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TWO TYPES OF FINDING OF FACTS – WHEN APPEAL COURT CAN INTERFERE

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In a trial, there are generally two sets of findings of facts: A finding of fact may be based on the credibility of witnesses or may be informed from other facts proved before the trial court. Where a witness gives direct evidence that is the evidence of the facts in issue as seen, heard or perceived by any other sense by him. (Section 77 of the Evidence Act). The finding of the trial court on such evidence depends on whether or not it believes that witness (credibility of the witness). Such a finding on such evidence is a primary finding of fact, i.e. the way the witness testifies, his demeanor in the box tells much of his credibility. The trial court that saw and heard the witness is in the best position to assess his credibility and make findings of primary facts. But, where on the other hand, other facts are put in evidence from which the facts in issue can be inferred, or where a witness gave circumstantial evidence, the finding of the trial court on the facts in issue depends on inference. This is a secondary finding of fact as it is not based on the credibility of the witness but on logical process of inference. In the former’s case, i.e. primary findings of fact, an appeal court should always be loathe in interfering with such a finding as it did not have the privilege of seeing, hearing or observing the demeanour of the witness. There are several decided authorities on this: Ebba v. Ogodo & Anor (1984) 4 SC 75; Akintola v. Olowa (1962) 1 All NLR 224; Fatoyinbo v. Williams (1956) 1 FSC 87; Egri v. Uperi (1974) 1 NMLR 22; just to mention a few. In the latter’s case, i.e. where findings of fact are secondary, i.e. drawn from inferences, an appeal court is in as good position as a court of trial to do this. It can differ from the trial court. See: Akpopuma V. Nzeka (1983) 2 SCNLR 1.

— T. Muhammad, JSC. VAB Petroleum v. Momah (2013) – SC.99/2004

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WHAT IS A PERVERSE FINDING?

A perverse finding is when it runs against and counter to the evidence led and the pleadings of the parties or where it has been shown that the trial judge took into consideration or account of matters which he ought not to have taken into account or shuts his eyes to the obvious. See: Akinloye v. Eyiola (1968) NWLR 92; Isah Onu and Ors v. Ibrahim Idu and Ors (2006) 6 SCNJ 23 at Pg. 45-46.

— T.S. YAKUBU, JCA. Fayose v ICN (2012) – CA/AE/58/2010

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APPELLATE COURT RARELY INTERFERES WITH TRIAL COURT’S FINDING

The law is settled that on issues of facts, evaluation of evidence and the credibility of witnesses are matters within the exclusive competence and domain of the trial Court. See CHIEF FRANK EBA v. CHIEF WARRI OGODO & ANOR. (1984) 12 SC 133 at 176; DANIEL SUGH v. THE STATE (1988) NWLR (pt.77) 475. Where the trial Court finds a witness credible and believable, unless the appellant shows evidence that renders that stance perverse the appellate Court rarely interferes with that finding.

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

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WRONG FACT FINDING CANNOT SET ASIDE AN ARBITRAL AWARD

In arbitration proceedings, the general principle is that facts finding by an Arbitrator is not a ground for setting aside an award on the ground that it is wrong nor on the ground that there is no evidence on which the facts could be found because that would be mere error of law.

– Garba, JCA. Dunlop v. Gaslink (2018)

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WRONGFUL EXERCISE OF DISCRETION MUST BE SHOWED FOR COURT TO INTERFERE IN FINDING OF FACT

On the other side which is that of the respondents is that this Court should affirm the Ruling of the Court of Appeal and dismiss the appeal as frivolous and unmeritorious. This appeal throws up very interesting facets as one is mindful of the fact that an appellate Court will not easily interfere with the exercise of discretion by a lower Court such as presented in the case in hand. To interfere, this Court has to be satisfied from the showing of materials that a wrongful exercise of that discretion has been made such as where the Court below acted under a misconception of the law or under a misapplication of fact such that it is seen that the lower Court gave weight to irrelevant or unproved matters or it omitted to take into account issues that are relevant or where it exercised or failed to exercise the discretion on wrong or insufficient materials and so it behoves the appellate Court the duty in the interest of justice to disturb that earlier decision. I rely on Enekebe v Enekebe (1964) 1 All NLR 102 at 106; Demuren v Asuni (1967) All NLR 94 at 101; Mobil Oil v Federal Board of Inland Revenue (1977) 3 SC 97 at 141; Sonekan v Smith (1967) 1 All NLR 329; Solanke v Ajibola (1968)1 ALL NLR 46 at 52.

— M.P. Odili, JSC. County Dev. Co. v Hon. Min. Env. Housing Urban Dev. (2019) – SC.239/2011

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CASES SHOULD BE DECIDED ON ITS OWN FACTS

It is also of paramount importance to always have it as a central theme that each case must be examined and decided on its own facts and circumstances as no two cases are alike in all particulars.

– Gumel, JCA. Ehanire v. Erhunmwuse (2007)

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