CASE SUMMARY OF:
Nwanga Nwuzoke v. The State (1988) - SC
(1988) NWLR (Pt.72) 529;
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
- Senator N.N. Anah.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
- D.N. Oguadi, D.P.P. Anambra State.
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FACT (as relating to the issues)
A case of unlawful killing was on 12/7/79 reported to the P.W.1, Corporal Hyacinth Mbam of the Abakaliki Police Station. He visited the scene of crime in the compound of the Appellant where he found the deceased in a pool of blood with several matchet cuts. There was no dispute about who killed, the deceased as the Appellant himself true to peculiar Abakaliki style went himself to the Police Station and reported that he killed the deceased. Following this report Corporal Mbam, P.W.1 arrested the Appellant, charged him with the offence of murder, cautioned him and he then volunteered a Statement which was tendered as EX.A.
The Appellant was in the Abakaliki Judicial Division of the Anambra State High Court charged with, and convicted of the offence of murder by Obayi, J. and sentenced to death.
His appeal to the Court of Appeal Enugu Division was found to be totally unmeritorious and was accordingly dismissed. In that Court neither learned counsel for the Appellant nor for the Respondent had anything useful to urge in his favour.
He has now appealed to this Court.
GROUND OF APPEAL
That the decision is unwarranted, unreasonable and/or cannot be supported by law.
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
i. From the evidence of the prosecution witnesses and the extra judicial Statement of the Appellant tendered as EX.A it is common ground that the Appellant killed the deceased and that he used such force that nearly cut off and severed the left hand from the body. So far the evidence has not shown any defences explicit or implicit. Let us now go a step further why and under what circumstances did the Appellant kill the deceased? There was no eye-witness to this killing. The only evidence as to what happened, why it happened and how it happened all came from the Appellant.
In his Statement. EX.A. Appellant stated:- "Oruta Ugo came to fight us inside our compound. He drove us away. I then went into my house and brought my knife. I and him started to fight......I do not know how many knife cuts I gave to him but he did not give me any. I do not know whether I gave him three or two matchet cuts."
In his sworn testimony in Court the Appellant testified as follows: "...On the night of the date in question, the deceased came to our compound and threatened to kill me. He pulled out his matchet. I ran into my house. I collected my own matchet and gave him a cut on his back. I ran away. As I ran I threw away my matchet. We had gone to drink and the deceased used his matchet to pursue me....."
Cross-examined the Appellant continued:- "Deceased never gave me any matchet cut. It was not up to a week that deceased earlier pursued me with a knife....."
The above is a summary of the evidence before the trial Court prosecution and defence. It is on the totality of this evidence and against their background that any Court can be invited to consider possible defences. But as I observed earlier on evidence is valueless if it was not believed by the Court that saw the witnesses, heard them testify and watched their demeanour and assessed their credibility.
ii. Earlier on referring to Appellant's testimony in Court that conflicted with his Statement EX.A. the learned trial Judge emphasised "I don't believe this conflicting aspect of the accused's story." The question now is can a defence be founded on a story which was not believed, on a story described by the trial Court as an after-thought? I suppose not.
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It is trite law and needs no argument that when a defence however weak, however foolish, however unfounded, however conflicting, is raised by a person charged with crime, that defence should fairly and impartially be put to the jury. Following from the above is another principle no less fundamental that is, that such defence or defences need not be specifically put forward. It is enough if they arise from the totality of the evidence led on both sides or to use the phraseology of learned counsel for the Appellant if they are "implicit and inherent.". - Oputa, JSC. Nwanga v. State (1988)
The Appellant's so-called defence of his property is even more hopeless. Evidence shows that it was the Appellant who invited the deceased to his house for some drinks that night. It follows that the deceased was not a trespasser. Even if he were, there is no law which authorizes an owner of property to kill a trespasser: section 289 expressly says that the owner of property ought not kill the trespasser. There was also no evidence that the Appellant asked the deceased to go away and he refused after he had been invited. - Nnaemeka-Agu, JSC. Nwanga v. State (1988)
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