SOURCES AND CLASSIFICATION OF EVIDENCE.
SOURCES OF EVIDENCE
As at today, the major source of the Nigerian Law of Evidence is the Evidence Act of 2011. Also, there are local statutes which provide for admissibility or exclusion of evidence in judicial proceedings. This is another source of Nigerian Law of Evidence. See S. 3 Evidence Act 2011 which makes reference to that effect. But where there is inconsistency, the Evidence Act 2011 must prevail.
It should be noted that by Section 23 of Part 1 of second schedule, the constitution makes evidence a matter within the exclusive legislative competence of the National Assembly. In essence, the National Assembly has exclusive right over matters on evidence. Where a sate House of Assembly goes ahead to make a legislation on matters of evidence, it would be declared null and void if inconsistent with the Evidence Act 2011 which is a federal law.
CLASSIFICATION OF EVIDENCE
CLASSIFICATION OF EVIDENCE
1. Oral Evidence:
The nature of our trial process enjoins the parties to prove their case especially through oral testimonies. With this, the court is able to watch the demeanor, behavior or outward appearance of the witnesses and form the impression whether they are witnesses. It also affords the other party the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses.
See sections 125 & 126 Evidence Act 2011.
2. Documentary Evidence:
Evidence may also be documentary but this is not limited to statements reduced into writing. They extend to devices in which sounds or other data are embodied so as to be able to reproduce them. They also include devices in which visual images are embodied. See S. 258 Evidence Act.
3. Direct/Best Evidence:
This consists of testimonies of a witness who has seen, heard or perceived a fact in issue. This is synonymous with oral evidence.
4. Circumstantial/Natural Evidence:
This is often used in criminal proceedings. It is one which is inferred from the circumstances of the case. Here, though evidence is not direct, the combined facts are capable of connecting the accused person with the commission of the crime. Such evidence must be positive, unequivocal and mathematically accurate. In essence, it must leave no room for any reasonable doubt. There must be no other co-existing circumstance which can weaken such inference.
In Adepetu v The State, a houseboy killed his boss and dumped her body in the lagoon. Evidence was adduced to show that the houseboy was last seen with the boss. The court held that he was responsible for the disappearance or death of his boss. The court however stated that to support a conviction based circumstantial evidence it must not only be cogent, complete and unequivocal but compelling and lead to the irresistible conclusion that the accused and no one else is the murderer; it must leave no ground for reasonable doubt.
In Arichie v State, the accused (cab driver) was to take a business-man from the village to a motor park. Eventually, the business man did not return to Lagos and was not found. When the Cab man was arrested, he claimed that they had an accident on the way and the vehicle fell into a river. The police went to the river and did not find any vehicle there. The court arrived at the conclusion that the cab man killed the businessman.
In Moses Jua v The State, a motorcycle was stolen in which the accused was the suspect. A Police Constable took the accused to Ipee to produce the particulars of the motorcycle. That was the last time the constable was seen alive. The court held that the accused bore the full responsibility of the deceased’s death. He was held guilty since he could not provide satisfactory answer to the whereabouts of the deceased based on the doctrine of last seen.
5. Real Evidence:
This consists of material things or objects which are produced in court. Footprints and fingerprints on objects used at the scene are good examples.
6. Hearsay Evidence:
When a witness relates events he heard from another person to prove a fact in issue, it is hearsay. Generally, hearsay evidence are inadmissible except on certain grounds.
7. Primary Evidence:
Original document offered in proof of fact.
8. Secondary Evidence:
Other documents asides the primary evidence.
1. 9. Prima Facie Evidence:
This is fact which the court must take as proved unless disproved by further evidence.
2. 10. Conclusive Evidence:
Fact which the court must take as proved and which can’t be disproved.