Areas Of Law
APPEAL, COURT, CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE, FAIR HEARING, LAW OF EVIDENCE, PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE
Summary Of Facts
The Appellant was jointly charged alongside one David Amadi and Ikechi Ukanacho with the offence of Armed Robbery contrary to Section l(2)(b) of the Robbery end Firearms (Special Provisions) Act Cap.398 Vol. XXII Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 as applicable in Imo State. He was the 3rd Accused person in the said charge. The prosecution stated that on 3/5/1998 around 2a.m. armed robbers invaded the house of the complainant one Mr. Vitalis Abareke, at Umuebe in Akobor. The complainant who was sleeping at that time woke up by the sound of dogs barking. When he drew near the window he saw people dressed in black shirts and trousers who thereafter forced the door open and gained entrance into his house. They robbed him of the sum of N90,000.00 (Ninety Thousand Naira) and a trident radio worth N7,400.00 (Seven Thousand Four Hundred Naira). He was also injured by one of them with a bottle that was hit on his head. He stated that he was able to recognize the robbers who were from his community by the aid of moonlight through his window glass which he opened a little having drawn the curtain earlier. The complainant reported the incident to the police at Iho where he made a statement at the station. The accused persons were subsequently arrested by the police and charged to court. The Appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge and the case proceeded to trial. The trial Court after considering the evidence adduced by both parties found the accused persons guilty of the offence of armed robbery and sentenced them to death. The Appellant not satisfied with the judgment filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal challenging the decision of the trial court. Having failed at the Court of Appeal, the Appellant further appealed to the Supreme Court.
Issues For Determination
➢ Whether the learned justices of the Court of Appeal were right to have upheld and affirmed the decision, conviction and sentencing of the trial court when it was manifestly clear that the appellant was not afforded a fair trial at the trial court?
➢ Whether the learned justices of the Court of Appeal were right to have upheld and affirmed the conviction and death sentence passed on the appellant for armed robbery when it was clear, from the record, that the prosecution failed to prove the offence against the Appellant beyond reasonable doubt as required by law?
FAIR HEARING – DEFINITION OF FAIR HEARING
“The term fair hearing therefore has been defined variously by this court to mean trial conducted according to all legal rules formulated to ensure that justice is done to all parties to the case. See Ogunsanya V. The State (2011) 12 NWLR (PM261) 401 at 434; also Uguru V. The State (2002) 4 SC (PI 1) 13 at 19 where U. A. Kalgo, JSC said:-
“………….. the term “fair hearing’ in relation to a case in my view, means that trial of the case of the conduct of the proceedings thereof, is in accordance with the relevant law and rules in order to ensure justice and fairness…………”
– PER. C. B. OGUNBIYI, J.S.C.
FAIR HEARING –CONCEPT OF FAIR HEARING
“Broadly speaking, this court had extended the interpretation of fair hearing from the perspective of a mere adherence to the twin pillars of justice so as to include anything improperly done during the trial which may cause an unbiased by stander to feel that justice has not been done. See the case of Amamchukwu V. F.R.N. (2009) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1144) 475 at 486 where Tabai. JSC extended the concept and said;
“It encompasses not only the compliance with the rules of natural justice, but also audi alteram partem. It also entails doing in the course of trial, whether civil or criminal, all things which will make an impartial observer leave the court room with the belief that the trial has been balanced and fair on both sides to the trial.” (emphasis is supplied).” – PER C. B. OGUNBIYI, J.S.C.
FAIR HEARING –RULE PERTAINING TO FAIR HEARING
“The rule pertaining to fair hearing simply means that parties must be given the opportunity to present their case. Where a party delays deliberately the hearing of his case, he will not be classified as coming within the rule.” PER C. B. OGUNBIYI, J.S.C.
COURT – DUTY OF COURTS IN PROCEEDINGS
“The court must be proactive and in control of the proceedings to ensure that justice and fair play are done to all parties.” PER C. B. OGUNBIYI, J.S.C.
