EVIDENTIARY RULES ON ADMISSIBILITY OF DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE UNDER NIGERIAN EVIDENCE ACT 2011: A CRITICAL APPRAISAL
This Dissertation provided a critical conceptual discourse into the Evidentiary Rules On Admissibility of Documentary Evidence Under Nigerian Evidence Act 2011. It appraised the bases for the admissibility of documentary evidence, rules of evidence, relevance and conditions for the admissibility of secondary evidence, public document, proof of documentary evidence, custody and production of public documents, proof of execution of documents, admissibility of statements made in computers, and conditions for the admissibility of documentary evidence as to fact in issue. It also appraised the rules on admissibility of documentary evidence under the Nigerian Law to ascertain what factors that determine the admissibility and inadmissibility of documentary evidence and it examined the extent to which computer generated evidence is made part of admissible documentary evidence under the Evidence Act 2011. Evidence is the cornerstone of litigation and indispensable for a fair justice system in Nigeria. This dissertation therefore aimed at bringing out issues faced by the Lawyers, Courts, theorists and Students of Law relating to the admissibility of documentary evidence; solving problems faced by Students of Law and Lawyers on issues of proper foundation to be laid and the mode of tendering the documentary evidence and principally, recommending areas and manner of legal reform as to the admissibility of documentary evidence by making an exposition on a very fundamental rule on documentary evidence. The separation of section 89 and 90 of the Evidence Act and the alteration of sections in 1990 Evidence Act which has the same principles under 2011 Evidence Act, made comprehension and interpretation of above sections difficult. The five subsections in section 83 constitute a sort of nightmare to many Students of Law and even the Lawyers sometimes are confused as to the application of its provisions. Making it worse is the use of the words „provided‟, „except‟, and „unless‟. Also, in addition to the issues raised above, the failure of the Act in not defining the nature of electronic signature compounded the confusion, difficulties and obscurity of meaning of evidence it sought to enshrine, legislate or enforce and so we can only conclude that the provisions of section 83 are cumbersome and they ordinarily portend challenges to understanding and thus interpretation and would need material revision and redrafting. The legal research methodology adopted in collecting information is the doctrinal method. The doctrinal research is priori research method which involves research in text books, statute and cases. The findings of the study significantly included the difficulty which the separation of S. 89 and 90 Evidence Act posed to Students of Law, and the absence of the definition of the nature of electronic signature. It is therefore recommended that there is immediate need for legislative reform to redress the issues for proper drafting, interpretation and understanding for-instance the issues relating to the use of simple English to replace the words „provided‟, „except‟, and „unless‟ for easy understanding. The need for legislative amendment of S. 89 and 90 which was separated, should be redrafted under one section for easy interpretation and understanding and the amendment of Section 83(4) to provide for the nature of electronic signature for its admissibility purposes.