Justice Doris Okwobi of the Lagos State High Court Ikeja will, on April 18, decide whether to admit or not, the report issued by the Department of State Security (DSS) on the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, as exhibit.
The court fixed the date yesterday, in the ongoing hearing of the N5 billion libel suit filed by Magu against The Sun Publishing Limited over a report published on March 25, 2017, with caption: “Magu under fresh probe over two Abuja mansions.”
At yesterday’s proceedings, Magu’s counsel, Wahab Shittu, called his second witness, Usman Zakari, an official of EFCC, to prove its case against the defendant.
The witness adopted his statement on oath before the court and also gave opinion on how he felt on the published report against Magu by the defendant.
However, the defendant’s counsel, Charles Enwelunta, raised objection on move by the claimant’s counsel, Shittu, to obtain fresh evidence from the witness outside his statement on oath before the court.
Enwelunta argued that the approach of Shittu in leading the witness in evidence was strange to civil procedure practice and noted that the witness could only adopt his statement on oath before the court, but to give fresh evidence outside it. He added that the witness can only give oral evidence under cross examination.
Responding to the objection, Shittu, in his counter argument, held that the duty of the witness before the court was not only to adopt his statement on oath before the court, but, also, to demonstrate the effect of his testimony on him. In bench ruling, Justice Okuwobi ruled in favour of the claimants and allowed the witness to continue with his testimony.
Under cross-examination by the defendant’s lawyer, the witness admitted that he did not work with DSS, which made him not to know all the investigations conducted on Magu by the agency.
He admitted that he was aware that DSS conducted series of investigations on Magu and also issued reports. Based on the response of the witness, the defendant’s lawyer, therefore, gave the witness a report issued by DSS on Magu to confirm his submission.
The witness confirmed the issuance of the report to the court, and Enweluta applied that the the DSS report be admitted as exhibit, but Shittu opposed the admissibility of the report.
Shittu argued that the court could not admit the report as exhibit on the grounds that it was public document, but not certified by the author (DSS) and the receiver of the report, which is the clerk of the Senate.
“My Lord, this so called report is a public document and it emanated from office of the Director General of State Security, signed by one Folashade Bello; but, from its outlook, neither DSS nor the the receiver of the report certified it. This is against Evidence Act and it cannot be admitted as exhibit,” he said.
Enweluta, in his response, cited several authorities on the issue of admissibility of exhibit and argued that the issue of certification has nothing to do with the report seeking to be tendered because it was not a public document as regarded by Shittu.
“The report seeking to be tendered as exhibit is not a public document contrary to the arguments of Shittu. The witness has even confirmed the existence of the report in his testimony, besides, the report published on Magu by the defendant was anchored on this report seeking to be tendered as exhibit. I wonder why the claimant’s counsel, Shittu is afraid on its admissibility.
“The issue of certification is not important on this issue but relevant to it and there are series of authorities to buttress by arguments which confirm relevance in admitting exhibit. I urge the court to discountenance Shittu’s argument and admit the report as exhibit,” he said.
The court therefore, fixed April 18 for ruling on admissibility of DSS report on Magu.