Introductory Notes to the Law of Evidence

To introduce evidence, the definition, although differently opined, must be established in some wayThe definition of Evidence has been the subject of different formulation by different writers and thought schools..

  • Phibson (11th Edition) states that Evidenxe is the testimony whether oral, documentary or real which may b3 legally received in order to prove or disprove some facts in dispute.
  • Professor Cross in his book stated that Evidence is the testimony, hearsay, documents, things and facts which a court will accept as evidence of the fact-in-issue in a given case.
  • Stephen in his digest stated that Evidence involves the questions, what facts may or may not be proved, what sort of evidence must be given of a fact which may be proved and by whom and in what manner the evidence must be produced by which any fact needs to be proved.
  • The law relating to evidence is a strange and unruly beast. It is unruly because first, it refuses to fit into any easy structure for analysis and exposition and second, it often adopts the characteristics of an uncharted minefield by which is meant that any set of facts has the potential of throwing up evidential problems, not just of one but of several types, often unforeseen – Steve Uglow
  • The evidence of a fact is that which tends to prove it – something which may satisfy an inquirer of the fact’s existence. Courts of law usually have to find that certain facts exist before pronouncing on the rights, duties and liabilities of the parties, and such evidence as they will receive in furtherance of this task is described as “judicial evidence” – Tapper C
  • What we are concerned with is the process of presenting evidence for the purpose of demonstrating an asserted fact. In this process then, the term evidence represents any knowable fact or group of fact, not a legal or logical principle, considered with a view to its being offered before a legal tribunal for the purpose of producing a persuasion, positive or negative, on the part of the tribunal, as to the truth of a proposition not of law or of logic, on which the determination of the tribunal is to be asked – Wigmore
  • Akinola Aguda, the reknown Nigerian jurist and author of blessed memory, in his book, Law of Evidence, he agreed further that sometimes, the word evidence is used in connection with admissibility. In his words, “sometimes the word evidence is used in connection with admissibility, for example, when it is said that something is not evidence, it may mean that the thing is not admissible”

If a thing is self evident, it does not require evidence. What therefore is evidence? Simply put, it is the means by which any matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation may be established or disproved. Evidence is therefore necessary to prove or disprove an issue of fact

Classification of Evidence

  • Oral Evidence
  • Documentary Evidence
  • Real evidence
  • Circumstantial Evidence
  • By Real Evidence
  • Proof by Electronic Gadgets (Abacha's coup trials 1997)
  • Direct Evidence
  • Hearsay Evidence
  • Primary and Secondary Evidence
  • Official Evidence

In all these classifications of evidence, there are exceptions which shall be treated one after another.

Things done or events which occurred – res gestae

What then is the Fact?

Fact in issue is what the court is called upon to adjudicate on. Under the Evidence Act, a fact includes

  • Anything, state of things or relation of things capable of being perceived
  • Any mental condition of which any person is conscious (S2(1) Evidence Act, CAP 112 LFN 1990)

Putting it more succintly, a fact is anything which is subject to perception or consciousness. The perception could be through any one or more of the senses. In other words, a fact is anything you have "heard", touched, perceived through odour or seen e.g a fire outbreak






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