➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Enebeli v. State (2021) – SC
by PipAr Chima
Supreme Court – SC.1023/2017
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, June 04, 2021
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE
The law has crystalized in our criminal jurisprudence that an accused person is presumed innocent until he or she is proved guilty. The prosecution is saddled with the burden of proving the guilt of the accused person and the standard of such proof in criminal cases or trial is proof beyond reasonable doubt. – Adamu Jauro, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)
⦿ INGREDIENTS FOR A CONVICTION OF MURDER
The law has been long established in a legion of judicial authorities that before an Accused person can be convicted for the offence of murder, the prosecution is duty bound to prove the following ingredients beyond reasonable doubt: a) That the deceased died; b) That it was the unlawful act or omission of the Appellant which caused the death of the deceased; and c) That the 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. – Adamu Jauro, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)
⦿ THREE METHODS OF EVIDENTIAL PROOF
The law is also trite that the three methods of evidential proof as held by the Supreme Court Per, Ogunbiyi, J.S.C in the case of OKASHETU V STATE (2016) LPELR-40611 (SC) are to wit: a. Direct evidence of witnesses; b. Circumstantial evidence; and c. By reliance on a confessional statement of an accused person voluntarily made. – Adamu Jauro, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)
⦿ CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS THE BEST POINTER TO THE TRUTH
It is trite law that a confessional statement made by an accused person, which is properly admitted in evidence is, in law, the best pointer to the truth of the role played by such accused person in the commission of the offence … There is however a duty on the Court to test the truth of a confession by examining it in the light of the other credible evidence before the Court. – Adamu Jauro, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)
⦿ ILLITERATE JURAT DOES NOT APPLY TO STATEMENTS MADE IN CRIMINAL CASES
On the absence of an illiterate jurat, assuming the Appellant is an illiterate and his statement was recorded in English language by PW2, the Courts have always accepted such statements without the need for an illiterate jurat. See OLALEKAN VS STATE (2001) 18 NWLR (PT 746) 793. The rationale for this is that one of the major essence of the provisions of the Illiterates Protection Law is to ensure that the person who made the document on behalf of the illiterate is identifiable and traceable so that where there exists a doubt or there is a denial as to the correct statements that were made by an illiterate in a document, the writer would be traced to show whether the contents of the document represented the veracity of what the illiterate asserted. See EDOKPOLO & CO LTD VS OHENHEN (1994) 7 NWLR (PT.858) 511, FATUNBI VS OLANLOYE (2004) 6-7 SC 68. Furthermore, the Illiterates Protection Law avails an illiterate in civil causes and in respect of documents recorded by another at his instance. Where the document creates legal rights and the writer benefits thereunder, the law sets in to protect the illiterate from any fraud by requiring the writer to comply with its requirements. Basically, compliance with the law is in respect of civil matters and the emphasis is on protection of an illiterate in respect of execution of documents which may have the effect of compromising his civil rights and obligations. A statement made to a police officer by a suspect in the course of investigation does not fall within the protection of Illiterates Protection Law, as the statement does not involve the civil rights or obligations of either the accused or the police officer. Hence, based on the foregoing postulations, the Illiterates Protection Law does not apply to statements recorded in criminal cases by the police. – Adamu Jauro, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)
⦿ THE EFFECT OF A CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT
A confessional statement which is voluntarily made is an admission by the maker that he committed the offence. it is the best evidence in support of the case of the prosecution against an accused person. however, such evidence, apart from being voluntarily made, must be positive, direct, pungent and consistent with other facts as proved in the case. – Adamu Jauro, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)
⦿ COUNSEL SHOULD NOT MANUFACTURE FACTS IN COURT
Learned counsel should refrain from manufacturing facts to suit the interest of his client. As a minister in the Temple of Justice, counsel should always be guided by raw facts as disclosed by the evidence before the Court. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, learned counsel should heed to this advice against the future. – Adamu Jauro, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)
⦿ ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF THE OFFENCE OF MURDER
In a charge of murder such as the one under discourse, the prosecution must lead credible evidence to establish the essential elements of the offence which are the following: (a) That the deceased had died. (b) That the death of the deceased was caused by the accused person and (c) That the act or omission of the accused person which caused the death of the deceased was intentional with knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was a probable consequence. – M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)
⦿ A CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS THE STRONGEST EVIDENCE AGAINST AN ACCUSED
It is trite in law, that there is no evidence stronger than a person’s own admission or confession. The confessional statement made by an accused person is potent evidence in the hand of a prosecutor for proving a charge. It is the best and safest evidence on which to convict. – M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)
⦿ EXCEPT ACCUSED IS MISLED AN ERROR IS NOT MATERIAL
It has to be pointed out that by virtue of Section 166 of the Criminal Procedure Act, no error in stating the offence or the particulars required to be stated in the charge and no omission to state the offence or those particulars shall be regarded at any stage of the case as material unless the accused was infact misled by such error or omission. – M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Adamu Jauro, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
– Olukunle Edun, Esq.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
– C.O. Agbagwu Esq., Deputy Director, Department of Appeal, Ministry Of Justice, Delta State.
