➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Chevron Nigeria Limited v. Edward Adekunle Aderibigbe (2011) – CA
by “PipAr” Branham-Paul C. Chima.
Court of Appeal of Nigeria – CA/L/76/04
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Monday, the 28th day of February, 2011
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Admissibility of document;
➥ PRINCIPLES OF LAW
⦿ THREE MAIN CRITERIA FOR ADMISSIBILITY OF A DOCUMENT
A good starting point is to state the three main criteria that govern the admissibility of a document in evidence, namely:- (1) Is the document pleaded? (2) Is it relevant to the inquiry being tried by the court? and (3) Is it admissible in law? See Okonji v. Njokanma (1999) 11 – 12 SCNJ 259 @ 273 where Achike JSC stated thus: “The position of the law in relation to the question of admissibility of a document in evidence is that admissibility is one thing while the probative value that may be placed thereon is another. Generally, three main criteria govern the admissibility of a document in evidence, namely: (1) is the document pleaded? (2) is it relevant to the inquiry being tried by the court? and (3) is it admissible in law?” — A. Jauro, JCA.
⦿ 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.
⦿ ESSENCE OF PLEADINGS
The essence of pleadings is to narrow down the issues in controversy and serves as a notice to the other party which is intended to alert him on what the party filing it intends to rely on to prove his case or to defend a cause. A party to an action is expected to plead material facts only. Pleadings therefore is never meant to substitute evidence required to prove the facts unless such facts are admitted by the other party. See Adegbite v. Ogunfaotu (1990) 4 NWLR (Pt. 146) 578. Okafoi v. UBN Plc (2000) 3 NWLR (Pt. 647) 42. — A. Jauro, JCA.
⦿ 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.
⦿ NATURE OF PROOF OF PLEADINGS
It must be appreciated that there cannot be a better notice of a case a party intends to make than his pleading. It is a mere notice and can never be substituted for the evidence required in proof of the facts pleaded, subject however to an admission made by the other party. Unless through skilful cross-examination discrediting the case of the other party, he is still bound to lead evidence in support of his own pleading. Where evidence is adduced to buttress a pleading, then it is good news for the pleader, as it strengthens his case. However, evidence adduced in support of facts not pleaded goes to no issue and should therefore be disregarded ORIZU V. ONYAEGBUNAM 1978.5 S.C. 21 at 820. In ACB V. GWAGWALADA 1994. 5 NWLR Part 342 page 25 at 27 it was held that before considering admissibility of any evidence or document in support of a party’s case it must be shown that the evidence sought to be led is relevant. Even if the evidence is admissible and it is not relevant, the admission of such evidence does not advance the case of the party. — A. Jauro, JCA.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Adamu Jauro, J.C.A.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
Mr. Ladipo Soetan.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
Mr. Gani Bello.
➥ CASE FACT/HISTORY
Simply put and briefly stated, the background facts giving rise to this appeal are as follows: The respondent as plaintiff instituted the action at the lower court for damages and declarative reliefs that his dismissal from the appellant’s employment was unconstitutional, null and void. The suit was commenced in 1995 at the Lagos division of the High Court of Lagos State. Trial commenced in earnest and the respondent was led in evidence by his counsel. In the course of cross examination on 18th February, 1998 the respondent was confronted with a document dated 29th September 1993, alleged to have been made by him. The respondent denied making the statement in the document, though he stated that the signature on it looked like his own. The document was then withdrawn by the appellant’s counsel. On opening their defence, the appellant sought to tender the same document dated 29th September, 1993 which it confronted the respondent with during cross examination through DW1 Micheal Nwaka, the appellant’s security manager. As a prelude to the tendering of the document, DW1 identified the document as the statement made by the respondent and handed over to him by the same respondent. An objection was raised as to the admissibility of the document. The Court allowed the objection and rejected the document.
Aggrieved and dissatisfied with the aforementioned ruling, the defendant now appellant filed an appeal against same. The notice of appeal dated and filed on 3rd May, 1999.
This is an appeal against the ruling of the Lagos State High Court, coram Shitta-Bey J, delivered on 22nd April 1999 in suit No. LD/3772/95. In the said ruling, the lower court rejected a document sought to be tendered in evidence by the defendant now appellant.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION(S)
I. Whether the document dated 29th September, 1993 sought to be tendered by the appellant is admissible in evidence and therefore wrongly rejected by the trial court?
RULING: Yes – IN APPELLANT’S FAVOUR.
A. THAT THE DOCUMENT WAS PLEADED
“When the objection as to the admissibility of the document was made, the appellant responded that it was pleaded in paragraph 9 of the further amended statement of defence. The said paragraph is hereby reproduced. “The defendant avers that upon investigation by the Defendant the Plaintiff confessed to having disregarded the Defendant’s guidelines, rules and policy. The Defendant further avers that the Plaintiff confessed to having received monetary gratification for the unauthorized investments and expressed regret that he had let down both his immediate supervisor and the Defendant. The Defendant shall at the trial of this action rely on the Plaintiff’s written statements dated 28th September 1993 and 29th September 1993 made during the Defendant’s investigations.””
B. THAT THE DOCUMENT IS RELEVANT
“The next thing to be considered is whether the document is relevant to the fact in issue or relevant facts towards resolving the dispute between the parties. The issue of relevance has to be considered along the peculiar circumstances of each case. The main issue in contention in the court below is that of wrongful dismissal and closely related to that, the respondent alleged that he was not given fair hearing before the dismissal. The appellant on the other hand contended that they investigated the matter and gave the plaintiff a hearing. See paragraph 9 of the 1st amended statement of claim and 11 of the further amended statement of defence. To the extent of this two contending views, the document to my mind is relevant.”
“In view of the foregoing, the document dated 29th September 1993 having passed the three criteria for admissibility of documents, ought to have been admitted by the lower court. Consequently the ruling of the lower court dated 22nd April, 1999 rejecting the said document is hereby set aside. The document dated 29th September, 1993 is admitted in evidence and marked Exhibit CN 1. There will be no order as costs.”
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)