BREACH OF FAIR HEARING – WHETHER A PARTY WHO HAS BEEN AFFORDED THE OPPORTUNITY OF BEING HEARD AND REFUSES TO DO SAME CAN BE HEARD COMPLAINING OF A BREACH OF FAIR HEARING
“Judicial authorities are well pronounced that, where a party to a suit has been accorded every opportunity of being heard evidently, and for no just cause whatsoever refuses to enter his defence or neglects to attend the sittings of the court, he is deemed to have voluntarily abandoned his case or defence and cannot be heard to complain of any breach or denial of fair hearing. The following authorities are well settled: Mirchandani V. Pinhero (2001) 3 NWLR (Pt 701) 557, Folbod Investment Ltd. (1996) 10 NWLR (Pt 478) 344, Abubakar V. INEC (2004) 1 NWLR (Pt 854) 207, Scott Emukpor V. Ukaube(1979) 1 SC6, Oyeyipo V. Oyinloye (1987) 1 NWLR (Pt 50) 356; Omo V. JSC (2000) 12 NWLR (Pt 682) 444, and A.N.P.P. V. REC, Akwa Ibom State (2008) 8 NWLR (1090) 453.” PER C. B. OGUNBIYI, J.S.C.
OFFENCE OF ARMED ROBBERY – ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS OF THE OFFENCE OF ARMED ROBBERY THAT A PROSECUTION MUST PROVE BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT IN ORDER TO SUCCEED
“In the case of Alabi Vs. The State (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt. 307) 511 at 523, this court highlighted and restated the essential ingredients of the offence of armed robbery as established by numerous decided authorities and said: – For the prosecution to succeed in the case, there ought to be proof beyond reasonable doubt:
1. That there was a robbery or a series of robberies.
2. That each robbery was an armed robbery.
3. That appellant was one of those who took part in the robberies”. PER C. B. OGUNBIYI, J.S.C
EVIDENCE OF A WITNESS – A SINGLE MATERIAL WITNESS IS SUBSTANTIAL TO PROVE THE CASE OF A PARTY.
“The law is trite that evidence of a Single witness if believed can be acted upon by the court to establish a case beyond reasonable doubt except where the law requires corroboration. See the cases of Igbo V. The State (1975) 9 – 11SC, 129-136; Onafowokan V. The State (1987) 3 NWLR (Pt 61) 538 at 552; (1987 7 SCNJ 233; OgoaJa V. The State (1991) 2 NWLR (Pt 175) 509 at 533 (1991) 3 SCNJ 61; Ugwumba V, The State (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt 296) 660 ot 674; (1993) 6 SCNJ 217.” PER C. B. OGUNBIYI, J.S.C.
PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT – CONCEPT OF PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT
“The concept of what amounts to proof beyond reasonable doubt has been held in Ndike V. The State (1994) 8 NWLR (Pt 366) P.33 at P.45 to mean; –
“Proof beyond reasonable doubt” as a requirement for conviction in criminal cases does not mean proof beyond the shadow of doubt.” PER C. B. OGUNBIYI, J.S.C.
FINDINGS OF FACT BY THE TRIAL COURT – ATTITUDE OF AN APPELLATE COURT TO FINDINGS OF FACT BY THE TRIAL COURT
“The law is settled that it is not the attitude of this court to interfere with such findings. In the case of Adekoya V. The State (supra) at page 24, this court held and said: –
“it is long settled that this court rarely interferes with findings of fact by the trial court that have been confirmed by the Court of Appeal. This is because findings of fact are only established after cross examination detailed examination of exhibits and a comprehensive assessment of the testimony of witnesses by the trial judge. But concurrent findings would be set aside by this court if there have been exceptional circumstance such as the findings are perverse or unsupportable by evidence or there has been miscarriage of justice or violation of some principle of procedures.” PER C. B. OGUNBIYI, J.S.C.
ARRAIGNMENT – CONDITIONS FOR A VALID ARRAIGNMENT
“The conditions for a valid arraignment of a person charged with a criminal offence are as follows: –
(a) He shall be placed before the court unfettered, unless the court shall see cause to otherwise order;
(b) The charge or information shall be read over and explained to him to the satisfaction of the court by the registrar or other officer of the court; and
(c) He shall be called upon to plead instantly thereto (unless there are valid reasons to do otherwise as provided in Section 100 of the Criminal Procedure Law). See Eyorokoromo vs. The State (1975) 6-9 SC3; Kagubo vs. The State (1988) 1 NWLR (pt. 72) 721; Blessing vs. FRN (2005) 13 NWLR (pt. 1475) 1 W 22E-H.” PER K. M. O. KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C.
Statutes Referred To
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 (as amended)
Robbery end Firearms (Special Provisions) Act Cap.398 Vol. XXII Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990