➥ CASE HISTORY
The brief facts culminating into the instant appeal are that the Appellant and the deceased, one Alero Eniyan were lovers, but the deceased’s parents did not approve of their relationship. The parents of the deceased moved her from Koko where they reside to Ologbo with a view to ending the relationship. The Appellant traced her to Ologbo which caused the parents of the deceased to move her to Ondo town of Ondo State where she found a suitor. The deceased however returned to her parent’s place at Koko because of her sister’s birthday and her suitor came to visit her parents to inform them that he wanted to marry her. The case of the Respondent as prosecution was that the Appellant could not stand the deceased getting married to another man and therefore purchased four litres of acid which he poured on her. That the deceased later died as a result of injuries sustained from the acid poured on her by the Appellant.
The Appellant on the other hand denied committing the offence and claimed that he loved the deceased. At the conclusion of trial and after the addresses of counsel, the learned trial Judge found the Appellant guilty and sentenced him to death by hanging (see pages 91 – 115 of the record of appeal).
This appeal is against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Benin Division delivered on 7th June, 2016 in appeal No. CA/B/239C/2013 wherein the Appellant’s appeal was dismissed and the judgment of the Delta State High Court sitting in Sapele delivered by E.N. Emudainohwo J. (Mrs.) on the 16th July, 2012 was affirmed.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether from the totality of the evidence on the record and the circumstances of this case, the lower Court was right in upholding the conviction of the Appellant by the trial Court for the offence of murder punishable under Section 319 (1) of the Criminal Code Cap 48 Vol. II Laws of the defunct Bendel State as applicable to Delta State?
I.A. From the unchallenged evidence of PW1 and PW3, it is evident that there are other credible evidence on the record showing that the Appellant’s confession was true and probable. Flowing from the evidence of PW1 and PW3, the Appellant’s argument and submissions in respect of the failure of the Respondent to prove the date of death goes to no issue. Although the charge sheet at page 7 of the record of appeal states that the Appellant murdered the deceased on 6th May, 2009, while the evidence of PW1 was to the effect that the deceased died on the 22nd July, 2009. There are credible evidence on the record that the Appellant carried out the dastardly act on the 6th of May, 2009 but the deceased who was hospitalized after the incident, died on the 22nd July, 2009. I am of the firm view that the discrepancy in the date of death as stated on the charge sheet does not subtract from the fact that the deceased died and that it was the act of the Appellant that caused her death. As a matter of fact, the Appellant has not shown that he was misled by the error or that the error occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
I.B. On the Appellant’s issue no. 3, I am of the view that the dying declaration of the deceased as testified to by PW1 qualified as a dying declaration and same fixes the Appellant at the crime scene. It is well established in our law that a statement made by a person in imminent fear of death, and believing at the time it is made that he or she was going to die is admissible as a dying declaration.
I.C. In conclusion, by reason of the failure of the Appellant to demonstrate that the concurrent findings of the two Courts below are perverse or not based on evidence before the Court, the appeal fails and same is hereby dismissed.
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
Section 135, 138, of the Evidence Act 2011.
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ PHILOSOPHY BEHIND A DYING DECLARATION
The raison d’etre for the principle of dying declaration as stated by Eyre C.B in the old English case of R. vs. WOODLUCK (1789) I leach 500 @ 502 is as follows: “The general principle on which this species of evidence is admitted is that they are declarations made in extremity, when the party is at the point of death and when every hope of this world is gone, when every motive to falsehood is silenced and the mind is induced by the most powerful considerations to speak the truth; a situation so solemn so awful, is considered by the laws as creating an obligation equal to that which is imposed by a positive oath administered in a Court of Justice”.
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)