ALH. SHEHU ARDO ADAMU & ORS v. ALH.(DR.) SHEHU AUDU BAJU II & ORSMay 5, 2021
ALIYU ARDO v. THE STATE & ORSMay 5, 2021
IBRAHIM MOHAMMED UMAR v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA & ORS
(2021) Legalpedia (CA) 11011
In the Court of Appeal
HOLDEN AT YOLA
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Suite Number: CA/YL/33CN/2020
CHIDI NWAOMA UWA
BITRUS GYARAZAMA SANGA
JAMILU YAMMAMA TUKUR
IBRAHIM MOHAMMED UMAR || FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
AREA(S) OF LAW
CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE
INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
SUMMARY OF FACTS
The Appellant with the 2nd Respondent before the Adamawa State High Court were arraigned for a three(3) Count Charge of Conspiracy to corrupt public officers, contrary to and punishable under Section 26(1) (c) and (d) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 (ICPC ACT, 2000), Corruptly Procuring Monetary Benefit, contrary to and punishable under Section 9 (1) (a) and (b) of the same Act and Receipt of Monetary Benefit, contrary to and punishable under Section 10 (a) (i) and (ii) of the same ICPC Act 2000, to which the Appellant pleaded not guilty. At the end of the trial, the Court convicted the Appellant on all three counts and sentenced him to seven (7) years imprisonment on each of the three (3) counts, which were to run concurrently having found that the Appellant corruptly collected the sum of N362, 000,000.00 (Three Hundred and Sixty Two Million Naira), for himself and others to get monetary benefit. Dissatisfied with the trial court’s judgment, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal vide his Notice of Appeal. The Appellant contended that the offences being Electoral Offences, the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain same.
Issues Of Determination:
Whether the trial court was right to have assumed jurisdiction over the case. This relates to Ground Two of the Appellant’s Notice and Grounds of Appeal. Whether from the totality of evidence elicited before the trial court and by law, the trial Court was right in convicting and sentencing the Appellant for the offences contained in the three count charge against the Appellant dated 10/7/2017.
“Where the words in a statute are clear and unambiguous, they should be given their natural and ordinary meaning. See, Gana vs. SDP & Ors (2019) LPELR – 47153 (SC) P. 43, PARAS. B-E where his lordship Sanusi, JSC on guiding principles on interpretation of statutes held thus: “It must be stressed here and it is even trite, that in the process of interpretation of statute, a court must not give an interpretation which would defeat the intention and purpose of the law makers and should rather adopt a holistic approach and interpret the provisions dealing with a subject matter together so as to give true intention of the law makers. See Ayodele vs. State (2011) 6 NWLR (PT. 1243) 309, Attorney General Of Federation vs. Attorney General Of Lagos State (2013) 16 NWLR (PT. 1380) 249; Ojokolobo vs. Alamu (1987) 3 NWLR (PT. 61) 377 at 402.” See, also Oji vs. Queen (1961) LPELR – 25123 (SC) P. 6, Paras. B-D, Elebanjo & Anor vs. Dawodu (2006) LPELR – 1106 (SC) P. 52, PARAS. B-D, White Diamonds Property Development Company Limited vs. Trade Wheels Limited (2018) LPELR – 44572 (CA) LPELR – 44572 (CA), Sunday Gabriel Ehindaro vs. FRN & Anor (2018) 5 NWLR (PT. 1612) 301 at 320, Paras. C-E and UNIPETROL vs. ESBIR (2006) ALL FWLR (PT. 317) 413 at 423; (2001) 10 NWLR (PT. 720) 167.
