"The law...is that printed copies of the proceedings of the House of Assembly need not be certified for them to be admissible in evidence and they are admissible evidence of the truth of their contents."
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF
NIGERIA vs. ADAMU(2018)LPELR
ISSUE: PUBLIC DOCUMENT-Whether copies of proceedings of Houses of Assembly are admissible without certification
"The complaint of the Appellant was that the lower Court rejected in the evidence the documents they tendered as Exhibits PO1 and PO2 and the oral evidence of the eighth prosecution witness. The documents tendered as PO1 and PO2 accompanied a letter that was tendered as Exhibit PO. The records of appeal show that when they were tendered by the Counsel to the Appellant in the course of trial, Counsel to the Respondent objected to their admissibility. The records show that the lower Court heard arguments on the objection, but admitted the documents anyway and deferred its decision on the objection till later. It was in the judgment that the lower Court considered the objection and it opined thus: "There is no disputing that the documents sought to be tendered are public documents. By the provisions of Sections 85 and 88 of the Evidence Act ... public documents can be proved by
primary evidence (that is the original), it is where the party fails to tender the primary evidence that he can rely on the secondary evidence which must be certified. Thus, public documents can be proved by primary or secondary evidence. ... Based on the above authorities, the letter Exhibit PO is admissible in evidence and this Court was thus right to have admitted it in evidence. Therefore, the objection of the defence on this point is discountenanced by this Court. With regards to the Report admitted as Exhibit PO1, it appears to be the Votes and Proceedings of the Zamfara State House of Assembly to which is attached the report. It is noted by the Court that both Votes and Proceedings and the attached Report are photocopies. By the combined reading of Sections 88, 102, 140 (1), 105, 106 (a) (ii) and (c) of the Evidence Act, 2011 for the documents to be admissible they must be certified. The said documents having not been certified are inadmissible and thus rejected in evidence and accordingly marked so." Counsel to the Appellant submitted that the lower Court was wrong to have rejected the documents because they were not photocopies but originals and that the lower Court did not properly ascertain their nature before rejecting them. Counsel to the Respondent maintained otherwise and he submitted that the documents were indeed photocopies and were thus not admissible without having been first certified as true copies of the originals. With respect to both Counsel to the parties and the lower Court, they overlooked the nature of the documents in question and thus failed to apply the right provisions of the Evidence Act governing their admissibility. The document tendered as Exhibit PO1 is the "House of Assembly Zamfara State, Federal Republic of Nigeria - Votes and Proceedings, Thursday 30th May, 2013" and it was stated at the foot of the document that it was "Printed by Legislative Department of Zamfara State House of Assembly." The document tendered as Exhibit PO2 is headed and described as "Federal Republic of Nigeria, Zamfara State House of Assembly, Parliamentary Debates of Thursday 30th May, 2013, Sixth Assembly Fourth Republic, Second Session, State House of Assembly Official Report No 183, Volume II, Contents - Approval of Votes and Proceedings, Matters of Urgent Public Importance, Personal Explanation, Submission of Report of the House Special Investigation Committee (ADHOC) on the Operations and Financial Activities of Zamfara State Universal Basic Education Board" and it was stated at the foot of the document that it was "Printed by Publication Department, Zamfara State House of Assembly". The rules governing the admissibility of documents of this nature are contained in the provisions of Sections 122 (1), (2) (c) and Section 106 (c) of the Evidence Act. These sections read "122 (1). No fact of which the Court must take judicial notice under this section need to be proved. (2) The Court shall take judicial notice of:- (c) the course of proceeding of the National Assembly and of the Houses of Assembly of the States of Nigeria. 106. The following public documents may be proved as follows:... (c) the proceedings of a State House of Assembly, by the minutes of that body or by published Laws, or by copies purporting to be printed by order of Government" The law, by these provisions of the Evidence Act, is that printed copies of the proceedings of the House of Assembly need not be certified for them to be admissible in evidence and they are admissible evidence of the truth of their contents - Wilton & Co Vs. Phillips (1903) 19 Times Law Rep. 390; Attorney General of Bendel State Vs. Attorney General of the Federation (1981) 10 SC (Reprint Edition) 1 at pages 18 to 20 and Ugoh Vs. Benue State Local Government Service Commission (1995) 3 NWLR (Pt 383) 288 at 317-318 H-A. A look at the documents in question shows that they are printed copies of the proceedings of the Zamfara State House of Assembly for Thursday 30th May, 2013 and Exhibit PO1 carries on its face the original signature of the Speaker of the House of Assembly. The documents also stated on their faces that they were printed by Legislative Department of Zamfara State House of Assembly and by the Publication Department, Zamfara State House of Assembly respectively; they were thus obviously printed on the order of the Zamfara State Government and the Respondent did not canvas otherwise. The Respondent did not contest that the contents of Exhibits PO1 and PO2 do not truly reflect the proceedings of the House of Assembly for Thursday 30th May, 2013. The documents were admissible in the manner in which they were presented, without need for certification. In Ugoh Vs. Benue State Local Government Service Commission (supra), the Court explained the point at pages 317-318 H-A thus:
"Since Exhibits 6 and 4A are abstracts of the proceedings printed by the order of the Benue State Government, they are proof of the proceedings under Section 113 (iv) and (b) Evidence Act and are admissible without certification in proof of the public document, and so are copies purporting to be printed by the order of that Government." The lower Court was in error in rejecting Exhibits PO1 and PO2 in evidence and the decision of the lower Court thereon is hereby set aside." Per ABIRU, JCA.(Pp.28-34,Paras.D-A).
ISSUE: DISCHARGE/ACQUITTAL OF AN ACCUSED PERSON-Instance where an accused person would be discharged but not acquitted
"A read through the judgment of the lower Court further reveals that notwithstanding that it struck out Counts One to Five on the charge sheet, the lower Court, at the conclusion of its deliberations in the judgment, discharged and acquitted the Respondent on all the counts, including Counts One to Five. Counsel to the Appellant submitted that this was wrong and that the best the lower Court could have done was to discharge the Respondent on Counts One to Five and not to acquit him in respect thereof. Counsel to the Respondent did not contest this issue in his brief of arguments. The word "discharge" means to cancel the original provisional force of a charge or to free from confinement, while "acquittal" means a setting free of deliverance from the charge of an offence by verdict of Court - Chief of Air Staff Vs. Iyen (2005) LPELR 3167(SC). It is trite that, it is if at the end of the hearing of a criminal charge on the merit, there is reasonable doubt created by the evidence given either by the prosecution or the prisoner, as to whether the offence was committed by him, that the prosecution will be held not to have made out a case and the prisoner will be entitled to an acquittal-Alonge Vs. Inspector General of Police (1959) 4 SC 203; Ikhane Vs. Commissioner of Police (1977) LPELR 1478(SC); Udosen Vs. State (2007) LPELR 3311(SC). Where the trial Court finds an issue of incompetence in the charge and did not consider the case made out by the parties on the merits, it can only discharge the accused and not acquit him - Okafor Vs. The State (1976) All NLR 307; Odeh Vs. State (2017) LPELR 42833(CA); Ede Vs. State (2017) LPELR 42834(CA); Ukemenam Vs. State (2017) LPELR 42686(CA). In the instance case, the lower Court, not having considered the case made out by the parties in respect of Counts One to Five of the charge on the merits, it was wrong for it to have acquitted the Respondent in respect thereof. The order of acquittal of the Respondent on Counts One to Five of the charge sheet is hereby set aside." Per ABIRU, JCA.(Pp.41-43,Paras.F-D).