Relevance and Admissibility of Evidence in Nigeria

The word relevancy is taken from the adjective, relevant. In itself, relevant is defined by the Black's Law Dictionary as the state of being "logically connected and tending to prove or disprove a matter in issue". This means that for evidence to be considered relevant, it is confirmed as useful to the courts to prove a matter.

Relevance and Admissibility of Evidence in Nigeria by Nelson Vincent Ayomitunde - VineLegal

In the case of Osolu v. Osolu, the court held that a fact in issue was anything the parties disagree about. In R V Kilbourne, the court noted that relevancy means a fact that is in issue (a crucial issue). In this case,while other circumstances may determine, the fact in issue is a major determinant of what is relevant (Okonji v. Njokanma).

On the other hand, admissibility is a matter of law. Whatever the law says is admissible is admissible. According to the court in Agunbiade v. Sasegbon, facts declared to be admissible under the Evidence Act or other Statute in force in Nigeria are admissible 




Phipson: facts which as a matter of logic or experience tend to render the existence of other facts probable or improbable are relevant facts.

In a civil matter, an inadmissible evidence may be rejected but in a criminal matter, an inadmissible evidence must be rejected - Raimi v Akintoye

  • Step one: an evidence is pleaded.
  • Step two: the court asks; is this evidence relevant?
  • Step three: After determining that an evidence is relevant, the court asks; is it admissible?

Nature and Relationship Between Relevancy and Admissibility

The following are a few basic points to know about the nature and relationship

  • Only relevant and admissible facts should be taken into consideration by the courts -S1, Evidence Act
  • Relevancy and admissibility both guide the courts on whether to accept or reject a fact/evidence.
  • Relevancy is a matter of logic while admissibility is a matter of law. 
  • Relevancy is the precursor of admissibility. Meaning that evidence must be relevant before its admissibility is considered- ACB v. Gwagwada. Also in Haruna v. AG Fed, the court noted that admissibility is based on relevance.


In Suberu v. Sumonu, the court noted that a relevant fact may not be admitted on various grounds like:

  • The evidence appears to be too remote to the fact in issue - Noor Mohammed v. The law (EA, Statute, etc.) renders the evidence inadmissible. E.g. Documents required to be stamped not stamped; Section 22, Stamp Duties Act- Candido Da Rocha V Hussain
  • Unregistered deed of conveyance- Suberu v. State (2010) Vol. 31 WRN p. 1 at pp 16-17. S308 of the 1999 Constitution evidence relating to immune people, Section 1(b) EA
  • Where the interest of justice demands.
  • Where it would be contrary to public policy to admit such evidence.
  • Where the evidence was illegally obtained and the court wishes to reject it.

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