“On the other hand, Section 150 of the Electoral Act, provides as follows: 150 (1) “An offence committed under this Act shall be triable in a Magistrate Court or a High Court of a State in which the offence is committed, or the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. (2)A prosecution under this Act shall be undertaken by Legal Officers of the commission or any Legal Practitioner appointed by it.” From the above provision it is clear that the High Court of the States and FCT, and the Magistrate Court have jurisdiction to hear and determine the prosecution of offenders under the Electoral Act. As I stated above in this judgment, it is trite that in interpreting a statute, the duty of a court is to discover the intention of the law maker by considering the words used in order to discover their ordinary meaning in respect of the subject matter and apply same accordingly. See, Elelu-Habeeb vs. Attorney General Of The Federation (2012) 13 NWLR (PT. 1318) 12, Madumere vs. Okwara (2013) 12 NWLR (PT. 1368) 303, Opara vs. Amadi (2013) 12 NWLR (PT. 1369) 512”. –
“In determining whether a court has jurisdiction to hear and entertain a criminal charge brought before it, the first port of call is the charge sheet containing the offences alleged to have been committed by the accused person. See, Onwudiwe vs. Federal Republic Of Nigeria (2006) LPELR – 2715 (SC), Nwolisa vs. State (2015) LPELR – 24371 (CA) and Suleiman vs. Federal Republic Of Nigeria (2018) LPELR – 46813 (CA). By virtue of Section 150 of the Electoral Act above, the offences for which the appellant stood trial and convicted were triable by the State High Court that heard the matter. There is nothing in the charge that ousted the jurisdiction of the trial court. The learned counsel to the Appellant had erroneously argued that before the lower court could exercise its jurisdiction to hear and determine the offences for which the Appellant stood trial, there ought to have been a recommendation made to INEC for the prosecution of the offences by an Election Petition Tribunal because they were offences committed in the course of an election. If this were to be the position, it would have been specified in Sections 149 and 150 of the Electoral Act, what is not specifically provided for cannot be read into the above Sections. See, Attorney General, Lagos State vs. Dosunmu (1989) 3 NWLR (PT. 111) 614.The plain and ordinary meaning of the Sections 149 and 150 (1) and (2) of the Electoral Act must be given their ordinary interpretation rather than strain to ouster the jurisdiction of a court. See, Military Governor Of Ondo State vs. Adewunmi (1988) 3 NWLR (PT. 82) 280, Nwosu vs. Imo State Environmental Sanitation Authority (1990) 2 NWLR (PT. 135) 688, Nigerian Engineering Works Ltd vs. DENAP Ltd (2001) NWLR (PT. 746) 726, Ibrahim vs. FRN (2019) LPELR – 50341 (CA).
“Section 61 (3) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 has provided for the powers and jurisdiction of the State High Courts and the FCT High Court to hear and determine matters relating to fraud, bribery and corruption, it provides thus: 61(3) “The Chief Judge of a State or the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja shall, by order under his hand, designate a court or judge or such number of courts or judges as he shall deem appropriate to hear and determine all cases of bribery, corruption, fraud or other related offences arising under this Act, or any other laws prohibiting fraud, bribery or corruption, a court or judge so designated shall not, while being so designated, hear or determine any other cases provided that all cases of fraud, bribery, or corruption pending in any court before the coming into effect of this Act shall continue to be heard and determined by that court.” See Komolafe vs. FRN (2018) LPELR – 44496 (SC) PP. 4 – 9, PARAS. F – B, Aweto vs. FRN (2018) (SUPRA); FRN vs. Nwatalari (2017) LPELR – 43782 (CA) and Amshi vs. FRN (2019) LPELR – 48392 (CA). The Appellant was rightly charged under the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000. See Bello vs. FRN (2019) LPELR – 48398 (CA). In addition, Sections 7 (1) and (2), and 19 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004 (EFCC Act) conferred jurisdiction on the trial court. The above Sections provide thus: 7(1)“The commission has power to Cause investigations to be conducted as to whether any person, corporate body or organization has committed an offence under this Act or other law relating to economic and financial crimes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . In addition to the powers conferred on the commission by this Act, the commission shall be the coordinating agency for the enforcement of the provisions of – . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . any other law or regulation relating to economic and financial crimes, including the criminal code and penal code.” 19 (1)“The Federal High Court or High Court of a State or the Federal Capital Territory has the jurisdiction to try offenders under this Act. (2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (3)The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court or a High Court of a State or the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, as the case may be, shall by order under his hand, designate a court or judge or such number of courts or judges as he shall deem appropriate to hear and determine all cases under this Act or other related offences arising under this Act.” See Ugo – Ngadi vs. FRN (2018) LPELR – 43903 (SC) PP. 10 – 16, Paras. C-A and Agbogu vs. FRN (2015) LPELR – 40696 (CA) PP. 8 – 16, PARAS. A – C. No doubt the trial court by the clear provisions of the EFCC Act, had jurisdiction to have entertained the matter that gave rise to this appeal. By the combined effect of Sections 61 (3) of the ICPC Act, 2000, 124 (1), 138 (1)(b), 149 and 150 (1) and (2) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), 7 (1)(2) and 19 of the EFCC Act as rightly submitted by the learned counsel to the 1st Respondent, the lower court had the jurisdiction to hear and determine the charges for which the Appellant was tried and convicted, the EFCC having also rightly initiated the proceedings.-
