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WHEN WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE IS ALLEGED, MEANING

Dictum

In the case of AWUSA v. NIG. ARMY (2018) LPELR-44377 (SC) the Apex Court held that: “The position of the law is that when an Appellant alleges that a decision is against the weight of evidence, he means that when evidence he adduced is balanced against that of the Respondent. Judgment in the Respondent’s favour is against the weight that should have been given to the totality of the evidence adduced – See Akinlagun v. Oshoboja (2006) 12 NWLR (Pt. 993) 60 at 82 SC. The complaint is only concerned with appraisal and evaluation of all the evidence and not the weight to be attached to any particular piece of evidence…”

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IT IS THE PRIMARY DUTY OF THE TRIAL COURT TO EVALUATE EVIDENCE

There is no doubt that the evaluation of evidence and ascription of probative value thereto are the primary duties of the trial court, which had the singular opportunity of seeing and hearing the witnesses testify and an appellate court would ordinarily not interfere. It is also trite that this court will not interfere with concurrent findings of fact by two lower courts, unless it is shown that the findings are perverse, or not based on a proper and dispassionate appraisal of the evidence, or that there is an error, either of law or fact, which has occasioned a miscarriage of justice. See Ogoala v. The State (1991) 2 NWLR (Pt. 175) 509, (1991) 3 SCNJ 61; Saleh v. BON Ltd (2006) 6 NWLR (Pt. 976) 316 at 329 – 330 – C; Agbaje v. Fashola (2008) All FWLR (Pt. 443) 1302, (2008) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1082) 90 at 153- E.

— Kekere-Ekun, JSC. Nyesom v. Peterside (SC.1002/2015 (REASONS), 12 Feb 2016)

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EVALUATION AND PERCEPTION OF EVIDENCE

In carrying out its sacrosanct function of evaluation of evidence, the trial judge begins by receiving into its record all relevant evidence on the case or the fact in issue, and this is perception of evidence. He then proceeds to weigh the evidence in the light of the surrounding circumstances; this is evaluation of evidence. The findings of fact by a trial Court involves both perception and evaluation. See ONI vs. JOHNSON (2015) LPELR (24545) 1 at 35-38.

— A.A. Wambai, JCA. Aliyu v. Bulaki (2019) – CA/S/36/2018

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DUTY OF TRIAL COURTS IN EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE

“In carrying out the evaluation of evidence, a Court is not to merely review or restate the evidence, but it is expected to critically appraise it in the light of the facts in issue, what is relevant, admissible and what weight is to be attached. In other words, the evaluation of evidence is much more critical, crucial and tasking than a mere review of evidence. For unlike the review of evidence, its actual evaluation involves a reasonable belief of the evidence of one of the contending parties and disbelief of the other, or the reasoned preference of one version to the other. There must be an indication on the record of the Court to show how the trial Court arrived at its conclusion preferring one piece of evidence to the other. Thus, the act of reaching conclusions by drawing necessary inference is a product of a legal mind and not an indulgence in speculation – Aregbesola V Olagunsoye (2011) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1253) 458; Olonade V Sowemimo (2014) 9 SCM 106, 121, per MD Muhammad, JSC; Michael V Access Bank (2017) LPELR-41981(CA)13.”

— J.H. Sankey, JCA. Ibrahim Muli v Sali Akwai (2021) – CA/G/423/2019

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NOT THE DUTY OF APPEAL COURT TO RE-EVALUATE FACT

Generally, the duties of an appellate court does not involve re-evaluation of the evidence of witnesses. An appellate court may only interfere when the findings are perverse or wrong because of violation of some principles of law or procedure.

– Ogunwumiju JCA. NBC v. Olarewaju (2006) – CA/IL/43/2004

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THE APPEAL COURT IS IN A POSITION TO EVALUATE ADMITTED EVIDENCE WHERE IT IS BASICALLY TO DRAW INFERENCES FROM DOCUMENTS

Where however the nature of the case is such that the evaluation would not entail the assessment of credibility of witnesses and would be confined to drawing inferences and making findings from admitted and proved facts and from the contents of documentary evidence, the appellate court is in as vantage a position as the trial court to evaluate or re-evaluate the evidence and make its own findings. These principles have been applied in a number of cases amongst which are WOLUCHEM v. GUDI (1981) 5 SC 291; MOGAJI v. ODOFIN (1978) 4 SC 91; DURU v. NWOSU (1989) 4 NWLR (Part 113) 24; OLADEHIN v. CONTINENTAL ILE MILLS LTD. (1978) 2 SC 28; CHUKWU v. NNEJI (1990) 6 NWLR (Part 156) 363; AKINTOLA v. BALOGUN (2000) 1 NWLR (Part 642) 532 at 546. I have gone through the evidence of the witnesses on record and the judgment of the trial Court and I am firmly of the view that there was no issue of the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of witnesses. The result is that this Court, like the court below, is in as good a position as the trial court to appraise or re-appraise the evidence on record to see if the concurrent findings of the two courts below are not perverse. With respect to the evidence itself, there is a lot of oral as well as documentary evidence. I am however of the view that the issues raised would be resolved mainly by the documentary evidence. I am guided in this view by the settled principle of law that oral evidence is only to be hangars on for documentary evidence.

— F.F. Tabai, JSC. Mini Lodge v. Ngei (2009) – SC.231/2006

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THERE MUST BE IMPROPER EVALUATION FOR APPEAL COURT TO RE-EVALUATE EVIDENCE

Unless and until the appellate Court comes to the conclusion that the trial Court had not carried out its duty of proper evaluation and ascription of probative value to the evidence before it, the duty of the appellate Court to re – evaluate the evidence on the printed records would not arise. The law is that for an appellate Court to embark on such a duty it must be demonstrated that the Court below had either not carried out its duty of evaluation of the evidence led before it or had carried out an improper evaluation of the evidence and had arrived at findings which are perverse, and which ought in law to be set aside so that proper findings as dictated by the proved evidence as in the printed record are made by the appellate Court in the interest of justice and to avoid the perpetuation of injustice should the perverse judgment of the trial Court be allowed to stand.

– B.A. Georgewill, JCA. Ganiyu v. Oshoakpemhe & Ors. (2021) – CA/B/12A/2021

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