By: Shamsi Ubale Jibril Esq.

The evaluation of evidence and ascription of probative value to evidence are the primary functions of the trial courts which saw, heard and assessed the witnesses as they testified at the trial in the witness box.
Where such court of trial unquestionably evaluates the evidence before it and justifiably appraises the facts, it is not the business of the Court of Appeal to substitute its own view for those of the trial court. See Akpagbue V Ogu (1976) 6 SC 63; Wolvehem V. Gudi (1981) 5 SC 291; Ibanga V. Usanga  (1982) 5 SC 103; Eyo V. Onuoha (2011) All FWLR Pt. 574 Pg. 1, Anaize V. Anyaso (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt. 291).

The Court of Appeal or the appellate court would not normally intervene in the evaluation of evidence of trial courts or substitute its own views with that of the trial court except in very rare circumstances which are:

a. Where the trial judge failed to make proper use of his opportunity of seeing, hearing and observing the witnesses; or
b. Where he failed to exercise his discretion property or judiciously; or
c. Where the trial judge drew a wrong conclusion from the accepted evidence or formed an erroneous view thereon;or
  d. Where the finding or evaluation are perverse.
Olado V. Josih (2011) All FWLR Pt. 573 Pg. 1 SC
See also Mogaji V. Odofin (1978) 4 SC 91, Morenikeji V. Adegbosin (2003) FWLR (Pt. 163) 45

In the recent case of Guardian Newspaper Ltd V. Ajeh (2011) All FWLR (Pt. 584) Pg 1 SC, the Supreme Court held that it would not disturb the findings of fact of a trial court and the Court of Appeal which are not perverse and have not accessioned miscarriage of justice. See also Fayehun V. Fadoju (2000) FWLR Pt 7. In that case Phodes –  Vivors JSC @ PP 19-20 paras E-C said:

“Finally, I must observe that this court rarely interfere with concurrent findings of fact by the court below except where  there has been exception circumstance such as:
a. The finding of fact is perverse
b. The findings are not supported by evidence
c. There was miscarriage of justice or violation of some principle of law or procedure: (Balogun V. Adejobi (1995) 2 NWLR (Pt. 376) 131; Okonkwo V. Okonkwo (1998) 10 NWLR (Pt. 571) 554.”

A perverse decision of a court can arise in any of the following several ways that is where the court:
a. Ignored the facts or evidence or;
b. Misconceived the thrust of the case presented; or
c. Took irrelevant matters into account which substantially formed the basis of its decision; or
d. Went outside the issues canvassed by the parties to the extent of jeopardizing the merit of the case; or
e. Committed various errors that faulted the case beyond redemption.
See  Otalagbe V. Shorun (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt. 2) 36
Saleh V. Nigeria Customs Service (2012) All FWLR Pt. 620 P. 1328

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