⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Chief Saiperemor Preye Amaremor v. The State (2014) – SC
– Mens rea;
– Beyond reasonable doubt;
Chief Saiperemor Preye Amaremor
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Mahmud Mohammed, J.S.C.
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Mr. Aham Eke-Ejelam;
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Attorney-General of Bayelsa State, F. F. Egele Esq.
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
On 24th November, 2001, the Appellant was in his home town Buluo-Orua Town in Sagbama Local Government Area of Bayelsa State for his late Aunt’s funeral. The appellant who was an armourer with the National Intelligence Agency of the rank equivalent of an Assistant Commissioner of Police, came home with his service pistol, a Baretta which the regulations of his Agency forbade him to carry on such private journeys as attending funeral. That morning, a group of people had gathered to embark on a journey to a neighbouring Community with Appellant who joined to a waiting group armed with his pistol. On getting to the compound the Appellant brought out his pistol and shot twice towards the river and turned to the deceased and shot him in the chest. The deceased was heard to have shouted “Ye etein neyol saniperemor etein neyo!,” meaning in English Language you have shot me o! Saiperemor has shot me!’ Thereafter, the deceased was rushed to the Ufor hospital, Ugheli where he was confirmed dead by a Doctor.
The case of the prosecution was that as the people who gathered for the journey to a neighboring Community were waiting to set out, the Appellant on coming shot twice towards the direction of the river with his pistol before turning towards the deceased and fired the 3rd shot into the chest of the deceased who slumped down and later died in the hospital. The Appellant’s case was that as he was walking towards the entrance of the compound where people were waiting, he stumbled on a stone and his service pistol fell off his waist. He bent down to pick up the pistol and as he did so his finger touched the trigger and it exploded in quick succession twice. The Appellant then said he muzzled up the pistol and removed the magazine. That it was at that point that he heard the deceased shouting before he fell down and later died at the hospital. The Appellant later reported himself to the Police Station where he also surrendered, his Baretta pistol with nine remaining rounds of ammunition before he was detained.
At the trial Court, the Appellant was charged for the murder of the deceased Chief Tuomor Obiri under Section 319 of the Criminal Code Law of Eastern Nigeria, 1963 applicable in Bayelsa State.
The learned trial Judge after very carefully considering and ultimately rejecting the defence of accident under Section 24 of the Criminal Code put up by the Appellant and after having been satisfied that the Appellant had not even attempted to put up a defence of insanity, proceeded and convicted the Appellant of the offence of murder and sentenced him to death in accordance with the law on 22nd December, 2005.
The Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal which appeal was dismissed. The Appellant has further appealed to Supreme Court.
1. Whether the defence of accident availed the Appellant by virtue of the provisions of S.24 of the Criminal Code.
2. Whether the essential elements of murder and the guilt of the Appellant were established beyond reasonable doubt as laid down by S.138(1) of the Evidence Act.
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. A very careful examination of the line of defence of accident put up by the Appellant in his three separate statements and his evidence in chief quoted above in this judgment, has revealed inconsistencies which ruled out any event of accident in them. While in Exhibit J’ the Appellant described the shooting event as an accidental discharge which resulted in shooting the deceased who later died in the hospital took place during a weapon check, in Exhibit A’ the story was that the shooting event took place when he stumbled on a stone when his service pistol fall off from his waist and as he bent down to pick it up, unknowingly his finger touched the trigger and the pistol exploded hitting the deceased on the chest leading to the death of the deceased. The version of the shooting event on the other hand in the evidence of the Appellant before the Court that as he was picking the pistol from the ground, his fingers touched the trigger and the pistol exploded in quick succession twice before he heard the deceased shouting. All these claims of alleged accidental discharge from the Appellant’s service pistol cannot be true because even if it happened as the Appellant claimed the pistol exploding on the ground would not have resulted in striking the deceased in the chest who was standing. As the shots from the exploded pistol on the ground could only have gone horizontally along the ground to meet its possible target on the feet of those standing, the story of the Appellant on the event of shooting on 24th November, 2001 when the deceased was hit by a bullet through and through on his chest, is a mere cock and bull story not worth being considered as a defence under Section 24 of the Criminal Code.
2. ISSUE 2 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. In the present case the evidence of prosecution witnesses 1, 2 and 3 who were eye witnesses to act of the Appellant of shooting the deceased with a Baretta pistol in his chest, which act of shooting resulted in causing the death of the deceased almost instantly at an Ugheli Hospital, is not only direct and credible but was also accepted and relied upon by the trial Court and affirmed by the Court below. The evidence which is overwhelming, had clearly established that the Appellant caused the death of the deceased and that the deceased died as a result of the act of the Appellant to the exclusion of all other possibilities. The cause of death of the deceased was from the bullet fired deliberately by the Appellant from his service Baretta pistol resulting in taking the life of the deceased.
S. 24 of Criminal Code;
S. 138 Evidence Act 2011;
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
⦿ RELEVANT CASES
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
On the Appellant’s complaint of the failure of the prosecution to call PW4, the law is trite that the prosecution has no duty to call and field all known material witnesses so long as it calls and fields all material witnesses that it may consider necessary for proof of its case beyond reasonable doubt. – Mahmud Mohammed, J.S.C. Amaremor v. State (2014)
It must be stressed that there is no law which precludes a blood relation of a deceased person from testifying for the prosecution. What a Court must consider as an abiding fact is the truthfulness of the witness touching on his integrity, veracity and knowledge on the matter. – Mahmud Mohammed, J.S.C. Amaremor v. State (2014)
It must be restated here that it remains the primary function of the trial court to evaluate evidence and decide what probative value to attach to what piece of oral evidence. This is so because it is the court that had the opportunity of seeing, hearing and observing the witnesses in the course of their testimonies. An appellate court only steps in to evaluate evidence where the trial court failed in taking the advantage it had to discharge this primary duty or wrongly discharged the said function, to avert miscarriage of justice. – Dattijo Muhammed, JSC. Amaremor v. State (2014)
From a long line of the decisions of this Court, it is settled beyond controversy that to secure a conviction on a charge of murder under Section 319 of the Criminal Code, the prosecution must prove – (i) that the deceased had died, (ii) that the death of the deceased was caused by the accused, and (iii) that act or omission of the accused which caused the death of the deceased was intentional with the knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was its probable consequence. – Mahmud Mohammed, J.S.C. Amaremor v. State (2014)
In other words, in a murder charge, the prosecution is required to prove beyond reasonable doubt not only that the act of the accused person could have caused the death of the deceased but that it actually did. If there is any possibility that the deceased died from other causes than the act of the accused, then the prosecution has failed to establish the case against the accused person. – Mahmud Mohammed, J.S.C. Amaremor v. State (2014)
Motive for killing the deceased is irrelevant in this case of direct and deliberate killing. – M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Amaremor v. State (2014)