Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Analog Rules In A Digital Age: Nigeria Seeks To Amend Its Evidence Act To Allow Admissibility Of Electronic Evidence
Here in the United States, there have been several major amendments to the Federal Rules of Evidence since they were became effective in 1975. Conversely, since its enactment 64 years ago, Nigeria's Evidence Act has only been subject to three minor amendments. The Nigerian government recently realized that, without more significant amendments, some of its evidentiary rules have become analog rules in a digital age. That might be about to change.
Currently, Nigeria's Evidence Act "does not recognize any computer generated document as either primary or secondary evidence in court." This is contrary to the practice in many countries, such as the United States, which have recognized the indispensability and ubiquity of computer technology and made computer generated documents admissible under their rules of evidence. This, and other evidentiary anachronisms led Senator Sola Akinyede to claim that "the bottom line is that today our evidence law is anachronistic and obsolete and totally out of touch with global reality."
That may, however, all change soon. A bill seeking to amend the Evidence Act to allow the admissibility of electronic evidence in Nigerian courts passed through its second reading at the Senate yesterday. Under that bill, inter alia, the word "document" would include electronic records, the phrase "bankers books" would include electronic records, writings and recordings, and the word "original" would include computer printouts. It will be interesting to see whether Nigeria ends up enacting these changes in whole or in part as there might be some changes that would be beneficial to add to our own rules of evidence.