Boniface Adonike Vs. The StateFebruary 10, 2015
Chief Francis Uchenna Ugwu & Ors Vs. Peoples Democratic Party & OrsFebruary 22, 2015
FATAI BUSARI VS. THE STATE
(Supreme Court – January 30th, 2015)
Areas of Law:
CRIMINAL LAW, LAW OF EVIDENCE, ACTION, WORDS AND PHRASES, PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
Summary of Facts
The Accused/Appellant was charged alongside with other accused persons at the High Court of Justice Oyo State for the offences of armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed Robbery contrary to Section 1 (2) (a) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions), Act. Cap R. 11, Vol. 14 Laws of the Federation, 2014. The 2nd Accused person died in the course of the pendency of the suit and his name was struck out from the charge seat. The Accused/Appellant, the 3rd Accused person, and the 4th Accused person made a no case submission and the trial court accepted the no case submission only in favour of the 4th Accused person and accordingly discharged and acquitted the said 4th Accused under Section 286 of the Criminal Procedure Law.
The trial Court convicted the Accused/Appellant and the 3 other Accused persons to death by hanging or firing squad. Dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial Court, the Accused/Appellant and the other persons appealed to the Court of Appeal where the appeal was dismissed. Still dissatisfied, the Accused/Appellant appealed to the apex Court.
Issues for Determination
- Whether the court below was right in affirming the trial court’s decision which was based on untested extra-judicial statements, and the contents of which the Appellant fully retracted. (Ground 1 of the Notice of Appeal).
- Whether the court below was right in holding that the prosecution proved its case against the Appellant beyond reasonable doubt. (Ground 3 and 4 of the Notice of Appeal).
- Whether to the Appellant was given fair hearing having regard to the manner he was denied access to materials required for him to properly defend himself. (Ground 2 of the Notice of Appeal).
ONUS ON THE PROSECUTION IN CRIMINAL CASES- THE PROSECUTION HAS THE ONUS IN CRIMINAL CASES TO PROVE ITS CASE BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT IRRESPECTIVE OF THE EXTRA-JUDICIAL ADMISSION OF THE ACCUSED PERSON
“The case of Aigbagbon Vs. State (2000)7 NWLR part 666, page 686 at 704 para B where the Supreme Court opined thus:
“In criminal trial, the onus lies throughout upon the prosecution to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. Even where an accused in his statement to the Police admitted committing the offence, the prosecution is not relieved of that burden.”
PER M.S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, JSC
CONVICTION ON RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT – DUTY OF THE COURT WHEN CONVICTING ON RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT
“It is a good law that a court can convict on the retracted confessional statement of an accused person but it is desirable to find outside the confession some evidence be it slight of circumstances which make it probable that the confession was true. See Queen Vs Itule (1961) 2 NSCC at 183 and Edhigere Vs. State (1996) 8 NWLR. Part 464 at page 1.” PER M.S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, JSC
CONSPIRACY – MEANING OF CONSPIRACY
“Conspiracy is an agreement of two or more persons to do an act which is an offence to agree to. Evidence of direct plot between conspirators is hardly capable of proof. The bottom line of the offence is the meeting of the minds of the conspirators to commit an offence and meeting of the minds need not be physical. Offence of conspiracy can be inferred by what each person does or does not do in furtherance of the offence of conspiracy. See Nwosu Vs. State (2004) 15 NWLR. Part897 page 466; Oduneye Vs. State (2001) 2 NWLR. Part 697 page 311. Adejobi Vs. State (2001) part 1261 at 347.” PER M.S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, JSC
CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT – WHETHER A CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT MADE VOLUNTARILY CAN GROUND A CONVICTION EVEN WHERE SAME WAS RETRACTED BY THE ACCUSED PERSON
“Once confessional statement is proved to have been made voluntarily, as in this case and it is direct, positive, unequivocal and clearly amounts to an admission of guilt, it can still ground conviction regardless of the fact that the maker resiled therefrom or retracted the same completely at the trial, as such retraction does not make it admissible or that the court should not act on it. See Idowu Vs. State (1998) 13 NWLR part 582 apge 391. Obisi Vs. Chief Of Naval Staff (2002) 2 NWLR part 751 page 400 at 418 and Shade Vs. State (2005) 1 NWLR part 218 at page 218.” PER M.S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, JSC
EVALUATION AND ASCRIPTION OF PROBATIVE VALUE TO EVIDENCE – IT IS THE PRIMARY DUTY OF A TRIAL COURT TO EVALUATE AND ASCRIBE PROBATIVE VALUE TO THE EVIDENCE BEFORE IT
“It is settle law that the primary duty of a trial court is to evaluate and ascribe probative value to the evidence before it. A trial court had the opportunity of watching the demeanor of witnesses who testified before it is entitle to believe or disbelieve such witness. See Adelumola Vs. State (1988)1 NWLR part 73 page 683 Ratio 1.” – PER M.S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, JSC
EVIDENCE BY PROSECUTION WITNESSES – IT IS WITHIN THE DISCRETION OF THE PROSECUTION TO CALL PARTICULAR WITNESS/ADDUCE PARTICULAR EVIDENCE
“What evidence to tender and witness to call, to prove the charge preferred against the appellant, solely lies at the discretion of the prosecution and not the defence. The latter cannot force the prosecution to call or adduce particular witness or tender particular evidence.”
