CASE SUMMARY OF:
Samuel Ojegele v. The State (1988) - SC
by NSA PaulPipAr
- Confessional Statement;
(1988) NWLR (Pt.71)414;
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
- Mr. B.O. Rhodes.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Mr. A.O. Okesola, Senior State Counsel Oyo State.
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FACT (as relating to the issues)
Samuel Idowu Ojegele, the 1st appellant was introduced to Iwaloye Elero, the 3rd appellant by Musa Ishola Yusuff in order that the 3rd appellant who is also a herbalist might prepare some concoction for the 1st appellant to enable him become a rich man. In order to prepare the concoction, the 3rd appellant demanded from the 1st appellant the hunch of a hunchbacked person. The 1st appellant in concert with Agboola Amos alias Babawale, the 2nd appellant and two other persons now at large left Kano to Iwo to procure their victim. Misfortune fell on the deceased, Dauda Ishola Alabi alias Ika-Owo, a taxi driver, who answered the description given by the 3rd appellant to the 1st appellant. The two suspects at large chartered the deceased's taxi and asked him to convey them to a destination which he agreed to. The deceased drove in front followed by the 1st and the 2nd appellants from behind in another vehicle driven by the 1st appellant. At a spot between Iwo and Gbongan, they stopped and matcheted the deceased to death. The corpse was conveyed in the 1st appellant's vehicle to the house of the 3rd appellant where it was dismembered and the hunch removed for making the "get-rich" concoction. The remains of the dismembered body of the deceased was buried there. It is to be noted that before the case proceeded to trial, the 4th accused died. A total number of 14 witnesses were called by the prosecution to prove the charges against the appellants. The appellants testified in their own defence and also called witnesses.
The APPELLANT was convicted for murder at the trial court. At the trial court, he raised a defence that his confessional statement is a product of torture and duress and that he never intended to write the contents therein. However, the trial court after conducting a trial-within-trial disbelieved the APPELLANT (as accused in the trial court).
The Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal which dismissed the Appellant's appeal.
The appellant has further appealed to this court.
1. The lower Court erred in law and on the facts in confirming the conviction and sentence of the Court of first instance and which is based on a confession made under duress.
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. The trial Judge in this case held a mini trial. At p.129 Lines 20-25, the learned trial Judge observed as follows:- "Mr. Ajibola, learned counsel for the 1st accused (here the 1st Appellant) objected to the statement being tendered as he contended it was not voluntarily made. He said that the 1st accused was beaten up before making the statement. In view of this objection, I conducted a trial within trial to test the admissibility of this statement. After the consideration of the evidence before me, I held that the statement was voluntarily made and was admissible."
This in my view concludes the matter.
ii. In this case the Appellants were cautioned as required by the Rules; they signed or thumb-impressed their confessions, they were taken before a Superior Police Officer, (P.W.12) A.S.P. Moses Aboliwo by Sgt. No. 23584 Jacob Aborowa P.W.9 who recorded their Statements; another Police Officer Sgt. Samuel Ojumu (P.W.13) interpreted their Statements to the Appellants before the Assistant Superintendent of Police: (see Queen v. Nnana Okoro (1960) 5 F.S.C. 134 at p.135); the appellant admitted they made those Statements and signed or thumb-impressed them, the Interpreter signed and the A.S.P. signed. I do not see what else needed to be done which was not done.
Western Steel Works Ltd. v. Iron & Steel Workers Union (1986) 3 N.W.L.R. 617 at p.632 I had an occasion to deal with the difference between a Rule and a Principle thus:- "A rule is a normative proposition making certain legal results depend upon the establishment of certain factual situations stipulated in the antecedent part of the rule."
Nwigboko & Ors. v. The Queen (1959) 4 F.S.C. 101 at p.102 resolutely held: "We do not, however, agree with the Judge that where the practice is not followed, the Statement should necessarily be viewed with suspicion... We are not prepared to go to the length of laying down as a general rule that where it (the practice) is not observed the statement should be viewed with suspicion."
Queen v. Chukwuji Obiasa (1962) 1 All NLR 651 the Federal Supreme Court stated the law succinctly as follows: (1) If a person makes a free and voluntary confession which is direct and positive, and if properly proved he may be convicted on the confession alone without any further evidence. (2) A confession of an accused should be tested as to its truth. This can be done by examining it, in the light of the other evidence to determine: (a) Is there anything outside it to show it is true? (b) Is it corroborated? (c) Are the facts stated in it true as far as can be tested? (d) Did the accused have an opportunity of committing the offence? (e) Is the accused's confession possible? (f) Is the confession consistent with other facts which have been ascertained and proved?
Achabua v. The State (1976) 12S.c. 63 particularly at 69 where the Supreme Court said- "(i) The secrecy with which criminals perpetrate their crimes has tended to deprive the prosecution in some cases of eye-witnesses. Hence confession alone even without corroboration can support a conviction so long as the court is satisfied of the truth."
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If an extra-judicial Statement of an accused person amounting to a confession was not made freely and voluntarily it cannot even be admitted in evidence. That is the reason why if an accused person admits making the Statement but alleges that he was induced by any threat or promise by a person in authority to make the said Statement in order to gain an advantage or avoid any evil of a temporal nature, then the first duty of the Court is to decide whether or not the Statement was voluntary. - Oputa, JSC. Ojegele v. State (1988)
In any dispute as to the voluntary nature of any given Statement the onus is on the prosecution to prove positively and affirmatively beyond reasonable doubt that the Statement is voluntary. To this end the Court holds a mini trial within the main trial. If satisfied that the Statement was voluntarily made then it will admit same in evidence. - Oputa, JSC. Ojegele v. State (1988)
If there is a rule that it is an offence to drive through a built-up area at a speed of more than 30m.p.h., once it is factually established that the defendant drove through a builtup area at a speed more than 30m.p.h. (say 40m.p.h.) then he is automatically in breach of the speed limit rule and he is therefore guilty. Rules therefore determine the outcome of the case in which they apply. It is not so with "principles". Principles are broader statements of conduct and they do not necessarily decide the outcome of the dispute. They merely incline the decision one way or the other depending on the facts and surrounding circumstances of the case in hand. The word principle is from the Latin principium, which means the starting point. A principle merely furnishes a basis for the consideration of the case in which the principle is meant to apply. Principles merely incline the decision towards a certain direction but they are not conclusive and they survive intact even if the principle is not followed in that particular case. Rules apply in an all-or-nothing dimension. Either the decision falls within the ambit of the antecedent portion of the rule in which case it must be dealt with as the rule dictates or it does not in which case it is unaffected by the rule. Rules dictate results come what may but principles do not. And that is the main difference to bear in mind when dealing with principles. - Oputa, JSC. Ojegele v. State (1988)
The Judges' Rules are rules made by English Judges for the guidance of English Police Officers. Nobody, however, disputes the wisdom behind those Rules. But having said that, it is necessary to add that the Rules are not Rules of law but merely Rules of administrative practice. They are rules made for the more efficient and effective administration of justice and therefore should never be used to defeat justice. Even in England the Court of Appeal felt bound to observe that "the Court must take care not to deprive themselves by new artificial rules of practice of the best chances of learning the truth" - R. v. Richardson (1971)2 Q.B. 484 at p.490. - Oputa, JSC. Ojegele v. State (1988)
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