CASE SUMMARY OF:
Chyfrank Nigeria v. Federal Republic of Nigeria (2019) - SC
- No case submission;
Federal Republic of Nigeria
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Chima Centus Nweze, J.S.C
* FOR THE APPELLANT
- Chukwuka Ikwuazom.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
- S. K. Atteh.
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FACT (as relating to the issues)
Sometime in 2005, Frank Amah, the Managing Director of the appellant, approached Mrs Julie Adinuba, (who later testified as PW8 in the proceedings), to assist with the sale of certain items of property of the Federal Government of Nigeria. These items of property were located at Ikoyi, Lagos State. As proof of authority to sell the said items of property, Frank Amah handed over letters of allocation from the Federal Government Implementation Committee to the PW8. On her own, the PW8 approached Gordon Omoegbedi, (PW7), to assist with investigation and confirmation of the genuineness of the allocation letters.
Incidentally, PW7 is an Estate Surveyor and Valuer. The allocation letters were confirmed to be genuine. Later, PW8 approached Donatus Duru (the complainant who testified as PW3). PW3 indicated interest in the property covered by the Allocation Letters, that is, the property at No 7 Bell Avenue, Ikoyi, Lagos, a property allocated to one Alhaji Mallam. PW3, upon confirmation of the genuineness of the letter, agreed to purchase the said property for 190,000,000 (One Hundred and Ninety Million Naira) after negotiation with the appellant's Managing Director. So soon after the conclusion of the transaction, the Federal Government cancelled the sale of Government Houses in Ikoyi. The names of the allottees, who were affected, were published.
Promptly, Alhaji Abubakar Mallam, PW4, wrote petitions to various government agencies. He alleged that someone had, without his authority, used his name to buy a Federal Government property in Ikoyi. The EFCC, upon conclusion, filed the above charges against the appellant and its Managing Director, Frank Amah.
At the High Court of Lagos State, the appellant and its Managing Director, Frank Amah, were arraigned on a six -count charge for the offences of (a) Conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences; (b) obtaining money by false pretences and (c) stealing. Following their plea of not guilty, the matter went to trial.
The Prosecution called fourteen witnesses. It, also, tendered seven five exhibits. At the close of the Prosecution's case, the defendants made a No-case submission. On October 14, 2009, the Court (hereinafter, simply, referred to as "the trial Court"), upheld the No Case Submission.
Accordingly, the Court acquitted and discharged Mr Amah and the appellant on all the counts. Dissatisfied with the trial Court's decision, the respondent appealed to the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division. In its judgement of February 27, 2015, the Court, (hereinafter, simply, referred to as "the lower Court"), first, upheld the trial Court's decision as it relates to the offences of Conspiracy to obtain by false pretences and obtaining by false pretences. It, (the lower Court), however, disagreed with the trial Court on the offence of stealing. It held that a prima facie case of stealing had been established by the respondents against the appellants at the trial Court. In effect, it held that the respondent had established a prima facie case of stealing against the appellants. It remitted the matter to the Chief Judge of Lagos State for re-assignment to another Judge of that Court.
The appellants have, therefore, approached this Court to set aside the decision of the lower Court. Effectively, therefore, this appeal is circumscribed to the lower Court's decision that relates to the offence of stealing.
1. Whether the lower Court, rightly, found that the respondent had established a prima facie case of stealing against the appellants?
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE APPELLANT BUT AGAINST THE RESPONDENT.
i. The evidence before this Court is that, after the initial negotiations for the purchase of the property, No. 7, Bell Avenue Ikoyi, PW3 called in his lawyer, PW1, to verify the allocation and Alhaji Abubakar Mallam, the allottee whose name he said made him show interest in the property. It was after PW1, (that is, the lawyer), confirmed to PW3 that he has done his due diligence and everything was alright that PW3 arranged for the Bank Cheques. Under cross examination, PW3 said if his lawyer had not told him to go ahead, he would not have gone ahead. His lawyer came back and told him everything was genuine.
ii. The principal witness for the Prosecution, PW1, never said that the defendants were at any time given or entrusted with the Bank Cheques subject of Counts 5 and 6 ...What is important and relevant is that the two Bank Cheques in question were never given or entrusted to the defendants, the proceeds of the bank cheques were never paid into defendants' accounts and converted.
S. 383 Criminal Code;
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As it is well-known, a submission that there is no case to answer may be properly made and upheld in the following circumstances: (a) when there has been no evidence to prove an essential element in the alleged offence; (b) when the evidence adduced by the prosecution has been so discredited as a result of cross-examination or is so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could safely convict on it. - Chima Nweze, JSC. Chyfrank v. FRN (2019)
Dealing with goods in a manner inconsistent with the right of the true owner amounts to a conversion provided that it is also established that there is also an intention on the part of the defendant in so doing to deny the owner's right or to assert a right which is inconsistent with the owner's right. - Chima Nweze, JSC. Chyfrank v. FRN (2019)
The question that comes up where a no-case submission is made by an Accused Person is whether the Prosecution made out a prima facie case requiring, at least, some explanation from an accused...Thus, a prima facie case simply means that there is ground for proceeding with the case against the accused Person: it is not the same as proof, which comes later, when the Court or Tribunal has to find whether the person charged with an offence is guilty or not. So, the evidence discloses a prima facie case when it is such that if uncontradicted, and if believed; it will be sufficient to prove the case against the Accused Person - Chima Nweze, JSC. Chyfrank v. FRN (2019)
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