⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
A. R. Mogaji & Ors v. Madam Rabiatu Odofin & Ors. (1978) – SC
⦿ LITE HOLDING
The Trial Court judge must consider the cases of the plaintiff and the defendant before he draws his conclusion.
⦿AREA OF LAW
– Land Law.
– Weight of evidence.
– Imaginary scale of justice.
– Balance of probabilities.
A. R. Mogaji & Ors.
Madam Rabiatu Odofin & Ors.
(1978) JELR 39007 (SC)
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
A. FATAYI-WILLIAMS, JSC
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
In these proceedings commenced in the High Court of Lagos State sitting at Ikeja, the plaintiffs claimed against the defendants –
(a) declaration of title to all those pieces of land situate at Ikosan, in Epe
(b) injunction to restrain the first set of defendants and their servants and agents from unlawfully entering the said land; and
(c) possession of the several holdings on the said land unlawfully occupied by the 3rd and 4th defendants.
After pleadings had been ordered and duly delivered, the learned trial Judge heard evidence from both sides. In a reserved judgment, he found for the plaintiffs with respect to their claim for declaration of title to the land in dispute and for injunction.
Being dissatisfied with this judgment the defendants have now appealed. Nineteen grounds of appeal were filed but the only one argued was the general ground in which the defendants/appellants complained that the judgment is against the weight of evidence.
1. The judgement is against the weight of evidence?
⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)
[APPEAL: ALLOWED; CASE SENT TO BE HEARD DE NOVO]
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANT BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENT.
i. It is manifest that the learned trial Judge in the case in hand has also not put the defendants/appellants’ case on that imaginary scale and found it wanting in weight. We therefore think that his approach to the case is grossly unfair to the defendants/appellants. With respect, it appears to us that the learned trial Judge, at the time he found for the plaintiffs/respondents, had not considered the defendants/appellants’ case at all. We think, again with respect, that it is an under-statement to complain that the judgment is against the weight of evidence. What happened is worse than that. No imaginary scale was used in this particular case and the question of weight does not therefore arise.
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
Godwin Egwuh v. Duro Ogunkehin (unreported but see S.C. 529/66 decided on the 28th February, 1969) where this court observed:- “It is of course settled law that where two parties claim to be in possession of land the law ascribes possession to the one of them with the better title. (See Jones v. Chapman (1848) 2 Exch. 803; Canvey Island Commissioners v. Preedy (1922) 1 Ch. 179).
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
When an appellant complains that a judgment is against the weight of evidence, all he means is that when the evidence adduced by him is balanced against that adduced by the respondent, the judgment given in favour of the respondent is against the weight which should have been given to the totality of the evidence before him. In other words, the totality of the evidence should be considered in order to determine which has weight and which has no weight at all. Therefore, in deciding whether a certain set of facts given in evidence by one party in a civil case before a court in which both parties appear is preferable to another set of facts given in evidence by the other party, the trial Judge, after a summary of all the facts, must put the two sets of facts on an imaginary scale, weigh one against the other, then decide upon the preponderance of credible evidence which weighs more, accept it in preference to the other, and then apply the appropriate law to it; if that law supports it bearing in mind the cause of action, he will then find for the plaintiffs. – Fatayi-williams, JSC. Mogaji v. Odofin (1978)
In short, before a Judge before whom evidence is adduced by the parties before him in a civil case comes to a decision as to which evidence he believes or accepts and which evidence he rejects, he should first of all put the totality of the testimony adduced by both parties on that imaginary scale; he will put the evidence adduced by the plaintiff on one side of the scale and that of the defendant on the other side and weigh them together. He will then see which is heavier not by the number of witnesses called by each party, but by the quality or the probative value of the testimony of those witnesses. This is what is meant when it is said that a civil case is decided on the balance of probabilities. – Fatayi-williams, JSC. Mogaji v. Odofin (1978)
Therefore, in determining which is heavier, the Judge will naturally have regard to the following:- (a) whether the evidence is admissible; (b) whether it is relevant; (c) whether it is credible; (d) whether it is conclusive; and (e) whether it is more probable than that given by the other party. Finally, after invoking the law, if any, that is applicable to the case, the trial Judge will then come to his final conclusion based on the evidence which he has accepted. – Fatayi-williams, JSC. Mogaji v. Odofin (1978)