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Sibon Books Limited, Ibadan.
This chapter examines the extent which evidence may be adduced on the character of a party in civil and criminal cases. It attempts to address issues such as: what is character evidence, in what circumstances is such evidence relevant? Does a trial judge have a discretionary power to admit or, disallow the adduction of character evidence? If yes, what is the extent of such a power? What is the obligation of a counsel and prosecution to guard against the adduction of character evidence? In our discussion of these issues, we shall focus as much as possible on Nigerian cases and statutory provisions in order to determine the law and practice on this subject in Nigeria. Character evidence is specie of evidence of previous misconduct. Whatever form the evidence takes, it is affected by exclusionary rules. However, care must be taken to distinguish between the rules that regulate the admissibility of character evidence and similar fact evidence and possibly also the rationale for their admissibility. It suffices to say that the provisions of sections 67-72 and section 160(1-)(d) of the Evidence Act mainly govern character evidence in Nigeria. The word "character" is used no less than fifteen times in these provisions. In Stirlandv D.P.P. Lord Simon L.C. said: "There is perhaps some vagueness in the use of the term 'good character' in this connection. Does it refer to the good reputation which a man may bear in his own circle, or does it refer to the man's real disposition as distinct from what his friends and neighbour may think of him? Against the background of the above statement, it will be appropriate at this stage to consider the meaning of "character" within the provisions of the Act.
Sanni, A.O. (2001) "CHARACTER EVIDENCE" 111-134 Sibon Books Limited, Ibadan.