Continuation of Serialisation of Editor’s Commentaries in The Book: A Compendium of Cases On Electronic Evidence – PART 3  

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  1. Daudu v. FRN (2018) – A case decided on its own peculiar facts and circumstances.

 

In Daudu v. FRN,[1] the Supreme Court presumed compliance with Section 84 of the Evidence Act, 2011 on the basis of certification of the statements of account by the bank. The decision of the Supreme Court in Daudu’s case must be put in its proper perspectives. The basis for the Supreme Court’s decision can be located on one of the facts established on record, that the appellant himself relied on the documents for his defence and, therefore, cannot at the same time ask that they, (the documents), be expunged for non-compliance with Section 84. Daudu’s case, has, therefore, not in any way whittled down the potency of Section 84. Daudu’s case should be treated as a case which was decided on its own peculiar facts and circumstances, and ought not stand as an authority for a proposition that computer-generated statements of accounts do not need to comply with the mandatory conditions stipulated under section 84(2) and (4) of the Evidence Act, 2011, for purposes of admissibility.[2]

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  1. Brila Energy Ltd v. FRN (2018) – A milestone decision that covers a wide-range of issues

Brila Energy Ltd. v. FRN[3] may, ultimately, stand out as a locus classicus on electronic evidence in Nigeria, by reason of the wide range of issues it covers. The profundity of the pronouncement of His Lordship, Sankey, J.C.A., that there is no single approach to authentication of electronic evidence applicable across board, has been acknowledged in the Preface to this book. This pronouncement, at once, is a departure from the rigid application of Section 84. It suggests, authentication is not a completely immutable or inflexible process, but may be accomplished in many ways, including circumstantial evidence. For instance, as suggested by S. A. Scheindlin & D. J. Capra (2015), distinctive characteristics of a message may be offered in evidence for a consideration with other surrounding circumstances to authenticate a document.[4]

It is of utmost significance that in Brila Energy Ltd. v FRN,[5] the Court of Appeal approved the authentication of the computer that was used to download and print out the information on Lloyds Intelligence List Report as against the original computer that produced the Report. This is consistent with the provision of Section 84(3) which permits the authentication of any of the computers involved in the production of a document. For the avoidance of doubts, the said subsection is reproduced hereunder:

 

84(3)    Where over a period, the function of storing or processing Information for the purposes of any regularly carried on over that period, as mentioned in Subsection (2) (a) of this section was regularly performed by computers, whether –

(a)        by a combination of computers operating over that period; or

(b)        by different computers operating in succession over that    period; or

(c)        by different combinations of computers operating in succession over that period; or

(d)        in any other manner involving the successive operation over that period, in whatever order, of one or more computers and one or more combinations of computers, all the computers used for that purpose during that period shall be treated for the purposes of this section as constituting a single computer; and references in this section to a computer shall be construed accordingly.

It follows, from the above quoted provisions, authentication of any of the computers in the production of a document suffices to satisfy the provisions of Section 84(4).

 

  1. Hearsay Evidence and Section 84 of the Evidence Act, 2011

The Court of Appeal’s clarification of what constitutes hearsay evidence, in Brila Energy v. FRN[6] with a further elucidation on the fact that electronic evidence is an exception to hearsay rule under Sections 41 and 51 of the Evidence Act, 2011 is also noteworthy. In specific terms, business records were held as exceptions to hearsay rule. Sankey, J.C.A. opined:

“…under Section 41 of the Evidence Act, 2011, there is an exception to the hearsay rule that relates to electronic evidence when it is a statement made in the ordinary course of business. Also, under the business record exception to the hearsay rule, Section 51 of the Act provides that electronic records regularly kept in the course of business are admissible whenever they refer to a matter before the Court…It must however be noted that for a document to be admitted as a business record, there must be some evidence of a business duty to make and regularly maintain a record of that type. Such evidence was also adduced through the PW9.[7]

In the same vein, Otisi, J.C.A. held:

Although hearsay evidence is generally inadmissible, the provisions of the Section 38 of the Act make it clear that the law regarding hearsay is not cast in iron. There are exceptions to the rule. The main exceptions to the hearsay rule are contained in Part IV in the Evidence Act, 2011. One of the exceptions is in respect of records made or kept in the course of regularly conducted activity of a business, organization, occupation or calling, whether or not for profit. Relevant thereto are the provisions of Sections 41 and 51 of the Act… [8]

In Emmanuel v. FRN[9], it was also held that computer printouts are not hearsay as they are admissible as direct evidence, if tendered in compliance with the law.[10]

 

TO BE CONTINUED

[1](2020) VOL. 1 ACCEE 105 (SC)

[2]See Omoalye-Ajileye, A. Electronic Evidence ((2019).Pp.271-272 (Jurist Publications Series)

[3](2020) VOL. 1 ACCEE 331 (CA)

[4]S.A Scheindlin & D. J. Capra: Electronic Evidence: Cases and Materials (2015), P. 959. The Sedna Conference. (West Academic Casebook Series).

[5]Supra

[6]Supra

[7][7](2020) VOL. 1 ACCEE 331 at 350 (CA)

[8] Ibid. P. 370

[9](2018) LPELR – 44856 (CA)

[10]See Mukhtar, J.C.A. in Emmanuel v. FRN. Ibid.


 

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