Sources of Nigeria Law of Evidence. Like every other aspect of the law, the law of evidence derives from certain sources. The following are the sources of the Nigerian Law of Evidence.
- The Evidence Act
- The Constitution
- Regulations made by the Attorney General
- Judicial Decisions and Opinions of Jurists.
- The English Common Law
- Local Statutes
See also:- Scope of the Evidence Law; 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.
The evidence Act – Sources of Nigeria Law of Evidence
Without doubt the main source of the Nigerian law of evidence is the Evidence Act 2011. The Act was assented to by President Goodluck Jonathan on 3rd June, 2011 after its passage by the National Assembly on 2nd June, 2011.
This Act, which contains 258 sections and is divided into 16 parts is a belated but welcome response to the clamour for the reform of the Evidence Act, 2004.
By the proviso to Section 2 of the Act, the provisions of the Act are paramount on the issue of admissibility or otherwise of evidence. As such, any provisions of any other law on evidence inconsistent with its provision shall, to the extent of its inconsistency be incompetent.
The 1999 Constitution (as amended) makes provisions dealing with evidence. By item 23 of part 1 of the Second Schedule, of the constitution makes “evidence” a matter within the Exclusive Legislative competence of the National Assembly and by item 68, the power extends to “any matter incidental or supplementary, to any matter mentioned elsewhere in this list.
By making provisions on or relating to evidence, therefore, the constitution is unarguably, a veritable source of Nigerian Law of Evidence.
Regulations made by Attorney-Generals
Section 255 of the Evidence Act, 2011 provides that: “the minister charged with responsibility for justice may, from time to time, make regulations generally prescribing further conditions with respect to admissibility of any class of evidence, that may be relevant under this Act.
This novel provision which has been in existence in other jurisdictions, will provide another source of the Nigerian law of Evidence, although no such regulations has been made understandably because the Act came into force about three years ago. It is however submitted that any regulations made pursuant to this provision cannot limit or circumscribe the express provisions of the Act.
Judicial Decisions and Opinions of Jurists
Judicial decisions and writings of distinguished legal scholars can be identified as another source of the law of evidence.
Although judges and legal scholars do not make laws, their construction of the provisions of the law touching on the admissibility or otherwise of a particular piece of evidence is capable of reliance and therefore, constitutes another source of the Nigerian Law of Evidence.
The English Common Law
Before the enactment of the now repealed Evidence Act in 1943 and its coming into force in 1945, the law of evidence which applied in the magistrate courts and the Supreme court (which is equivalent of the state High court now) was the English Common Law of Evidence.
Thus, the common law constituted another source of the Nigeria law of Evidence. Authorities for the application of the English Common Law of Evidence were contained in some of the legislation enacted during the colonial, era. Example of such legislation included the provincial courts Ordinance 1914 (S.14).
The English Common Law rules were still applicable under the provisions of the repealed Evidence Act, 2004. Authority for trhe application of English Common Law was contained in S. 5(a) of the Act which provides that; nothing in this Act shall – prejudice the admissibility of any evidence which would apart from the provisions of this Act be admissible.
Apart from the Evidence Act, 2011, there are local statutes which makes provision for admissibility or exclusion of evidence in judicial proceedings. These local statutes which are parts of the body of the law of evidence in Nigeria can rightly be regarded as another source of Nigeria Law of Evidence.
Section 3 of the Evidence Act, 2011 recognizes the validity of other Nigerian legislation which provides for admission or exclusion of evidence when it provides that:
“nothing in this Act shall prejudice the admissibility by any other legislation validly in force in Nigeria.
It is submitted that although the Section mentioned “other legislation” laws passed by any State House of the Assembly may not, contextually, come within the definition of “other legislation” since evidence is a matter within the exclusive legislative competence of the National assembly. Examples of Local statutes which contain specific provisions relating to Evidence are, The Road Traffic Act; The Indian Hemp Act and the Marriage Act.
Sources of Nigeria Law of Evidence. Sources of Nigeria Law of Evidence