Matters that need not be proved by Evidence.
Introduction: The usual method of proving facts in court is by the oral testimony of witnesses or production of documentary or real evidence. There are, however, certain exceptions to this general and fundamental principle of our law of evidence. In other words, there are certain matters or facts which need not be proved by evidence. Proof of these matters is not required either because the facts involved are not contested or are admitted or are presumed to exist.
See also:-Sources of Nigeria Law of Evidence; Scope of the Law of Evidence; Mischief Rule; Golden Rule; Literal Rule; Statutory Interpretation; Maxims of Equity; Equity; Common Law; Received English Law; Doctrine of Covering the field; Sources of Nigeria Law.
In all of these matters, the truth or existence of these matters is taken for granted or to put it more realistically, the truth or existence of these matters is regarded as proved and, therefore, are not required to be proved by evidence. These matters which need not be proved are:
- Facts admitted for the purposes of trial;
- Facts judiciously noticed;
- Facts presumed; and
- Facts of common knowledge
Each of these matters will be examined seriatim.
1. Facts admitted for the purposes of trial
Formal admissions is provided for under Section 123 of the Act which says:
“No fact need be proved in any civil proceedings which the parties to the proceeding or their agents agree to admit at the hearing, or which, before the hearing they agree to admit by any writing under their hands, or which by any rule of pleading in force at the time they are deemed to have admitted by their pleadings: provided that the court may, in its discretion, require the facts admitted to be proved otherwise than by such admissions”.
In the case of Nnadi Chikere & Ors V. George Okegbe (2003) the Supreme court stated the law as follows:
“Where a counsel makes an unequivocal admission in court on behalf of his client, the court is entitled to accept such as admission and act on it accordingly.
2. Facts Judicially Noticed – Matters that need not be proved by Evidence
Facts judicially noticed constitute another class of facts which need not be proved by evidence. By Section 122 of the Act, “No fact of which the court must take judicial notice need be proved; such a fact need not be proved by evidence as the judge or magistrate accepts its existence as established.
In Saraki V. Kotoye (1990)4 NWLR (pt 143) 144 at 195; the Supreme court defined judicial notice as the cognizance taken by the court itself of certain matters which are so notorious or clearly established that evidence of their existence is deemed unnecessary.
There are certain facts, which must be judicially noticed and others which may be judicially noticed. Where a fact must be judicially noticed, the court is under a mandate or an obligation to take judicial notice of that fact. On the other hand, where a fact may be judiciously noticed, it means that the court has discretion either to take judicial notice of it or not.
The court must take judicial notice of the following facts:
- All laws and enactments and any subsidiary legislation made under them having the force of law now or previously in any part of Nigeria.
Course of proceedings in the National Assembly and of the Houses of Assembly of the states of Nigeria. Etc. See the case of Mohammed V. C.O.P. (1987)4 NWLR (PT. 65) 420.
Facts which the court may take judicial notice
There are quiet a sizeable number of other facts which the court may take judicial notice of.
Indeed, no exhaustive list can be drawn of such matters. As such, the court may be invited to take judicial notice of a fact which has not been previously judicially noticed. However, it is not in all cases that a court is invited to take judicial notice of a fact that it will do so.
Thus, in Anokwu V. C.OP (1975) NMLR 402; it was held that the terms and abbreviations of which a court can take judicial notice are limited. Accordingly, the prosecution should ensure that esoteric terms and abbreviations are explained to the courts in evidence. Indeed, there are cases in which the court refused to take judicial notice of certain facts. In Cyril Areh V. C.O.P. (1959) WRNL 230.
3. Facts of common knowledge
Section 124 (1) of the Act provides that:
“Proof shall not be required of a fact the knowledge of which is not reasonably open to question and which is –
- Common knowledge in the locality in which the proceeding is being held; or generally
- Capable of verification by reference to a document the authority of which cannot reasonably be questioned.