Grand Master - , 2:12 am On 9 Sep 2017
The question admissibility and relevance is a trite question in the law of evidence. A counsel is precluded from giving evidence of facts which are not relevant to the matter at hand; that would be nothing but a sheer waste of time of the honorable court. A counsel seeking to rely on a piece of evidence must first show that such evidence is relevant to the matter at hand.
Whether a piece of evidence is relevant to a matter is a question of logical inference. That is, there seems to be some sort of connection between the facts which the counsel seeks to establish and the facts in issue in that matter, such that one is necessarily dependent on the other.
In a murder case for instance, the cause of death is a relevant fact. All facts are relevant which are necessary to
establish a fact in issue.
SECTIONS 4-13 OF THE EVIDENCE ACT 2011, provides a non-exclusive list of relevant facts. Some of these are:
1. Facts which although not in issue are closely related with facts in issue such as to form part of the same transaction, whether they occur at the same time and place or at different times and
2. Facts which are the occasion, cause and effect of relevant facts or facts in issue.
3. Facts which constitute the motive or preparation for facts in issue or relevant facts.
4. Facts which establishes the identity of any person whose identity is relevant.
5. Facts which supports or rebuts the inferences suggested by facts in issue or relevant facts.
The question of admissibility is however a question of law. By virtue of s.1 of the EVIDENCE ACT 2011, only relevant facts are admissible, and what is not relevant is not admissible. That is, a piece of evidence is admissible if and only if:
1. It is relevant
2. The law says it is admissible. However, because a piece of evidence is relevant does not automatically makes it
admissible. It may be relevant and be in contravention of the law, and thus inadmissible.
For instance, the basic rule is that hearsay evidence are inadmissible; therefore hearsay evidence given of relevant facts do not automatically become admissible because it is evidence of relevant facts, it still remains
hearsay and thus inadmissible.
THE LAW GOVERNING THE ADMISSIBILITY OF EVIDENCE
The Evidence Act 2011 is the fulcrum law governing the admissibility of evidence in Nigeria. That is, any piece of evidence is only admissible if it's in line with the provisions of the Evidence Act.
However by virtue of s.3 of the Evidence Act 2011, the admissibility of evidence under any other legislation validly in force in Nigeria is not prejudiced. (It can be argued that the term 'legislation' used in this section above refers only to statutes and precludes common law, but at present this is not the law). This section has been held to include the common Law (see R v. ITULE).
By virtue of section 3, the following law governs the admissibility of Evidence in Nigeria:
1. The Evidence Act 2011
2. Statutes (e.g Criminal Procedural Act)
3. Common Law.
The twin requirements of admissibility and relevance cannot be divorced. It follows that only what is relevant is admissible and what is not relevant is not admissible