“The learned counsel to the Appellant had argued that the Appellant was tried and convicted under a repealed law, the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 instead of the extant law, the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003, for this reason we were urged to set aside the entire process. By the decision of the Apex Court in Nwankwoala vs. FRN (2018) LPELR (SUPRA) cited and relied upon by the learned counsel to the 1st Respondent, the court per his lordship Rhodes – Vivour, JSC held thus: “The law in force is the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and not Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003. See FRN vs. Wabara (2013) 5 NWLR (PT. 1347) P. 331; AG Ondo vs. AG Federation & 35 Ors (2002) 9 NWLR (PT. 772) P. 222; Egharevba vs. FRN (2016) SC (PT. iii) P. 166.” –
“The offence of conspiracy is often hatched in utmost secrecy. It occurs where two or more people agree to carry out the act, the plot is an act itself, and taken as the act of each of the parties, an act capable of being enforced if lawful, punishable if for a criminal object or for the use of criminal means/purpose. In Oduneye vs. The State (2001) 1 SC (Part 1) 1 at 6-7on proof of criminal conspiracy his lordship Achike, JSC held that: “A conviction for conspiracy is not without its inherent difficulties . . . . a successful conviction for conspiracy is one of those offences predicated on circumstantial evidence which is “evidence not of the fact in issue but of other facts from which the fact in issue can be inferred . . . . Evidence in this connection must be of such quality that irresistibly compels the court to make an inference as to the guilt of the accused.” See, Patrick Njovens vs. The State (1973) 5 SC 17; Daboh & Anor vs. The State (1977) 5 SC 22; Kaza vs. The State (2008) 1–2 SC 151 at 164 – 165, Onyenye vs. The State (2012) ALL FWLR (PT. 643) 1810, Shurumo vs. State (2010) LPELR – 3069 (SC) PP. 32 – 34, PARA. A, Yakubu vs. State (2014) LPELR – 22401 (SC) PP. 13 –144, Paras. C-A, Sa’adu vs. State (2018) LPELR – 44709 (CA) PP. 26 – 28, Paras. B-F, Philip vs. State (2019) LPELR – 47388 (SC) P. 38, Paras. B-F and Ogu vs. C.O.P (2017) LPELR – 43832 (SC) at 34 – 36, PARAS. F-B. The evidence relied upon must be of such quality that it irresistibly compels the court to make an inference as to the guilt of the accused. –
“All that is required in the offence of conspiracy is the meeting of the minds of the accused persons, who have a common intention/goal or purpose to commit a particular offence. The learned counsel to the Appellant erroneously argued that there was no evidence that the Appellant met with anyone in respect of the money, the evidence of the DW1 as to how he came about the money, his meeting with the 2nd Respondent and one Abdulrahman Hamman, the Bank Manager, the withdrawal and the distribution was not doubtful but, straight to the point. All that is required to be proved for the offence of conspiracy is the agreement of two or more persons to do or cause to be done an illegal act or legal act by an illegal means. The evidence of the Appellant is direct, even though the evidence to prove conspiracy could be inferred. The Appellant and the 2nd Respondent acted towards the execution of a common goal. See, Njovens vs. State (1973) LPELR –2042 (SC) P. 57, Paras. A-G, Muonwem & Ors vs. Queen (1963) LPELR – 25406 (SC) PP. 4 – 6, Paras. E-A and Awosika vs. State (2018) (SUPRA). –
“See Adeneye Oluwarotimi vs. The State (2020) LPELR – 50277 (CA)at P. 35, PARAS. C-D. where his lordship Bada, JCA held that: “It is trite that confession is an admission made by an accused person stating or suggesting the inference that he committed the crime. See – SECTIONS 28 AND 29 (1) OF THE EVIDENCE ACT 2011. An accused person can be convicted on his Confessional Statement alone where same is direct, positive and proved.” The evidence adduced by the Appellant at the trial was direct, positive and proved by the evidence given by the prosecution witnesses and the DW1. –
“On the third and last arm of issue two, receiving monetary benefit contrary to and punishable under Section 10 (a), (i) and (ii) of the ICPC Act, 2000. 10.“Any person who – (a)asks for, receives or obtains property or benefits of any kind for himself or any other person; or agrees or attempts to receive or obtain any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any other person; on account of – i.anything already done or omitted to be done, or any favour or disfavour already shown to any person, by a public officer in the discharge of his official duties or in relation to any matter connected with the functions, affairs or business of a Government department, public body or other organization or institution in which the public officer is serving as such; or ii.anything to be afterwards done or omitted, or any favour or disfavour to be afterwards shown to any person, by a public officer in the discharge of his official duties or in relation to any such matter as aforesaid, is guilty of an offence of official corruption and shall on conviction be liable to for seven years.” The ingredients required to be proved under the third arm of the second issue are: The offender must be a public officer. That he asked for benefit of any kind for himself or for any other person in respect of something to be afterwards done. That he asked for benefit in the course of discharge of his official duties. In the present appeal, it has been clearly shown that the offender was a public servant, who received money for himself and other public and/or civil servants for them to influence the 2015 electoral process, money which he had disbursed and taken his share while serving as an Electoral Officer, Yola South and working as an Assistant Chief Accountant with INEC. See FRN vs. Ademola (2021) LPELR – 52831 (CA) and Nwankwoala vs. FRN (2018) (SUPRA). –
STATUS(ES) REFERRED TO
Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000|Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2003|Court of Appeal Rules, 2016|Delta State Local Government Law, 2004, Cap. D27, Laws of Delta State|Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004|Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended)|Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Act, 2000|
M. P. Atsev Esq. with W. N. Bello (Mrs.) for the Appellant.|1st – 3rd Respondents served but, absent.|