First, without going into details of what a Public document is and the types of public document which could be admitted in law and without me also going into details regarding the type of secondary document which could be admitted in law I will like to dive into the deep discussion concerning whether a photocopy of a CTC (Certified True Copy) of a public document could be admitted in law.
I will want to state that we only have a Supreme Court authority on the issue of admissibility of photocopy of public document as far as Nigerian cases is all about, which is the case of Magaji V Nigerian Army, (2008) 8 NWLR (Pt.1089) 388 at 396, paras. A-C (SC).
All other cases like OGBURU V ODUAGHAN, BABAN-LUNGU & ANOR V. ZAREWA & ORS etc all ended at the Court of Appeal either in support or against the admissibility of photocopy of public document.
Having said that, I will quickly dive into this Magaji’s case….The decision reached in Magaji was never an Obiter Dictum, before I give reason why its not, I will like to define what an Obiter is, In the case of ODUNUKURE v. OFOMATA & ANOR, (2010) I8 NWLR (Pt. 1225) 404 S.C. the Supreme Court defined An obiter as a statement made in passing which does not reflect the ratio decidendi, i.e statement made not in relation to the case.
if we look at Magaji V Nigerian Army’s Case, Ratio 15 & 16 of the case talked about the issue of admissibility of a photocopy of a CTC of a public Document, the portion was read by my Lord, Hon Justice I.F Ogbuagu JSC where he gave reasons why the Statement of the defendant which was earlier marked Exhibit 1 was admitted even though it’s a photocopy of a CTC of a public document.
My lord ratio’s is in line with ISSUE 4 formulated by the Supreme Court in that case.
And looking at the Supreme Court case of Oluruntoba-oju V. Abdul-Raheem (2009) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1157)83 S.C, My Lord Via Hon Justice O.O Adekeye JSC in that case while giving his lead Judgment held that a concurrent judgement of the Court forms part of a leading Judgement as the concurrent judgement is meant to complement the leading judgement by way of addition or an improvement on the issues resolved in the leading judgement. My lord further stated that both the leading judgement and concurrent judgement crystallize into the judgement of the court and that, it should not be regarded that the lead judgement of the Court is the only judgment of an appellate Court.
Now, taking a look at the statement made by My Lord, Hon Justice Ogbuagu in Magajis case..I am confident to make a statement to say that the issues raised by My Lord, Hon Justice Ogbuagu is made in line with the issues resolved by the court in the lead judgment, as the ratio was formulated in line with the Fourth Issue formulated by the Court in the lead Judgement and so for that reason, My Lord’s Statement should be regarded as an improvement of the lead Judgement and never an Obiter because it reflected the ratio decidendi of that case in the lead judgement.
This would not have been the case if My Lord was passing a statement concerning tenancy issue in this case as that would definitely be regarded as a pure Obiter Dictum.
This is an Eye opener for all Lawyers that the decision of the Court in Magaji V Nigerian Army is valid until over ruled by the Supreme Court itself.
Fisayo W Okuboyejo Esq, MNIM, ACIarb(UK).
General Counsel 2