PER M.S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, JSC
“WITHHOLDING EVIDENCE” – WHAT AMOUNTS TO “WITHHOLDING EVIDENCE”
“The rules of procedure provide ample method by which a concerned party can compel his or her opponent to produce material evidence that he or she feels will favour him. It is only when the methods have been employed and the opponent fails to produce the evidence that “withholding evidence” can be mentioned.” PER M.S. MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE, JSC
EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE IN CAPITAL MATTERS – DUTY OF THE COURT TO PROPERLY EVALUATE EVIDENCE SO AS TO REMOVE DOUBT ESPECIALLY WHERE A PERSON IS TO BE SENTENCED TO DEATH
“In a criminal matter, especially one sending a man to the gallows, evidence generated must be such that which has been properly tested and evaluated to eliminate any doubt whatsoever. That was the view of this court in Nsofor V The State(2004) 18 NWLR (pt 905) 292. See also Olusoji V Attorney General (1965) NWLR 111 at 112.” PER J.I. OKORO, J.S.C.
VOLUNTARY CONFESSION – A VOLUNTARY CONFESSION OF GUILT IS ACCEPTED AS SATISFACTORY EVIDENCE
“It is trite that in law, a voluntary confession of guilt, if fully consistent and probable, and is coupled with a clear proof that a crime has been committed by some persons, is usually accepted as satisfactory evidence on which the court can convict. See Ogoala V State (1991) 2 NWLR (pt 175) 509, Philip Kanu & anor V R (1952) 14 WACA 30”. PER J.I. OKORO, J.S.C.
CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT – WHETHER A CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT BECOMES INADMISSIBLE ON GROUNDS OF RETRACTION BY THE MAKER
“It is well settled that a confessional statement as in this case, does not become inadmissible or inapplicable merely because there is a subsequent retraction of the confession by its maker. Where a court is satisfied that the statement was voluntarily made, it can still convict on it. See Solomon Thomas Akpan V The State (1992) 7 SCNJ 22, Aremu V State (1991) 7 NWLR (pt 201)1 Ejinima V State (1991) 6 NWLR (pt 200) 627; Edhighere V The State (1996) 8 NWLR (pt 464) 1 at 14” PER J.I. OKORO, J.S.C.
ARMED ROBBERY- INGREDIENTS OF ARMED ROBBERY
“The ingredients which the prosecution must prove in an offence of armed robbery are that there was a robbery incident, that the robbers were armed with dangerous weapons and that the accused was one of the robbers or the robber.” PER J.I. OKORO, J.S.C.
CONVICTION ON A RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT – INSTANCES WHERE CONVICTION ON A RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT WOULD BE SUSTAINED
“A conviction on a retracted confessional statement would be sustained where independent evidence makes the confessional statement appear true and reliable. Independent evidence available to the prosecution was one of the best known to criminal law, Eyewitness evidence.” PER B. RHODES-VIVOUR, JSC
RETRACTION OF CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT – DUTY OF THE COURT ON ADMISSION OF A RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT
“While a retraction of a confessional statement does not ipso facto water down the potency of the confession, the Court having admitted same, has a duty to examine its contents with a view to determining the veracity vel non of the applicant’s claim that he did not make the statement.”PER N. S. NGWUTA, J.S.C.
Statue Referref to:
Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions)Act. Cap R. 11, Vol. 14 Laws of the Federation, 2014