⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Adamu Saliu v. The State (2014) – SC
⦿ LITE HOLDING
It is in view of the foregoing that I hold that with the withdrawal of the objection to the admissibility of exhibit ‘ E’, the appellant admitted clearly that he made his statement voluntarily. He also agreed that he asked the police to write his statement for him and same was read to him. Per Galadima, JSC.
It is trite law that confessional statement: so long as it is free and voluntary and is direct, positive and properly proved, is enough to sustain conviction. It is because confession is the best evidence in criminal law. In it, the accused admits that he committed the offence for which he is charged. As it is often said, for this purpose, the accused is the figurative horse’s mouth. There cannot be a better evidence. Per Galadima, JSC.
⦿AREA OF LAW
– Criminal Law.
– Circumstantial evidence.
(2014) JELR 50986 (SC)
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Biriyai Dambo, Esq.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Steve Adehi, Esq.
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The appellant and one Peter Iliya Azabade were alleged to have waylaid the deceased, one Mohammed Abubakar, along Akogun – Ozugbe road, KotonKarfe, in Kogi State on 9 August 2003 with the intention of robbing the deceased of his car. During the robbery, the appellant and Peter Azabade were armed with locally made pistols with which they shot and killed the deceased and depossessed him of his car, a red Nissan Saloon car with registration No. KOGI AA 969 KAF.
The appellant and the co-accused were charged to the High Court of Kogi State on a three count charge of conspiracy, armed robbery and culpable homicide punishable with death.
They were tried, found guilty and sentenced accordingly.
The appellant was dissatisfied with the conviction and sentence and consequently appealed to the lower court, which dismissed same and affirmed the conviction and sentence of the appellant by the trial court.
The present appeal is a further appeal by the appellant against the said judgment of the lower courts.
In the said confessional statement, he stated that he and Peter Iliya planned before they killed Mohammed Abubakar. He said that after Peter had bought a locally made pistol, he too went to Shensheyi village and bought his own pistol for N2,000.00 (two thousand naira) and on 9 August 2003, the two of them waylaid the deceased, shot him and after they had confirmed he was dead, they dragged him out of the taxi and drove the taxi away to Kaduna. They tried to sell the taxi but the intending purchaser declined to buy it when they could not produce the particulars. He said that after they had carried out the robbery, Peter kept the guns while he retained the keys to the vehicle.
1. Whether taking into consideration the peculiar facts of this case, the learned trial judge and the lower court treated exhibit “E” (alleged confessional statement) properly as the true confessional statement of the appellant to ground a conviction of armed robbery, conspiracy and culpable homicide?
2. Whether the conviction and sentence, of the appellant by the trial court and upheld by the lower court is right, despite the absence of a separate sentence in respect of each and every count as charged before the trial court?
⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. Not only is it trite law that an accused person can be validly convicted on his confessional statement alone, the courts however state that the trial court, in the circumstance of a retraction by the accused, should direct itself on the requirement of looking for other evidence outside the confessional statement, in this case, exhibit ‘E’, which would corroborate and show that the confession is true. In that regard, the lower courts concurrently found/held that there was sufficient evidence of corroboration of the contents of exhibit ‘E’, having regards to the evidence of the PW2, PW3, PW4 and PW5 as evaluated at pages 156 – 157 of the record by the trial judge, which was affirmed by the lower court. It is settled law that the Supreme Court does not make a practice of inferring with the concurrent findings of fact of the lower courts except in exceptional circumstance, such as where the finding has been demonstrated to be perverse or not supported by evidence on record, etc, which have not been demonstrated to have occurred in the instant case. I therefore find no reason to disturb the said concurrent findings.
