The Nigerian Law of Evidence and the Emerging Rules of Civil Procedure: Ignoring Validity on the Alter of Expediency?

Y. H. Bhadmus, L. O. Alimi


Nigeria, as a commonwealth country operates an adversarial system of justice, a system that requires judges to remain unbiased umpires with minimum or no interference in the conduct of cases by the parties, especially in civil litigation. All the rules of civil procedure in Nigeria have always been premised on the strict adversarial philosophy but this had only succeeded in creating room for unnecessary delay and congestion in civil litigation in the country. A set of new civil procedure rules aimed at giving the judges firmer control over proceedings before them were therefore recently enacted. However, these rules, in a bid to promote speedy trial, seem to have ignored the issue of validity in respect of some of their provisions which appear to challenge the existing law of evidence in the country. Evidence is one of the maters under the Exclusive Legislative List of the country’s Constitution[1] with the result that only the federal legislature can make law on the subject. On the other hand, all the new rules, with the exception of that of the Federal Capital Territory, were made by the states. Therefore, any provision in the rules which touches on evidence may constitute an encroachment on the federal legislative power and as such may not be valid. The object of this paper is to examine those provisions in the new rules which appear to deal with evidence and to evaluate the extent of the validity such provisions.

Keywords: Nigerian law of evidence, new rules of civil procedure, validity.

[1] Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

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