⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Dr. Torti Ufere Torti v. Chief Chris Ukpabi & Ors. (1984) – SC
by PipAr Chima
⦿ LITE HOLDING
Admissibility is based on relevance. Proper Custody is not relevant for admissibility.
⦿AREA OF LAW
Law of Evidence
Nigerian Police force
Dr.torti Ufere Torti
Chief Chris Ukpabi & Ors.
(1984) JELR 45267 (SC)
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Chief FRA Williams.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Dr. Odje.
– Professor Kasunmu SAN.
⦿ FINDING OF FACT
Both the appellant, Torti, and the 1st respondent, Ukpabi, were candidates for election to the Umuahia senatorial district. The Federal Electoral Commission (Fedeco), which body was constitutionally set up to conduct the election, declared the first respondent elected. The figures as announced by Fedeco were as follows: NPN (Ukpabi) 172,071, NPP (Torti) 153,832, thus the NPN had a majority of 18,239.
In this case the appellant disputed only three constituencies to wit – (i) Olokoro/Ubakala – wherein Fedeco recorded the NPN as having scored 16535 and the NPP 6224. Whereas according to the contention of the appellant the NPN scored 6535 and not 16,535. In this, appellant complained of an inflation of 10,000 votes. (ii) Ohuhu/Umuopara. Here, Fedeco recorded the NPN as having scored 20 21,561 as against the NPP 8,750. The complaint here is that Fedeco inflated the NPN figures by 10,000. (iii) Isiazu. Fedeco recorded 22,337 for the NPN and 8,462 for the NPP. The appellant contended that Fedeco has inflated the figures by 20,000 votes.
The trial court found that the figures were wrongfully inflated with the active assistance of the police. The judges Amadi-Obi, Ononuju and Alilionwu JJ., condemned in unmistakable terms the conduct of the police. The judqes said: “The court condemns in very strong terms the interference of the police in the conduct of this election as shown in Ex. M which we consider as creating an opportunity for the 3rd respondent (sic the returning officer) to falsify the results in Ex. M.” The court then declared Dr. Torti as elected.
An appeal went to the Federal Court of Appeal. That Court (Aseme, Belgore and Aikawa JJ.CA), in a judgment delivered by Belgore, J.C.A, to which the other learned Justices concurred, allowed the appeal of Ukpabi, set aside the judgment of the High Court mainly on the grounds of Torti’s case not having been proved beyond reasonable doubt and that the documents relied upon by him were copies which were inadmissible in evidence.
This is a further appeal.
1. Admissibility and Proper Custody.
⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANT BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENT.
i. But that is not the issue in this case. The issue is admissibility. I think that admissibility should be based on relevance and not proper custody. Once a matter, be it a document or oral evidence is relevant, it is admissible. Proper custody only raises the issue of presumption, or, to put it more clearly, the weight to be attached to the evidence, documentary or otherwise, after admission. For evidence, documentary or otherwise to be admissible, it is sufficient that proper ground of its relevance is laid.
⦿ ENDING NOTE BY LEAD JUSTICE – Per
⦿ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
Electoral Act 1982 provides in s.70 as follows – “70. After counting the votes and ascertaining the result of the polls the returning officer shall – (a) complete and sign the certificate of return in From EC.8 in the Schedule to this Act; (b) deliver a signed copy of the certificate to each candidate or his counting agent; (c) declare the result of the poll by reading the completed certificate of return aloud in the place of counting; (d) cause to be delivered to the Commission the original of the certificate of return.”
Electoral Act 1982 provides in s.72 as follows: (1) The returning officer shall deliver all documents relating to the conduct of the election to the commission who shall be responsible for their safe custody. (2) The Commission shall retain for a period of twelve months all the documents relating to an election forwarded to it as required under subsection (1) of this section; and unless otherwise ordered by a court of law or notified of legal proceedings in respect of such election, it shall at the end of that period cause the documents to be destroyed.
⦿ REFERENCED (CASE)
Kuruma, Son of Kaniu v. The Queen (1955) A.C. 197 at p.203, observed. “In their Lordships’ opinion the test to be applied in considering whether evidence is admissible is whether it is relevant to the matter in issue. If it is, it is admissible and the court is not concerned with how the evidence is obtained. While this proposition may not have been stated in so many words in any English case, there are decisions which support it, and in their Lordships’ opinion it is plainly right in principle. . There can be no difference in principle for this purpose between a civil and a criminal case. No doubt in a criminal case a judge always has a discretion to disallow evidence if the strict rule of admissibility would operate unfairly against an accused.”
⦿ REFERENCED (OTHERS)
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
Now the police had no business with the election under the Constitution or the Electoral Act. The duty of the police was to maintain law and order. According to the evidence led even by the 1st respondent himself there was no disorder in the conduct of the election yet the police, even from their headquarters at Owerri, interfered with the peaceful conduct of election, collected the returning officer to Owerri having stopped him from making the announcement of the results as required by law. By the time there had been interference in Owerri, actively supported by the police, the figures had been inflated by actual forgery of figures by 40,000. To say the least, this was a disgrace on the part of the police as it was criminal. It is unfortunate that the Federal Court of Appeal showed no interest in this aspect of the case notwithstanding that it directed itself correctly on the facts thereto. I think the stricture by the trial court of the police is justified, and to remove the disgrace, I hope the Inspector-General of Police would look into this matter, cause the conduct of the police officers concerned to be investigated and deal with the matter according to law. For this reason I direct that the Chief Registrar of this Court should forward a copy of this judgment to the Inspector-General of Police with his attention drawn to this portion of this judgment. – ESO JSC. Torti v. Ukpabi (1984)