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Nura Ochala V. Federal Republic Of Nigeria

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Nura Ochala V. Federal Republic Of Nigeria

Supreme Court – January 2016
APPEAL NO: SC. 728/2013

Areas Of Law
APPEAL, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, CRIMINAL LAW, INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE, LAW OF EVIDENCE

Summary Of Facts
Appellant was arrested on 23rd day of September, 2011 at Banni Village in Kaima Local Government Area of Kwara State with 8.8 kilograms of Cannabis Sativa (Indian hemp). He was charged on a one Count Charge of unlawful possession of Indian hemp contrary and punishable under Section 11(c)of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act cap N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. The prosecution tendered Exhibits in the presence of the appellant and his counsel include statement of the appellant as the accused person before the Lower court, packing of substance form, Certificate of test analysis, request for scientific aid from, drug analysis report, evidence pouch and 8.8 kilogrammes of Cannabis Sativa (Indian hemp) recovered from the accused person,. and also prayed the court to convict the Appellant based on the documents tendered and admitted, all to which the Appellant’s Counsel did not object. The Federal high Court ,hence, sentence the Appellant to 18month imprisonment. Dissatisfied, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal where the decision of the trial Court was affirmed. Again, the Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.

Held
Appeal Dismissed

Issue For Determination

  • Whether the Court of Appeal was right when it held that the trial court had jurisdiction to try the Appellant under Section 11 (c) of the National Drug Enforcement Act, 2004?

Rationes
JURISDICTION TO TRIAL DRUG RELATED MATTER-PROVISION OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION VIS-À-VIS JURISDICTION OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT AND MAGISTRATE COURT TO TRIAL DRUG RELATED MATTERS
“In the 1999 Constitution the items in the exclusive list on which only the Federal Government of Nigeria can legislate upon, drugs and poisons are listed in item “21” and it needs no saying that Magistrates Court that are under the powers of State Government cannot exercise or assume jurisdiction over those subjects in the exclusive list and so their jurisdiction would be limited to matters within the State Government legislations or Edicts.” PER. MARY .U. PETER-OPILI. JSC.

CONFLICT OF LAW- WHETHER THE PROVISION OF AN ACT CAN CONTEST THE PROVISION OF CONSTITUTION
“It follows therefore that an argument as pushed forward by the learned counsel for the Appellant that the Magistrate Court by virtue of the Indian Hemp Act has the exclusive power in view of the specific provision would not have a leg since it is an Act which cannot contest the Constitutional empowerment of the Federal High Court under Section 251 (1) (m) and 3 thereof and the explanatory provision of Section 1 (3) of the same Constitution which provides thus: “If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void”. PER. MARY U. PETER-OPILI. JSC.

STATUTORY INTERPRETATION- APPLICATION OF THE EJUSDEM-GENERIC RULE OF INTERPRETATION
“In making my decision, I have called in aid what my learned brother Ariwoola JSC stated in Okewu v Federal Republic of Nigeria (2012) All FWLR (Pt. 625) 205 at 223.
”There is no doubt that all drugs mentioned in Section 10 (h) of the Law, that is Cocaine, LSD and Heroine with Cannabis Sativa otherwise known as Indian hemp are substances that are known to alter users perception or consciousness. They are also narcotic drugs hence; they are all prohibited by law. In other words, Cocaine, LSD, Heroine and Indian hemp are prohibited in the same way because they are all drugs that alter one’s perception or consciousness hence the prohibition by law. As a result, I am not in the slightest doubt and I hereby say with conviction that the Court below was right to hold that the substance called Indian hemp, otherwise known as Cannabis Sativa falls within the phrase “any other similar drugs” used in Section 10 (h) of the NDLEA Act pursuant to which the Appellant was charged, convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal”.
The wordings “Any other similar drugs” used in Section 10 (h) of the NDLEA Act is the same as used in Section 10 (c) of the same NDLEA Act.
Similarly, in the same Okewu’s case supra at page 226 – 227, paras. C – B Mohammed JSC posited as follows:-
“Thus, all the necessary intendments of what Section 10 (h) of the Decree stipulates must include Cannabis Sativa as forming part of “other drugs”, as it falls in its usage among such drugs that are smoked, inhaled, or injected into human body to cause the dullness of the senses, induce profound sleep or even cause stupor, coma, convulsions, or hallucination. It indeed is destructive drug that must not only be controlled but prohibited, and any person who is established to possess or use it however without lawful authority must be made to face heavy punishments to serve as deterrent to others”. PER. MARY UKAEGO PETER-OPILI. JSC.

Statute Referred To
1999 Constitution (as amended)
Evidence Act, 2011,
Federal High Court, Act Cap Fl2 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004
Indian Hemp Act 2004
National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004

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