⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Alhaji Ganiyu Martins v. Commissioner Of Police (2005) – CA
Criminal breach of trust;
Alhaji Ganiyu Martins
Commissioner Of Police
(2005) 7 NWLR (Pt.925) 614;
Court of Appeal
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Mahmud Mohammed, JCA
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
The appellant in this appeal, Alhaji Ganiyu Martins was an employee of NECCO Sweets Company Nigeria Ltd. in Kano serving the company as its import’s manager. In that capacity, the appellant was charged with the responsibility of procuring raw materials for use in the production line of the company. In the course of the discharge of his responsibilities, the company allegedly suffered a loss of the sum of N2.5 million. The matter was reported to the police. It is in the course of the investigation that the appellant owned up liability to the tune of N753,075.85 out of the alleged sum missing as a result of the transaction handled by him on behalf of the company. The appellant then agreed to settle this amount by the payment of N30,000.00 – N40,000.00 monthly instalments. A written agreement to this effect was signed by the appellant and the company.
On failing to honour the undertaking in the agreement to refund the amount to the company, the appellant was arraigned before the trial Chief Magistrate Court Grade One and subsequently charged as follows after hearing evidence from four witnesses: “I, Mohammed Nasir Abubakar, Chief Magistrate Grade 1, Gyadi Gyadi, Kano, charge you Ganiyu Martins as follows: That you between the year January 1993 and September, 1995 being a servant in the employment of NECCO Sweets Nigeria Ltd. and in your capacity as import manager committed criminal breach of trust in respect of the purchase to the tune of N2.5 million naira over the said properties and that you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 314 of the Penal Code.”
The appellant pleaded not guilty to this charge and elected to give evidence in his own defence but did not call any other witness. At the end of the trial, the learned trial Chief Magistrate Grade 1 in his judgment delivered on 15/7/1997, found the appellant guilty as charged under section 314 of the Penal Code and convicted him accordingly.
The appellant was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with an option to pay a fine of N5,000.00. In addition, the appellant was ordered to pay the sum of N753,075.85 as compensation to his employers. The appellant paid the fine but without paying the compensation, appealed against his conviction and sentence to the Kano State High Court of Justice in its appellate jurisdiction, which after hearing the appeal dismissed it in its judgment delivered on 16/12/98. The appellant who is still aggrieved has now appealed to this Court.
Whether the Kano State High Court appellate Division was right in affirming the learned Chief Magistrate’s order compelling the appellant to pay compensation in the sum of N753,075.85?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. Judgement was given in favour of the respondent.
i. In addition to sentence, the appellant was ordered to pay the sum of N753,075.85 as compensation to the victim of the crime for which he was convicted. These proceedings were clearly in exercise of the criminal jurisdiction of the trial Chief Magistrate Court. Therefore, the provisions of section 13 of the Magistrate Courts Law of Kano State which deals with the limit of the civil jurisdiction of such courts, is, certainly not applicable to the proceedings now on appeal.
ii. From this provision of the law, any court in exercise of its criminal jurisdiction in trying an accused person in Kano State for any offence under the Penal Code, provided the trial ended in a conviction of the accused person, that court may also award compensation to the victim of the offence without any limit in addition to or in substitution for any other punishment for the conviction.
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
Section 78 of the Penal Code which states: “78. Any person who is convicted of an offence under this Penal Code may be adjudged to make compensation to any person injured by his offence and such compensation may be either in addition to or in substitution for any other punishment.”
Section 365 of Criminal Procedure Code states: “365(1) Whenever under any law in force for the time being a criminal court imposes a fine, the court may, when passing judgment, order that in addition to a fine a convicted person shall pay a sum (a) in defraying expenses properly incurred in the prosecution; (b) in compensation in whole or part for the injury caused by the offence committed, where substantial compensation is in the opinion of the court recoverable by civil suit; (c) in compensating an innocent purchaser of any property in respect of which the offence was committed who has been compelled to give it up; (d) in defraying expenses incurred in medical treatment of any person injured by the accused in connection with the offence. (2) If the fine referred to in sub-section (1) is imposed in a case which is subject to appeal, no such payment additional to the fine shall be made before the period allowed for presenting the appeal has elapsed or, if an appeal is presented, before the decision on the appeal.”
⦿ RELEVANT CASES
His Lordship Tobi, JSC in the case of Araka v. Egbue (2003) 17 NWLR (Pt.848) 1, (2003) 7 SC 75 at 85 lines 15-25 had this to say: “The duty of the court is to interpret the words contained in the statute and not go outside the words in search of an interpretation which is convenient to the court or to the parties or one of the parties. Even where the provisions of a statute are hard in the sense that they will do some inconvenience to the parties, the court is bound to interpret the provisions once they are clear and unambiguous. It is not the duty of the court to remove the chaff from the grain in the process of interpretation of a statute to arrive at favourable terms for the parties outside the contemplation of the lawmaker. That will be tantamount to travelling outside the statute on a voyage of discovery. This court cannot embark on such a journey. The primary function of the court is to search for the intention of the lawmaker in the interpretation of a statute. Where this is clear and unambiguous, as it is in this case, the court in the exercise of its interpretative jurisdiction must stop where the statute stops.”
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
It is trite that the issues for determination must be related to and confined to the complaint in the ground of appeal. – Kekere-Ekun, J.C.A. Martins v. COP (2005)
In other words what determines the limit of the amount of compensation to be ordered by any criminal court, is the jurisdiction of that court to try the accused for the offence for which the accused was convicted. – Mahmud Mohammed, JCA. Martins v. COP (2005)
What is significant from the wordings of the provisions of section 78 of the Penal Code and section 365 of the Criminal Procedure Code respectively on the powers of all criminal courts to award compensation against an accused person after conviction, is that no limit to the amount of compensation was specified for the various categories of criminal court. – Mahmud Mohammed, JCA. Martins v. COP (2005)
If the language used by the lawmakers in the statutes is quite clear and explicit, the court must give effect to the words because in such situation, the words of the statute also speak of the intention of the lawmakers. – Mahmud Mohammed, JCA. Martins v. COP (2005)
It is that an appellate court will not interfere with the concurrent findings of the lower courts on issues of facts except there is established a miscarriage of justice or a violation of some principles of law or procedure. – Mahmud Mohammed, JCA. Martins v. COP (2005)
Under section 13(c) of the Magistrate Court Law of Kano State which is with respect to Civil Proceedings the jurisdiction would appear to have been exceeded by the learned Chief Magistrate but the entire proceedings here were criminal in nature and section 13(c) of the magistrates law does not therefore apply. – Alagoa, J.C.A. Martins v. COP (2005)
In fact the attitude of the Supreme Court in a plethora of cases decided by the apex court on concurrent findings of lower courts on issues of fact is that unless those findings are: (a) found to be perverse; (b) not supported by the evidence; (c) reached as a result of a wrong approach to the evidence; (d) reached as a result of wrong application of a wrong principle of substantive law or procedure the Supreme Court, even if disposed to come to a different conclusion on the printed evidence will not interfere with the concurrent findings of lower courts on issues of facts. – Alagoa, J.C.A. Martins v. COP (2005)