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WHERE FACTS PROPERLY APPRAISED, COURT OF APPEAL SHOULD NOT SUBSTITUTE VIEWS FOR TRIAL COURT

Dictum

It is settled that where a court of trial unquestionably evaluates the evidence and appraises the facts it is not the business of a Court of Appeal to substitute its own views for the trial court. It is equally settled that a Court of Appeal should not easily disturb the findings of fact of a trial Judge who had the singular opportunity of listening to the witnesses and watching their performance although such findings of fact or the inferences drawn from them may be questioned in certain circumstances (See for example Akinola v. Fatoyimbo Oluwo & 0rs ( 1962) 1 SCNLR 352: (1962) 1 All NLR 244: Fabumiyi & 0rs. V. Obaje & Anor (1968) NMLR 242; Fatoyinbo Williams (1956) SCNLR 274: (1956) 1 FSC 87.

— Kutigi, JSC. Awaogbo & Ors. v. Eze (1995) – SC.69/1991

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ONLY IN EXCEPTIONAL CASES WILL COURT INTERFERE IN FINDINGS OF FACT

When the appeal is predicated on the question of facts, concurrently found by the Courts below, the attitude of this Court is well settled. This Court will not interfere with those findings of facts except when appellant shows special or exceptional circumstances justifying the interference. Such special or exceptional circumstances include the showing either that there was miscarriage of justice; or a serious violation of some principles of substantive or procedural law; or that the findings of fact are perverse, in the sense that they do not at all flow from the totality of the evidence at the trial and or that the findings are unreasonable. See ENANG v. ADU (1981) 11-12 SC 25 at 42; LOKOYI v. OLOJO (1983) 8 SC 61 at 73; OJOMU v. AJAO (1983) 9 SC 22 at 53; IBODO v. ENAROFIA (1980) 5-7 SC 42; AKAYEPE v. AKAYEPE (2009) 11 NWLR (pt. 1152) 217 SC. Notwithstanding this stance of this Court, this Court is still being perpetually inundated by appeals predicated solely on concurrent findings of facts by Courts below to this Court. The connivance of legal practitioners in this regard cannot be ruled out; particularly by those desperately wanting to make up their qualifying appearances in this Court to enable them apply for the award of the privilege of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The sooner the balance between this privilege and the congestion in, or the work load of, this Court was struck the better for this Court and those seeking to be conferred the privilege. I say no more for now.

— E. Eko, JSC. Galadima v. State (2017) – SC.70/2013

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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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MEANING OF A PERVERSE FINDING

A perverse finding is a wrong, unreasonable or unacceptable finding, having due regard to the evidence before the court. A perverse finding is one not supported by the evidence before the court. It is a finding raised on a wrong assessment of the evidence before the court. A finding of fact based on exaggerated or bloated evidence on the part of the trial court could be perverse. So too finding of fact borne out from addition or subtraction from the evidence before the court.

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

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APPELLATE COURT WILL NOT UPSET FINDING OF FACT MADE BY TRIAL COURT UNLESS

The law remains that an Appellate Court is reluctant to upset a finding of fact made by a trial court which had the opportunity of listening to witnesses testify and observing their demeanour and that evaluation of evidence and the ascription of probative value thereto are the primary functions of a trial court which saw, heard and assessed the witnesses. Where a trial court clearly evaluated the evidence of the parties and justifiably appraised the facts, it is not the business of an Appellate Court to substitute its own views of the facts for those of the trial court. It is only where the trial court is proved to have abdicated this function or in carrying out the function makes an unsound finding that an Appellate Court can justifiably step in to do so or set aside such unsound finding for being perverse. (See Oduwole v Aina (2001) 17 NWLR (Part 741) 1 at 47 and Udengwu v Uzuegbu (2003) 13 NWLR (Part 836) 36 at 156).

— Onnoghen JSC. Ndukwe v LPDC [2007] – SC 48/2003

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PROPER EVALUATION OF FACT NEEDS NO INTERFERENCE FROM APPELLATE COURT

The law is also common knowledge that where a trial Court fails to properly discharge that primary duty or the evaluation value ascribed to and inference/findings made thereon cannot be supported by the evidence adduced before that Court, then an appellate Court is entitled to intervene and interfere with such decisions of the trial Court … However where a trial Court has unquestionably and properly evaluated the evidence adduced before it, an appellate Court has no business to and is usually slow in interfering with decisions arising from such an exercise.

– M.L. Garba JCA. Odogwu v. Vivian (2009) – CA/PH/345/05

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EACH CASE MUST BE DETERMINED ON ITS MERIT

As the Respondent rightly submitted, each case must be determined upon its own peculiar circumstances as no two cases are identical; they may be similar but not identical – see Admin/Exec., of the Estate of Gen. Abacha V. Eke-Spiff & Ors. (supra).

— A.A. Augie, JCA. Elias v Ecobank (2016) – CA/L/873/2013

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