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WEIGHT CANNOT BE PLACED ON A DOCUMENT TENDERED BY A PERSON WHO IS NOT IN A POSITION TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ON THE DOCUMENT

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Weight can hardly be attached to a document tendered in evidence by a witness who cannot be in a position to answer questions on the document. One such person the law identifies is the one who did not make the document. Such a person is adjudged in the eyes of the law as ignorant of the contents of the document. Although section 91(2) allows him to tender the document, the subsection does not deal with the issue of weight, which is dealt with in section 92. Weight in section 92 means weight of evidence, which is the balance or preponderance of evidence; the inclination of the greater amount of credible evidence offered in a trial to support one side of the issue rather than the other. (See Black’s Law Dictionary (6ed) page 1594). In view of the fact that cross-examination plays a vital role in the determination of the weight to be attached to a document under section 92, and a person who did not make the document is not in a position to answer questions on it. I see the point made by the Court of Appeal.

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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FAIR HEARING NOT BREACHED WHEN A DOCUMENT IS EXPUNGED BY TRIAL JUDGE

I have seen in recent times counsel forcing into cases the principles of fair hearing even when they are so distant from the case. The principles of fair hearing will not be invoked in favour of a party where the trial Judge correctly expunges an exhibit earlier admitted. It is only when the document is wrongly or wrongfully expunged from the record that a party can be heard to canvass to an appellate court that he was denied fair hearing. – Niki Tobi, JSC. Brossette v. Ilemobola (2007)

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A TRIAL JUDGE MAY EXPUNGE DOCUMENT SUO MOTO

The law is elementary that a trial Judge has the right to expunge from the record a document which he wrongly or wrongfully admitted. He can do so suo motu at the point of writing judgment. He needs no prompting from any of the parties, although a party is free to call his attention to the document at the stage of address. Where a trial Judge is wrong in expunging a document, the appellate process will correct it and so an argument that the Judge ought to have expunged the document suo motu at the stage of writing judgment, will not avail the party wronged. After all, it is better for a Judge to expunge suo motu a document which is clearly inadmissible under the Evidence Act than allow it to be on the record to give headache to the appellate court. As the appellate court has the competence to expunge it from the record, why not the trial Judge?

– Niki Tobi, JSC. Brossette v. Ilemobola (2007)

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EXTRINSIC EVIDENCE NOT TO CONTRADICT WRITTEN INSTRUMENT

Generally, where parties to an agreement have set out the terms thereof in a written document, extrinsic evidence is not admissible to add to, vary from, or contradict the terms of the written instrument.

– Augie JSC. Bank v. TEE (2003)

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READING TWO DOCUMENTS TO GET SUFFICIENT MEMORANDUM

Long v. Millar (1879) 4 CPD 450, said Russel, J., in Stokes v. Whicher (1920) 1 Ch 411, 418, comes to this; that, if you can spell out of the document a reference in it to some other transaction, you are at liberty to give evidence as to what that other transaction is, and, if that other transaction contains all the terms in writing, then you get a sufficient memorandum within the statute by reading the two together.’

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TENDER DOCUMENT FROM THE BAR – PARTY WHO MAKES DOCUMENT MUST BE CALLED TO TESTIFY

Abubakar v. INEC [2020] 12 NWLR (Pt. 1737) 37 @ p. 110: “Before I conclude on this issue, let me state that whenever documents are tendered from the Bar in election matters, the purport is to speed up the trial in view of time limitation in election matters. Such tendering is not the end itself but a means to an end. The makers of such tendered document must be called to speak to those documents and be crossexamined on the authenticity of the documents. The law is trite that a party who did not make a document is not competent to give evidence on it. It is also the tested position of the law that where the maker of the document is not called to testify, the document would not be accorded probative value by the Court. That in deed is the fate of exhibits P80 and P24… Finally, on this issue, it was contended by the appellants that the variation in the names of 2nd respondent on Exhibits R19 and R21 makes his relationship with the two documents doubtful. Is “Mohammed” and “Muhammadu” the same name and belong to the 2nd respondent? The Court below made an elaborate discussion on the issue and concluded that RW5 gave explanation on the names and stated that they are the same…. For me, as the appellants failed to prove that any of the documents belong to another person and as nobody has come out to claim any of the two exhibits, I do agree with the explanation given by the RW5 and the conclusions of the Court below that both names “Mohammed” and “Muhammadu” as contained in exhibits R19 and R21 belong to the 2nd respondent. On this note, I resolve issues one and two against the appellants.”

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DUMPING OF DOCUMENTS ONLY GOES TO WEIGHT TO BE ATTACHED

The simple and straightforward answer to this argument is that the issue of dumping of documents on court, which expression in any case suggests that the documents so dumped are already in evidence before the court, only goes to the weight to be attached to the documents by the court. On this reasoning, this ground of the objection is rejected and overruled.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 2023)

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