KEYNOTE PROVISIONS OF THE EVIDENCE (AMENDMENT) ACT 2023
The Act, in order to bring the provisions of the Evidence Act 2011 up-to-date in accordance with global technological advancements in evidence-taking, made the following amendment:
a. Inclusion of Electronic records.
The Act amends the provisions of Section 84 of the principal Act relating to the admissibility of electronically generated evidence, particularly subsection 2 of the section which provides for the conditions for their admissibility. More specifically, Subsection 2 (a) was amended to the words ‘electronic records’ implying that a statement contained in a document or an electronic record must satisfy the conditions stated therein for its admissibility. Thus, where an electronic record is sought to be tendered, it must be contained in the certificate of compliance that the computer which produced same was in regular use during that period. Also, a new condition was substituted for Section 84(2)(b) of the Act providing to the effect that information contained in the electronic record, or such information forming a part of a larger body of information must be shown to be regularly fed into the computer in the ordinary course of activities during that period. Furthermore, the conditions stipulated under Section 84 (2) (c) and (d) were amended to apply to electronic records. Thus, the provisions of 84 (2) now apply not only to documents generated from computers in paper form, but also to electronic records.
b. Information in Electronic Form
New sections (Sections 84A – 84D) have been inserted after the provisions of Section 84 of the principal Act recognising the existence, validity and admissibility of any information produced and tendered in electronic form. Hence, where any law in Nigeria provides for an information to be hand or typewritten or printed, such law will be deemed to be complied with where the information is produced in electronic form and accessible for subsequent reference.
c. Admissibility of Computer Records
The Act further expands the meaning of a document to include information contained in an electronic record provided the conditions stipulated by the Act are met, and same shall be admissible in evidence without the necessity of producing the original of such document.
d. Introduction of Digital Signature
In line with the requirement of the law that for a document to be admissible in evidence, same must be duly executed or authenticated, the Act has provided for the authentication of electronic records through the use of digital signatures in such manner or by such technique as may be stipulated by the Act or such other technique as the Court may consider reliable. The Conditions for reliability as provided by the Act include:
1. The data for creating the signature or the authentication data, within the context of usage, can only be linked to the signatory or authenticator and none other,
2. Where an alteration is made to the digital signature, after affixing it to the electronic record for authentication, such alteration must be detectable,
3. Where the information contained in the electronic record is altered after same has been authenticated by the digital signature, such alteration must be detectable, and such other conditions as may be prescribed by law.
Additionally, for a duly authenticated electronic record to be admissible, a digital signature alleged to have been affixed by a person must be proven to belong to such person. This however does not apply to a secure digital signature and a digital signature will be deemed to be secure if:
1. The creation data of the signature was under the exclusive control of the signatory alone, and
2. Same was stored or affixed in an exclusive manner as may be prescribed.
Besides, the provisions of Section 93 of the Evidence Act 2011 relating to the proof of signature, handwriting or electronic signature were amended to include a digital signature.
e. Electronically Generated Affidavits
The Act amends the provisions of Section 108, 109, 110 and 119 of the principal Act relating to the deposition of affidavits. In line with the new provisions, affidavits can now be deposed to electronically before such persons as may be duly authorised to take same but a copy of such must be filed in the registry and may be recognised for any purpose for which it is intended to be used in the court. Hence affidavits deposed to whether in Nigeria or, subject to the provisions of Section 110, outside Nigeria, in person or through audio-visual means, are admissible before any court in Nigeria. Furthermore, the requirement of a jurat to accompany an affidavit under Section 119 of the Principal Act also applies to an electronically generated affidavit. Hence where an affidavit is taken via audio-visual means, the electronic record must state which audio -visual method was made use of and the date on which it was used.
f. Recognition of an Electronic Gazette
The Amendment Act now recognises an electronic gazette and provides to the effect that any regulation, rule or such other matters required to be published in the Federal Government Gazette will be deemed to have been validly published if same is published in an electronic Gazette.
Finally, the Act amended the interpretation Section of the Principal Act by providing interpretations of technological terms used in the Act.