2. ISSUE 2 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. On the issue as to whether the lower court was right when it upheld the conviction and sentence of the appellant despite the failure of the trial court to pass distinct and separate sentences in respect of two of the three counts for which the appellant was convicted, I agree with learned counsel for the respondent that the failure is not fatal to the conviction and sentence of the appellant. I hold the considered view that the failure of the trial judge to pass separate sentences after conviction of the appellant for the offences of conspiracy and armed robbery has not in anyway, resulted in any miscarriage of justice to the appellant, which would have resulted in this court setting aside the conviction and sentence by the trial judge. It is settled law that it is not every error committed by a lower court that would result in the decision being set aside by an appellate court. To qualify for a setting aside order, the mistake/error must be substantial/material and should lead to a miscarriage of justice if not corrected or set aside.
ii. Section 269 of the Criminal Procedure Code requires a trial court to specify the punishment to which an accused person is sentenced, section 275 of the said Criminal Procedure Code provides that any error in specifying such a sentence is remediable, which means that such an omission is not fatal to the case of the prosecution.
⦿ ENDING NOTE BY LEAD JUSTICE – Per
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
In the case of Mohammed v. The State (2007) All FWLR (Pt. 383) 46, (2007) 2 NSCC 574, this court held, at page 586 as follows: “It is important to say that when the confessional statement of the appellants were tendered, there was no objection, and so, there was no trial-within trial. In the absence of any objection, this court can come to the conclusion that the statements were made voluntarily by the appellants. This court held in Adio v. State (1986) 2 NWLR (Pt. 24) 581 that a free and voluntary confession of guilt by an accused person, if it is direct, positive and satisfactorily proved, occupies the highest place of authenticity when it comes to proving same beyond reasonable doubt. The judgment of this court is valid. After all, the accused is the best person and in the best position to say whether he committed the offence or not, although he may decide to hide the truth from the court. If he says that he committed the offence, the prosecution need not provethe offence any longer. The confession is enough proof of the offence beyond reasonable doubt.”
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
The practice of seeking for corroboration of the confessional statement arises only where the accused person retracts his confession at the trial, as in the instant case. The lower courts concurrently found and held that there was corroboration of the confessional statement of the appellant and I have seen no reason to interfere with the said findings, particularly as no special circumstance necessitating such interference has been proved/established before this court. – Onnoghen, JSC. Saliu v. State (2014)
But where concurrent findings of fact are found by this court to be perverse or cannot be supported by evidence, or there is a miscarriage of justice, this court would upset such findings: R-Benkay Nig Ltd v. Cadbury Nig Plc (2012) All FWLR (Pt. 631) 1450, (2012) 3 SC (Pt. 111) 169; A.C.N. v. Lamido and 4 Ors. (2012) 2 SC (Pt. 11) 163. – Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Saliu v. State (2014)
Although, the law provides that where an accused person has been found guilty of an offence the appropriate sentence should be imposed, the failure to do so in respect of the offences for criminal conspiracy and armed robbery has not rendered the trial a nullity and the lower court had power to correct the error: Onyejekwe v. The State (1992) 3 NWLR (Pt. 230) 444 ; Ejelikwu v. State (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt. 307) 554 at 569. – Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Saliu v. State (2014)
In the instant case, the two counts for which the appellant was convicted but not sentenced carry the same sentence of death as the count of culpable homicide punishable by death for which the appellant was convicted and sentenced. It is preposterous that the appellant is complaining that the trial court sentenced him to death for one count instead of three death sentences for the three counts on which he was convicted!! He is also contending that the failure to add the other two death sentences should nullify the validly imposed sentence of death for one of the counts!! This is clearly the act of a drowning man clinging to a straw to save his life. – Onnoghen, JSC. Saliu v. State (2014)
Let me say it without any shred of equivocation that a confession made by an accused person is the best form of evidence to be relied upon by a trial judge. This is because, no rational being will say anything negative against his own interest; all things being equal. The confessional statements in exhibit ‘E’ was, in effect, admitted without objection. As such, the appellant admitted that it was freely made by him. – Fabiyi, JSC. Saliu v. State (2014)