Guarding Against Defamation Whilst Torch-lighting Witness’ Evidence in a Law Suit: A Review of the book, The Law and Practice of Impeaching Witness’ Credit in Nigeria Written By P.J. Fawei Esq.

 


 

Book Title:  The Law and Practice of Impeaching Witness’ Credit in Nigeria 

Author: Perekedou James Fawei Esq.

Number of Pages: 160

Genre: Legal Literature

Publisher: Princeton & Associates Publishing Co. Ltd

Reviewer: Ebi Robert Esq.

 

1.0.    1.0. Introduction

 

Cases are won not on the facts presented to the court alone, but on the evidence that supports the facts. Evidence has been described as a specie of proof, or probative matter legally presented at the trial of any issue, by the parties and through the medium of witnesses, records, documents, exhibits, concrete objects, etc. [see the case of Onya v. Ogbuji (2011) All FWLR (Pt. 556) 493 at 517 CA]. The description under consideration forecasts the view that witnesses suffice as a medium for such presentations before the court. However, the Court of Appeal projected the point that its purpose is to induce belief in the court’s mind with respect to their contentions.[1] Evidence can be oral or documentary, primary or secondary, direct or indirect, etc. But in any situation, someone on oath must make some form of presentation before the court that will enable the court to arrive at a logical conclusion on the matter. Thus, a witness is considered as one who sees, knows, or vouches for evidence. This can be done under oath or by way of an affirmation, either in person or by a written deposition or by affidavit alone.[2] However, a witness may not be truthful. Hitting this wall heavily romances the witness’ credit and may technically puncture the character of a witness. Quite frankly, defamation looms if this is not properly handled. While it is true that the Evidence Act, 2011 (as amended) states the grounds or conditions required to impeach a witness’ credit,[3] the Act is bereaved of the expected procedure to explore in this venture. This review proves that the route to impeach a witness’ credit in Nigeria is less taken. It adds that the book, The Law and Practice of Impeaching Witness’ Credit in Nigeria, x-rays the procedure or methods to be considered for taking advantage of the law of witness’ credit impeachment. This sums up the practice. It then concludes that this book aptly guards against looming defamation when the Section is activated. 

 

2.0. Perekedou James Fawei’s book as an authority 

 

The Nigerian Evidence Act, 2011 (as amended) ably captures the law on impeaching witness’ credit. According to the author, “The concept of witness credit is most central to the value attachable to a piece of evidence received from witnesses in judicial proceedings.”[4] The relevant section (s) dealing with this part of the law substantively spell out the requirements to be considered,[5] but not the ‘HOW’ of how to achieve successful impeachment. The author in discussing the grounds or conditions required under the Evidence Act, 2011, went further to discuss the methods involved in doing same. Chapter one of the book discusses the nature and value of witness credit, wherein the value and essence of witness credit in judicial proceedings, the policy and historical background of witness credit, and the statutory evolution of the policy in Nigeria, amongst others, were discussed. Chapter two deals with the proof of a witness unworthy of credit, in which he considered the relationship between impeaching witness credit and fact in issue; status of opinion evidence on the character of a witness; determining witness unworthy of credit; and the procedure for impeaching witness’ credit through another witness. Furthermore, chapter three, four, five, six, seven, and eight then deal with proof of a witness tainted with bribe or corruption; impeaching the credit of a witness with previous statement; the previous statement must be made by the witness; the admissible condition of previous written statement: primary or secondary document; previous statements made by corporate witness, and previous statement made by an expert. 

 

Each subheading was extensively treated with fine logical and legal arguments supported by primary and secondary evidence of law. However, the fact that there are a few cases directly dealing with this specific area of the law under review speaks volume to the truism that, indeed, the route is less taken. And, whereas there are over a hundred texts in Nigeria on general issues of evidence law, Fawei explores a small-looking island that is unknown to many and holds a moribund of precious stones. Thus, no doubt, this book serves as a concrete secondary authority in this narrow but very significant area of the law.

 

3.0. Guarding against Defamation

 

In a defamation suit, the character or reputation of a claimant is usually at issue. Being that the claimant would stand as a witness for himself, his character or reputation as a witness is very much in contention as well. But when attempting to impeach a witness’ credit, it should be noted that there may be the likelihood of an invitation to a defamation law suit. Similarly, the author noted this when he said that a decision to ply this route in search for the truth is not only herculean but has the tendency to brew further disputes of defamation. While the law, amongst other things, is aimed at serving justice, care should be taken when relying on it so that it doesn’t become a vehicle for breaching the law further. Sound arguments and opinions on specific areas of the law thus become a guard in this respect. The book under review squarely qualifies as such.

 

4.0. Other positive aspects

 

Apart from the above-stated facts, the book has many positive sides. Firstly, the book is well bound with a nicely prepared outline. The interior design is well prepared with the content at the fore for easy navigation. The first chapter is well paged on an odd page, and all pages do end in an even count, which is proper for printing. The theme font and theme size are well selected to enable those with short-sightedness to peruse through at ease. Also, the Chicago style of referencing was used as the citation format. Another positive aspect is the author’s use of simple words in conveying his opinion and in making his arguments. The book's lack of bulk also makes it an easy read at a glance. To top it all off, the book is a page-turner.

 

Conclusion: 

 

Mr. Perekedou James Fawei has, with this book, proved that a specific issue of law is thick enough to be explored in academic writing. This work of literature stands tall as an authoritative piece in the area of evidence law discussed. As earlier opined, it serves as a guard against possible defamation when activating the section dealing with the witness’ credit impeachment. This book is, therefore, recommended to all lawyers in Nigeria and other legal minds.

 



[1] See also the case of Awuse v. Odili (2005) 16 NWLR (Pt. 952) 416 at 496 CA

[2] See the case of Gezoji v. Kulere (2012) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1291) 458 at 493, per Tur, J.C.A.

[3] Section 233 of the Evidence Act, 2011 (as amended)

[4] Page 2 of the book.

[5] See Section 133 of the Evidence Act, 2011

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