness called by the prosecution in a criminal case contradicts another prosecution witness on a material point, the prosecution ought to lay some foundation, such as showing that the witness is hostile, before they can ask the court to reject the testimony of one witness and accept that of another witness in preference for the evidence of the discredited witness. It is not competent for the prosecution which call them to pick and choose between them. They cannot, without showing clearly that one is a hostile witness, discredit one and accredit the other. (See Summer and Leivesley v. Brown & Co. (1909) 25 TLR 745). We also think that, even if the inconsistency in the testimony of the two witnesses can be explained, it is not the function of the trial Judge, as was the case here, to provide the explanation. One of the witnesses should furnish the explanation and thus give the defence the opportunity of testing by cross-examination, the validity of the proffered explanation.”

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MINOR VARIATIONS IN TESTIMONY IS A BADGE OF TRUTH

Oputa, JSC in Ikemson V State (1989) LPELR-1473(SC) at 44 where he magisterially intoned as follows – “Two witnesses who saw the same incident are not bound to describe it in the same way. There is bound to be slight differences in their accounts of what happened. When their stories appear to be very similar, the chances are that those were tutored or tailored witnesses. Minor variations in testimony seem to be a badge of truth. But when the evidence of witnesses violently contradict each other, then that is a danger signal. A trial Court should not believe contradictory evidence. Contradictory means what it says – contra-dictum – to say the opposite.”

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WHERE PROSECUTION WITNESSES TESTIMONY IS CONTRADICTORY, DOUBT WILL BE RESOLVED IN ACCUSED FAVOUR

It is now firmly settled that where two or more witnesses testify in a criminal proceeding and the testimony of such witnesses, is contradictory and irreconcilable (as in the instant case), it would be illogical to accept and believe the evidence of such witnesses. See the cases of Onubogu v. The State (1974) 9 SC 1 at 2 (also referred to by the learned defence counsel at the trial court at page 104 of the records); Nwosu v. The State (1986) 4 NWLR (Pt. 35) 348 and Orepakan & 7 Ors. v. In Re: Amadi & 2 Ors. v. 7 State (1993) 11 SCNJ 68 at 78. In other words, for any conflict, contradiction or mix-up in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses to be fatal to a case, the conflict or mix-up, must be substantial and fundamental. See also the cases of Enahoro v. Queen (1965) 1 All NLR 125, Nasamu v. The State (1979) 6-9 SC 153 and Namsoh v. The State (1993) 6 SCNJ (Pt. 1) 55 at 68; (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt. 292) 129. From what I have demonstrated herein above in this judgment, the conflict, contradiction and/or mix up as regards the evidence of the P.W.7 and the other prosecution witnesses. I have mentioned specifically, are very substantial, fundamental and material. Therefore, the concurrent findings of fact by the two lower courts, must be set aside by me. This is because, there is a big doubt in my mind about the guilt of the appellant. A doubt in the mind of a court, it is settled, presupposes that the case against the accused person, has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt. By this doubt, I hereby and accordingly resolve the same in favour of the appellant. See Namsoh v. The State (supra).

— Ogbuagu, JSC. Udosen v State (2007) – SC.199/2005

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ONLY SUBSTANTIAL CONTRADICTIONS CREATES DOUBT

The law further requires that whatever evidence the respondent relies on in proving its case against the appellant, it must be bereft of substantial contradictions. Only material contradictions in respect of a fact in issue creates doubt in the mind of the Court thereby destroying the case sought to be established against an accused. Thus, only such material contradictions which affect live issues to which they relate avail an opposing party thereby entitling the appellate Court to interfere with the judgment on appeal giving the miscarriage of justice they occasion. See Maiyaki V. The State 2008) LPELR-1823 (SC), Sele V. The State 1 SCNJ (Pt. 1) 15 at 22 23 and Usiobaifo & Anor V. Usiobaifo (2005) LPELR-3424 (SC).

— M.D. Muhammad, JSC. Mati Musa v The State (2019) – SC.902/2014

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ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENTS TO IMPEACH CREDIBILITY OF A WITNESS AS TO CONTRADICTION

Section 232 of Evidence Act, 2011 is intended to check the double-speak of a witness, who is prevaricating on an issue that he had made previous statement in writing on. There are essential requirements of the Section that the party cross-examining a witness, who intends to impeach the credit of the witness by showing that what the witness is presently saying contradicts his previous statement in writing, must comply with. That is, (a) the attention of the witness must be specifically drawn to those parts or portions of his previous statement in writing which are to be used for the purpose of contradicting him; (b) the witness must be reminded of what he had stated in the previous statement, and (c) he must be given an opportunity of making explanation on the apparent contradictions. From the authoritative stance of this Court those are the templates the cross-examiner shall comply with before he tenders any previous statement in writing by a witness for the purpose of contradicting the witness and impeaching his credibility. See MADUMERE v. OKAFOR (1996) 4 NWLR (pt.445) 637; AMODU V. THE STATE (2010) 2 NWLR (pt.1177) 47.

— E. Eko, JSC. Kekong v State (2017) – SC.884/2014

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MINOR DISCREPANCIES ARE NOT SUFFICIENT TO RAISE CONTRADICTIONS

It is now well settled that for contradictions on evidence of witnesses for the prosecution to affect conviction, they must be sufficient to raise doubt as to the guilt of the accused. In the instant case the minor discrepancies in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses are not in my view, sufficient, by themselves, to entitle the appellant to an acquittal. See Ogoala v. State (1991) 2 NWLR (Pt.175) 509 at 525; Nwosisi v. State (1976) 6 SC 109; Ejigbadero v. State (1978) 9-10 SC 81; Atano v. A.-G. Bendel State (1988) 2 NWLR (Pt.75) 201; Ayo Gabriel v. State (1989) 5 NWLR (Pt.122) 457 at 468 – 469.

— Kalgo, J.S.C. Okon Iko v State (2001) – SC.177/2001

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