Indeed, unchallenged evidence is deemed admitted and the Court is at liberty to accept such evidence in proof of the issue in contest. See Chief Sunday Ogunyade v. Solomon Oluyemi Oshunkeye & Anor (2007) 7 SCNJ 170; Okike v. LPDC (2005) 15 NWLR (Pt. 949) 7
However, the above principle is only a bite of the full principle. As a matter of fact, the full principle is termed as elementary law by the Courts. Thus, in Alalade & Ors. v. Ododo & Ors. (2019) LPELR-46888(CA), the Court elaborated on the principle in the following way:
“It is rudimentary law that evidence even if uncontroverted and unchallenged still has to be evaluated by the Court to see if it is credible enough to sustain the claim. See OGUNDIPE vs. A-G KWARA (1993) 2 NWLR (PT. 313) 588, NEKA B.B.B. MANUFACTURING CO. LTD vs. ACB LTD (2004) 15 WRN 1 at 27.
As stated by Oguntade, JCA (as he then was) in HARUNA vs. SALAU (1998) 7 NWLR (PT 559) 653 at 659: “The argument that because the plaintiff’s evidence was unchallenged, judgment should be given in his favour is patently unsound. It is trite that in an action, the evidence of a plaintiff may be so weak… that it is unnecessary for the defendant to testify. It is also trite that the evidence given by the plaintiff, even if unchallenged may still be insufficient to sustain the claim made by the plaintiff….”
It seems to me preposterous and ludicrous for the Appellants to think that the lower Court would have accepted the testimony of their sole witness hook, line and sinker, without evaluating the same, merely because the Respondents did not contest the action. While it is correct that the burden of proof in such circumstances will be discharged upon minimal proof; there must still be that minimal proof for the burden to have been discharged and the Court must evaluate the evidence to ascertain that the threshold was reached.
In FAWEHINMI vs. AKILU (1987) 4 NWLR (PT 67) 797 at 843, Eso, JSC stated: “A judge is certainly not a robot nor an automation who once he is fed data produces an automatic answer. In every action before his Court, in every step taken by a Judge, his discretion is called into play whether in interpreting the law or in deciding an action one way or another. If it is otherwise, giving effect to the rule of law would amount to dexterity in manipulating data which are fed into a machine called judex.”
Equally, in MAGIT vs. UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE, MAKURDI (2006) ALL FWLR (PT 298) 1313 at 1345, Pats-Acholonu, JSC held:
“… it must be equally admitted that Judges are not robots (or zombies) who have no mind of their own … They are intrepid by their great learning and training and can distinguish in order to render justice to whom it is due.”
In conclusion, the principle may be correctly spelt out as follows:
Evidence, though unchallenged or uncontroverted, still has to be evaluated by the Court before reliance is placed thereon.
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