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(Special Report) Imo S’Court verdict legalising admissibility of uncertified document?

Fresh lacuna that will create dangerous precedence in deciding cases involving business transactions have been smoked out from the trending controversy spotted at the Tuesday, January 14 judgment of the Supreme Court that sacked former Governor Emeka Ihedioha and planted Senator Hope Uzodinma as Governor of Imo State.

This can be observed from the January 22, 2020, Editorial of BusinessDay newspaper which suggested that the strange and banket admittance of exhibits by the Supreme Court without due certification may end up being a soruce of concern for prospective foreign investors going forward.

Part of the editorial made it clear that “We find other aspects of the judgement troubling. The Supreme Court gave probative value to the proof of evidence of PW-54, a police officer, thus relying on an uncertified public document Form EC8A. The electoral law recognises only INEC and its staff for certifying election results. The Supreme Court overruled INEC and the lower courts and admitted the document brought by a witness who ordinarily does not qualify to present election results.

Buhari Tanko SC
President Muhammadu Buhari in a handshake with CJN, Tanko Mohammed

Continuing, the said Editorial averred that “There are many ramifications of the Supreme Court ruling. For one, it means that public documents do not need certification for acceptance in transactions, with the Supreme Court judgement as evidence.”

“It means an investor may lose his real estate investment because someone or group came up with a Certificate of Occupancy without certification from the Lands Registry on it. Such a scenario could happen even if the investor holds the original document. Has the Supreme Court opened the door for lower quality of documentary evidence to be admissible in our courts? Or will they ring-fence the Imo judgement so that no one can cite it?

The above revelation remains a very worrisome scenario that will take unprecedented fortune to wipe off when a smart lawyer cites it to save his or her client.

Besides, as there cannot be any form of legal ‘ring- fencing of the Imo judgement so that no one can cite it,’ the said controversial judgment becomes an easy escape route for criminals to run away from clear injustice.

Continuing, the Editorial argued that “Note that this judgement is against the backdrop of the reduced credibility of Nigerian documents in the international arena. It is more so for people dealing with investors from other countries. There are implications for business dealings, contracts and foreign investments. We hope that when the Court gives its reasons, it will clarify this matter.