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UNSIGNED DOCUMENTS NOT ADMISSIBLE

Dictum

The Supreme Court in Omega Bank (Nig) Plc v. O.B.C. Ltd. [2005] 8 NWLR (Part 928) 547 at 587 Paragraphs C – D per Tobi, JSC (as he then was) the Apex Court held inter alia that: “… It is my view that where a document is not signed, it may not be admitted in evidence. Even if it is admitted in evidence, the Court should not attach any probative value to it. This is because a document which is not signed has no origin in terms of its maker….at page 582 Paragraph A, His Lordship, Tobi, JSC of blessed memory further emphasized that:” A document which is not signed does not have any efficacy in law. As held in the cases examined, the document is worthless and a worthless document cannot be efficacious…”

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RELEVANCY GOVERNS ADMISSIBILITY

In civil proceedings every fact which is pleaded and is relevant to the case of either of the parties ought to be admitted in evidence. The denial of making the document by the respondent ought to affect weight not admissibility. In the instant case, the trial court considered the weight to be attached to the document instead of its relevance which ought to have been considered at that stage of the proceedings when the document was tendered. See Ogunbiade v. Sasegbon (1968) NMLR 233. Thanni v. Saibu (1977) 2 SC 89 @ 116. Monier Construction co. Ltd v. Azubuike (1990) 3 NWLR (Pt. 136) 74. Fadlallah v. Arewa Textiles Ltd (supra).

— A. Jauro, JCA. Chevron v. Aderibigbe (2011) – CA/L/76/04

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COMPLAINT ON WRONGFUL ADMISSION IS A GROUND OF LAW

It is settled law that a complaint about wrongful admission of evidence is a ground of law alone, a ground of appeal complaining that there was no evidence or no admissible evidence upon which a decision was based, is a ground of law. And an issue on legal interpretation of documents will be a ground of law.

– Uwa, JCA. GTB v. Innoson (2014) – CA/I/258/2011

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RELEVANCY GOVERNS ADMISSION OF EVIDENCE

When it is a question of admission of evidence, strictly, it is not whether the method by which it is obtained is tortious but excusable, but whether what has been obtained is relevant to the issue being tried. See Kuruma v. R. (1955) AC 197.

— Ogwuegbu JSC. Oshunrinde v Akande (1996) – SC.110/1990

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REQUIREMENT FOR ADMISSIBILITY

It is trite, that the basic principle on admissibility in law, is whether the documents are duly pleaded; whether they are relevant to the facts in issue and whether they are admissible in Law? See the cases of AONDO AKAA V OBOT 7 OR 2021 SC; TORTI V UKPABI 1984 1 SC PG 370 and DIKIBO & ORS V IZIME 2019 LPELR – 48992-CA. There is no gainsaying the fact, that the certified true copies admitted by the court met the criteria on admissibility, as relevancy governs admissibility and the said documents were pleaded. See the cases of NAB LTD VS SHUAIBU (1991) 4 NWLR (PT. 186) 450, OKECHUKWU VS INEC (2014) 17 NWLR (PT. 1436) 256 AT 294-295.

— A. Osadebay, J. APC v INEC & Ors. (EPT/KN/GOV/01/2023, 20th Day of September, 2023)

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THE TEST FOR ADMISSIBILITY IS RELEVANCE – WEIGHT COMES AFTER ADMISSION OF THE DOCUMENT

The test for admissibility therefore is relevance, the source by which the document has been obtained is immaterial. A document is admissible in evidence if it is relevant to the facts in issue and admissible in law. It has to be noted also that admissibility of a document is one thing, and the weight that court will attach to it is another. Relevancy and weight are in quite distinct apartments in the law of evidence. Relevancy which propels admissibility is invoked by the trial court immediately a document is tendered to determine the relevancy or otherwise of the document tendered. If the document is relevant the court admits it. Weight on the other hand, comes after admission of a document at the stage of writing the judgment. The two therefore ought not to be confused. See Dunniya v. Jomoh (1994) 3 NWLR (Pt. 334) 609 @ 617. Sadan v. State (1968) 1 All NLR 124. Dalek (Nig) Ltd v. OMPADEC (2007) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1033) 402. Abubakar v. Chuks (2001 18 NWLR (Pt. 1066) 386. Torti v. Uknabi (1984) 1 SC 370. Avong v. KRPC Ltd (2002) 14 NWLR (Pt. 788) 508. ACB Ltd v. Gwaswada (1994) 5 NWLR (Pt. 342) 25.

— A. Jauro, JCA. Chevron v. Aderibigbe (2011) – CA/L/76/04

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ADMISSIBILITY OF A DOCUMENT IS ONE THING; WEIGHT IS ANOTHER THING

The fact that a document has been admitted in evidence, with or without objection, does not necessarily mean that the document has established or made out the evidence contained therein, and must be accepted by the trial Judge. It is not automatic. Admissibility of a document is one thing and the weight the court will attach to it is another. The weight the Court will attach to the document will depend on the circumstances of the case as contained or portrayed in the evidence.

— N. Tobi JSC. Musa Abubakar v. E.I. Chuks (SC.184/2003, 14 DEC 2007)

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