Computer generated evidence:Admissibility of digital contents and photographs in Nigerian Proceedings.


The method of tendering and admitting a photograph in a judicial proceeding in Nigeria will be dependent on the type of photograph and whether it falls under computer generated evidence i.e digital photographs. For many years now, photographs have been admissible in evidence in Nigeria on proof that

they are relevant to the issues involved in the case. These were the old conventional cameras that make use of film and the courts have admitted it without any foundation being laid on the basis that the negative of such photographs are authentic and thus cannot be manipulated.

Courts of law in Nigeria have rejected photographs emanating from digital cameras on the basis that the necessary foundation in Section 84 of the Evidence Act has not been complied with.

In other to avoid the challenges that comes with tendering of electronically generated evidence, some lawyers have resorted to the traditional way of photographs through films and negative, on the basis that the court places great credibility and weight on it and the requirement of laying foundation is not necessary.

It has also been the practice to tender the negatives along with the photographs as proof that the prints are taken from the negatives untouched.

In present day, most photographs taken and offered in evidence at trials are digital photographs which can be taken through digital cameras, mobile phones, tablets, laptops etc. They are not made from films, and therefore does not have negative.

Digital photographs taken by the above mentioned computers and gadgets present serious challenges of authentication. This is because they are a form of electronically produced evidence, capable of being manipulated or altered. Theses days photographs can be edited or photoshoped which is intended to deceive the court into perceiving it to be what it is not. The courts are partially careful in admitting electronically generated evidence.

Documents produced by computers are an increasingly common feature of all businesses and more and more people are becoming familiar with uses and operation.

Computers vary immensely in their complexity and in the operations they perform. The nature of the evidence to discharge the burden of showing that there has been no improper use of the computer and it was operating properly will inevitably vary from case to case. The evidence must be tailored to suit the needs of the case.

In Kubor & Anor v. Dickson & Ors (2014) 2 NWLR(Pt. 1345) 534, 577-578; and Omisore and Anor v. Aregbesola & Ors. [2015] 15 NWLR (Pt. 1482) 205 the court succinctly emphasized this point when it held:

“A party that seeks to tender in evidence a 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 (2) of the Evidence Act 2011”

Digital photographs falls under the category of computer generated evidence and foundation must be laid pursuant to the provisions of the  S 84 of Evidence Act.

Section 84(1) provides that in any proceedings, a statement contained in a document produced by a computer is 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 Section 84(2) are satisfied.

The four conditions for admissibility of computer-generated evidence under Section 84(2) are that:

(a)the statement sought to be tendered was produced by the computer during a period when it was in regular use;

(b)during that period of regular use, information of the kind contained in the document or statement was supplied to the computer;

(c)the computer was operating properly during that period of regular use;

(d)and the information contained in the statement was supplied to the computer in the ordinary course of its normal use.

Further, Section 84(4) requires that the party which seeks to tender a computer-generated statement or document shall file a certificate: identifying the document or statement; describing the manner of its production; stating the specifications of the device used in the production of the document; and signed by a person occupying a responsible position in relation to the operation of the relevant device or the management of the relevant activities.


In the case of DICKSON v. SYLVA & ORSCITATION: (2016) LPELR-41257(SC) supreme Court stated that Section 84 consecrates two methods of proof, either by oral evidence under Section 84(1) and (2) or by a certificate under Section 84(4). In either case, the conditions stipulated in Section 84(2) must be satisfied. However, this is subject to the power of the Judge to require oral evidence in addition to the certificate. As the eminent Lord Griffith explained in the said case [R v. Shepherd]:Proof that the computer is reliable can be provided in two ways: either by calling oral evidence or by tendering a written certificate subject to the power of the Judge to require oral evidence. It is understandable that if a certificate is to be relied upon it should show on its face that it is signed by a person who from his job description can confidently be expected to be in a person to give reliable evidence about the operation of the computer. This enables the defendant to decide whether to accept at its face value or to ask the Judge to require oral evidence which can be challenged in cross examination. Per NWEZE, J.S.C. (Pp. 23-24)


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