CASE SUMMARY OF:
Danjuma Rabe v. Federal Republic Of Nigeria (2013) - CA
by NSA PaulPipAr
- Indian hemp;
- Reading of charge in native language;
Federal Republic Of Nigeria
Court of Appeal
LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Obande Festus Ogbuinya J.C.A
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
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FACT (as relating to the issues)
The facts of the case, which culminated in this appeal, before the lower Federal High Court were simple.
On 21/03/2012, the appellant, a 27 year old labourer, was a passenger in a motor vehicle that was searched at Bode-Saadu, Jebba Road, in Moro Local Government of Kwara State by officers of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Kwara State Command. In the course of that search, the officers found on the appellant dried weeds, suspected to be Indian hemp otherwise known as cannabis sativa. As a consequence, the appellant was arrested by those officers. After the preliminary investigation and field tests, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Kwara State Command, acting for the Attorney General of the Federation, arraigned the appellant before the lower court on 22/5/2012.
The charge, a one-count charge, found on page 1 of the printed record, was to the effect that the appellant: "without lawful authority trafficked in 4.4 kilogrammes of cannabis sativa (otherwise know (sic) as Indian hemp a drug similar to Cocaine, Heroin, LSD etc. thereby committing (sic) an offence contrary to and punishable under section 11 (b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004."
In the appellant's allocutus, pleaded for him by his counsel, the lower court was informed that he was a first offender of 27 years old, a labourer and a redeemable smoker and urged to temper justice with mercy in the sentencing.
Thereafter, the lower court proceeded, on page 13 of the record, to sentence the appellant thus: "I hereby sentence you-DANJUMA RABE-to a term of 12 months imprisonment starting from today 22/05/2012."
The APPELLANT dissatisfied with the ruling of the trail court has appealed to this honourable Court of Appeal.
1. Whether or not the learned trial Judge acted rightly when he assumed jurisdiction and tried the Appellant for the offence of illegal possession of Indian hemp.
2. Whether or not the Appellant's statement in Hausa and English version (EXHIBITS H and H1) can be admitted in evidence without the oral evidence of the police officer and the interpreter.
HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. I have, anxiously, ferreted through the entire gamut of the 15-section Indian Hemp Act, with a fine tooth comb, but unable to stumble on a section or provision therein which criminalizes trafficking in Indian hemp without lawful authority, the foul crime with which the appellant was charged with. Put the other way round, and clearly too, the offence leveled against the appellant in the one-count charge is not within the legislative four walls of the Indian Hemp Act. The criminal wrong of unlawful possession of Indian hemp, which dotted or was recurrent in the appellant's alluring submission, is a far cry from the offence with which the appellant was hauled before the lower court. Indisputably, the offence of illicit trafficking in Indian hemp, which the appellant was accused of having committed, is amply entrenched in the prescription of section 11 (b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act. It follows that the appellant's argument, as inviting as it is, is with due reverence, off tangent in that the Magistrate's Court will not be cloaked with the jurisdiction to try a non-existent offence in the Indian Hemp Act. The foregoing analyses, to my mind, dilute/douse the appellant's dazzling contention that it is the Magistrate's Court, not the Federal High Court (the lower court), that has the competence to entertain the charge against the appellant.
ii. Given the established linkage between the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act and the Constitution, as amended, regarding the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court over Indian hemp criminal matters, I hold the view that the Federal High Court, the lower court, is vested with the necessary jurisdiction to entertain the charge against the appellant, not the Magistrate's Court as, ably, canvassed by the appellant.
2. ISSUE 2 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. However, I must place on record, apace, that in the aforementioned cases, including the latest of them, FRN V. Usman (supra) on which the appellant hinged his attractive argument, there were full-scale trials involving calling of witnesses by the prosecution and the defence. It is on record that the appellant pleaded guilty to the offence with which he was charged thereby obviating the necessity of full-blown trial of the matter in consonance with the provisions of sections 218 of the Criminal procedure Act, Cap. C41, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, and 187 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code Law, Cap. C23 Laws of Kwara State, 2007. Put differently, the facts, circumstances and proceedings in the case of FRN V. Usman (supra), on which the appellant pegged his submission, sharply contrast with those of the case. Going by the wide factual distinction and dichotomy between them, it will be an insult to the law to deploy the said cardinal rule of law as enunciated in the case of FRN V. Usman (supra).
ii. The need, to call, as witnesses, the police officer recorder and the interpreter of exhibits H and H1 was abrogated/truncated by the nature of the summary trial precipitated by the appellant's plea of guilty. It follows, automatically, that those exhibits were not rendered inadmissible because their recorder and interpreter did not testify as witnesses.
iii. The removal of exhibits H and H1 from the proceedings will not exculpate/absolve the appellant from the crime given his criminal parole confession of guilty to it. There is the crying need to emphasis that the appellant's plea of guilty connotes a lot of things against him. That plea of guilty is personal to him and he is bound by it.
S. 28 Evidence Act 2011;
Section 218 of the Criminal Procedure Act;
S. 187 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code;
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Okewu v. FRN (2012) 9 NWLR (Pt 1305) 327;
Where a court of law is drained of the requisite jurisdiction to entertain any proceeding before it, its decision, no matter the quantum of dexterity and artistry invested in it, will be trapped in the miasma of nullity, without any benefit enuring to a party with a favourable judgment. - Ogbuinya, JCA. Rabe v. FRN (2013)
Now, it is settled law, as rightly captured by the appellant, that where an accused person is an illiterate so that his extra-judicial statement is recorded by another person, invariably by a law enforcement personnel, and translated to him by another person, both the recorder and the interpreter of that pre-trial statement must be called to testify as witnesses in respect of it otherwise it will be inadmissible as a documentary hearsay. - Ogbuinya, JCA. Rabe v. FRN (2013)
Since the documents were admissible in law, the appellant was required by law to object to their admission at the lower court. The appellant's failure to object to their admission at trial was a negation of the law and a costly one too. It is now settled, that an accused person who fails to protest against an admission of an admissible document is foreclosed from taking objection on appeal. - Ogbuinya, JCA. Rabe v. FRN (2013)
By law, confessions are the best evidence, stronger than the evidence of an eyewitness, in criminal proceedings. - Ogbuinya, JCA. Rabe v. FRN (2013)
The end of this brief.
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