Electronic Evidence And Its Admissibility

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The Evidence Act 2011 brought to light the
much awaited change in our jurisprudence in respect to admissibility of electronic evidence in our courts. Section 84(1) of the Evidence Act expressly provided that “In any proceedings, a statement contained in a document produced by a computer shall be admissible as evidence of any fact stated in it of which direct oral evidence would be admissible. If it is shown that the conditions in Sub Section (2) of this section are satisfied in relation to the statement and computer in question”. This simply means that Evidence in relation to the use of the computer must be called to establish the conditions set out Under Section 84(2) of the evidence Act 2011.
The conditions Under Section 84(2) are :-that the document containing the statement was produced by the computer during a period over which the computer was used regularly to store or process information, for the purposes any activities regularly carried on over the period whether for profit or not, by anybody, whether corporate or not or by any individual.
That over the period there was regularly supplied to the computer in the ordinary course of those activities information of the kind from which the information so contained is derived.
That throughout the material part of that period the computer was operating properly or, if not that in any respect in which it was not operating properly or was out of operation during that part of that period was not such as to affect the production of the document or the accuracy of its contents.
That the information contained in the statement reproduces or is derived from information supplied to the computer in the ordinary course of those activities.
Once these four conditions precedent for admissibility of a statement contained in a document produced a computer, and the evidence so generated is reliable and authenticated by appropriate authority or signed by a person occupying a responsible position in relation to the operation of the relevant device, the evidence so generated shall be admitted in evidence once tendered. The most commonly referred case on the admissibility of electronic evidence in Nigeria is the Supreme Court decision in Esso West African Inc. V.T. Oyegbola (1969) INMLR where the Supreme Court said obiter that “the law cannot be and is not ignorant of modern business methods and must not shut its eyes to the mysteries of the computer”. In 2014 it was also noted by the Supreme Court in the decision of Kubor V. Dickson that “ a party that seeks to tender in evidence computer generated document needs to do more than just tendering same from the bar-Evidence in relation to the use of the computer must be called to establish the conditions set out Under Section 84(2) of the Evidence Act 2011. On this ground the appellants appeal was dismissed.

 

Nkechi Bright-Ewere