CASE SUMMARY OF:
Odion Okhiria v. The State (2016) - CA
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Bank: Zenith Bank.
Name: Branham Paul Chima.
Account No.: 2178756839.
Court of Appeal
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Jimi Olukayode Bada, J.C.A
LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
- Mr. S. N. Ilegieuno
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
- Mr. Oluwole Iyamu, Solicitor-General Edo State Ministry of Justice.
The facts of this cases are that the Appellant and one Miss Aimuanohi Iziengbeaya Ihonre (i.e. PW7) had dated for about 4 years until PW7 decided to call off the relationship as she felt it was not going to lead to marriage.
The Appellant felt bad and threatened to kill PW7 or blind her. On 17/5/2002 at about 6.30pm while PW7 was on her way to church at Ujemen in Ekpoma, the Appellant used his vehicle to block the vehicle which PW7 boarded, dragged her out of the vehicle and beat her up. PW7 was rescued from the Appellant.
And at about 8.00pm on the same day, the Appellant in company of his gang members including 2nd and 4th Accused persons came to the PW7 father's house, destroyed the house and about 5 other houses in the area.
On 18/5/2002 at about 4.15pm, the Appellant returned in search of PW7, in company of some group of boys with gallon of what looks like fuel and other dangerous weapons like bottles, knives, etc. The Appellant was seen in front instructing the people with him and in the process, the house of PW1 was completely burnt down by fire set on it by the Appellant and those who were with him.
The PW1 Philemon Ikpefua testified and told Court how the Appellant led some boys numbering about 20 to their street on 18/5/2002, how he was pursued by the boys after the Appellant identified him as the landlord of the house they were heading to and how he fled for his life because of the dangerous weapon they were holding. He later testified of how he later saw his house in flame from his hideout, while the Appellant and his men kept watch until the house was completely razed down by fire. (See pages 84 85 of the Record of Appeal).
The PW2 Mr. Clement Irekenagba also told the trial Court how he saw the Appellant on the day commanding the crowd, telling them to destroy anything they see and how they eventually set PW1's house on fire (See pages 86 88 of the Record of Appeal).
The PW3, Mrs. Alice Aiyedun, who is the mother of PW1, also testified of how she saw the Appellant in company of some other persons holding a gallon and how they eventually set PW1's house on fire. (See 88 90 of the Record of Appeal). There was also evidence on record by PW4, 5, 6 and 7 of how the Appellant led a mob which led to the burning of PW1's house. (See pages 91 102 of the Record of Appeal).
The Appellant in his own cases denied the allegation. He testified for himself and called one other witness. He denied setting fire on PW1's house and testified that he only led members of Anti-Cult Crusade Organisation of Nigeria (ACCON) to PW1's house to invite her for an amicable settlement of their dispute. He further testified that they were attacked in the process by the younger brother to PW7 and his friends which led to some of them sustaining injuries, that one of them escaped to campus to alert the students of the attack which led to a retaliation by the students and in the process the house of PW1 was set on fire.
At the conclusion of trial at the Lower Court, the Appellant was convicted and sentenced to 7years imprisonment with hard labour in Count 1 and 14 years imprisonment with hard labour in Count 2. The Appellant who is dissatisfied with the Judgment has now appealed to this Court seeking to have his conviction set aside and a verdict of acquittal entered in his favour.
Whether having regard to the totality of the evidence led at the trial and the circumstance of this cases, the prosecution proved the offences of conspiracy to commit arson and arson against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt?
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
The Court of Appeal gave judgement in favour of the Respondent.
i. All that is required in proving the ingredients required in proving the offence of arson are: (a) That a dwelling house was actually set ablaze; (b) The accused person was responsible in doing so and did so intentionally.
ii. I agree with the submission of counsel for the Respondent that the evidence of PW1 - PW7 who are eyewitnesses to the burning of PW1's house did not only establish the fact that the Appellant actively participated in the offence of arson to wit: the burning of PW1's house, that he also procured others to do so.
iii. The learned trial Judge, in convicting the Appellant for the offence of conspiracy, said inter alia, at page 147 lines 24 - 25 and page 148 lines 1 - 4 of the Record of Appeal, that - "The evidence led by PW3, PW4, PW5 and PW6 on the manner of approach of 1st accused (appellant) when he came with the University Students, is lucid and clearly showed that 1st accused was acting with the students in concert. They had a set mission to cause mayhem. 1st accused was the person who led the students to Iruekpen and identified the respective houses. The prosecution sufficiently proved that 1st accused conspired with the students to commit a felony". In the circumstance, I am of the view that the offence of conspiracy to commit arson was established against the Appellant.
iv. Furthermore, the learned trial Judge has diligently and painstakingly evaluated the evidence led at the trial Court and he ascribed probative value to the evidence of the prosecution witnesses when he held on page 149 lines 9 - 22 of the record of appeal as follows among others - "The 1st accused (appellant) has been fixed and identified at the scene of crime as he is a known face and comes from that community. His defence of "it is the students not me" is not believed by me as the evidence shows he led the students and encouraged them to commit the offence of arson. The evidence given by the accused persons and DW1 has been examined by me and I do not agree that the 1st accused was not with the students. He was actively involved when they came for what DW1 termed a reprisal attack".
Sections, 7, 8, 9, of the Criminal Code Act;
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The prosecution do not have the duty to prove the cases beyond all shadow of doubt, because that one places a heavier burden on the prosecution and it is unknown to our law. A Court can convict an accused person the moment the prosecution proves its cases beyond reasonable doubt. - Bada, J.C.A. Okhiria v. State (2016)
In Shurumo v. The State (Supra) Page 1 ratios 9 & 16, it was held inter alia that: "Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond all doubt or all shadow of doubt. It means the prosecution establishing the guilt of the accused person with compelling and conclusive evidence. It means a degree of compulsion which is consistent with a high degree of probability."
In my humble view, all that the prosecution is required to do in a criminal trial in order to discharge the burden of proof is to establish the ingredient of the offence. And one of the ways of discharging the burden of proof is by the evidence of an eyewitness of the crime. - Bada, J.C.A. Okhiria v. State (2016)
In discharging the burden of proof on the prosecution, the guilt of an accused person can be proved by: - (1) The confessional statement of the accused person; (2) Circumstantial evidence or; (3) Evidence of an eyewitness of the crime. What it means is that the three conditions need not co-exist. The evidence of one of them suffices to establish the ingredients of an offence in a criminal trial. - Bada, J.C.A. Okhiria v. State (2016)
It is settled that evaluation of evidence and ascription of probative value to such evidence is the primary function of the trial Court. It is the trial Court that saw, heard and assessed the witnesses as they testified at the trial Court. When the trial Judge has evaluated the evidence and appraised the facts, it is not the business of an appellate Court to interfere and to substitute its own views for the views of the trial Court. - Bada, J.C.A. Okhiria v. State (2016)
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