⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Ikechukwu Okoh v. The State (2014) – SC
by NSA PaulPipAr
⦿ LITE HOLDING
The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. The Appellant was convicted by the Trial Court on his confessional statement as to the armed robbery which was corroborated by the PW1 & PW2 in several elements.
⦿AREA OF LAW
– Criminal Law.
– Confessional statement.
– Proof beyond reasonable doubt.
– Armed robbery.
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Kudirat Motonmori Olatokunbo Kekere-Ekun, J.S.C.
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Olusola Laniyan, Esq.
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Olumuyiwa Akinboro, Esq.
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The prosecution’s case was that on the 6th day of April, 1996, at Suleja in Niger State, the appellant along with the other accused persons conspired amongst themselves to rob and did rob one Alhaji Zakari Mohammed (the deceased) of his video machine, while armed with a knife, which resulted in his death. The wife and son of the deceased testified as PW1 and PW2 respectively. They stated that on the fateful day, some people came to their house at Suleja at about 3.30 am and started beating the deceased and asking him for money. They took away their video machine. PW2 stated that one of the robbers ran to his father’s room and removed something contained in a black leather bag from a box in the room. He identified the 1st accused person who is his cousin as the person who removed the item. PW1 and PW2 testified that the deceased was injured and covered with blood with cuts on his abdomen, hand and back. He later died from the injuries sustained in the incident.
During the course of their investigation the Police arrested the appellant and the other accused persons. The appellant made an extra-judicial statement to the Police, which was tendered at the trial and marked Exhibit D. Neither the appellant nor his counsel objected to its admissibility.
In his defence, the appellant testified on his own behalf and did not call any witness. He denied any involvement in the robbery incident. He also denied making any statement to the police.
This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division (the lower court) delivered on 11/7/2008 affirming the judgment of the High Court of Niger State, sitting at Minna (the trial court) delivered on 19/7/2005 convicting and sentencing the appellant to death for Conspiracy to commit Armed Robbery and Armed Robbery.
At the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, a no case submission was made on behalf of the accused persons.
The appellant was dissatisfied with the decision and appealed to the lower court. His appeal was dismissed on 11/7/2008 hence the instant appeal.
1. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right in upholding the judgment of the trial court that the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt?
⦿ RESOLUTION OF ISSUE(S)
1. ISSUE 1 WAS RESOLVED AGAINST THE APPELLANT BUT IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT.
i. A critical examination of Exhibit D shows that the appellant not only admitted that he agreed with others to commit an offence, he stated positively and unequivocally how he and his co-accused went to the home of the deceased to rob and the role played by each member of the gang. It is not in dispute that the deceased was killed in the course of the robbery operation. The statement therefore meets all the criteria of a confessional statement, having admitted the essential elements of the offences with which he was charged. As rightly pointed out by learned counsel for the respondent, there was no objection to the admissibility of Exhibit D when it was tendered. The appellant however resiled from it at the trial.
ii. In the instant case, as observed earlier, the appellant did not raise any objection to the admissibility of Exhibit D. The court therefore had no obligation to conduct a trial within trial to ascertain whether or not it was voluntarily made. The court was entitled to admit it in evidence and consider its probative value along with all the other evidence in the case.
Section 28 of the Evidence Act 2011.
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
This court in the case of Bozin v. The State (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt.8) 465 set out the ingredients necessary to prove the offence of armed robbery. The prosecution must prove the following facts beyond reasonable doubt: 1. That there was a robbery or a series of robberies. 2. That each robbery was an armed robbery. 3. That the accused was one of those who took part in the armed robberies.
Salawu v. State (1971) NMLR 249 @ 252 that while it is the law that the court can act on the confessional statement of an accused person to sustain a conviction, where the statement is retracted in court, independent corroboration, however slight must be sought.
The questions the court must be able to answer before it can rely on a confessional statement to convict an accused person were set out in the case of R. v. Sykes (1913) 1 Cr. App. Rep. 233 are as follows: (a) Is there anything outside it to show that it is true. (b) Is it corroborated. (c) Are the factors stated in it true as far as can be tested. (d) Was the accused the man who had the opportunity of committing the offence. (e) Is the confession possible. (f) Is it consistent with other facts which have been ascertained and proved.
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
As rightly submitted by both learned counsel, the law is trite that the standard of proof required of the prosecution in a criminal case is a heavy one. The prosecution must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The burden of proof remains on the prosecution throughout and does not shift to the accused person, except in a few limited circumstances, such as where an accused person raises a defence of insanity. – Kekere-Ekun, J.S.C. Okoh v. State (2014)
There is no obligation on an accused person to prove his innocence. In order to discharge the onus on it, the prosecution must establish all the ingredients of the offence charged. – Kekere-Ekun, J.S.C. Okoh v. State (2014)
Evidence of conspiracy is usually a matter of inference from surrounding facts and circumstances. The trial court may infer conspiracy from the fact of doing things towards a common purpose. – Kekere-Ekun, J.S.C. Okoh v. State (2014)
For the prosecution to succeed in the charge of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, it must prove the following facts beyond reasonable doubt: a. That there was an agreement or confederacy between the accused and others to commit the offence. b. That in furtherance of the agreement or confederacy, the accused took part in the commission of the robbery or series of robberies. c. That the robbery or each robbery was an armed robbery. – Kekere-Ekun, J.S.C. Okoh v. State (2014)
It is not the law that the conviction of the accused person cannot proceed strictly on the basis of his confessional statement. Once an extra judicial confession has been proved to have been voluntarily made and is positive and unequivocal, it is capable of sustaining a finding of guilt. – DATTIJO MUHAMMAD, J.S.C. Okoh v. State (2014)
In criminal procedure, such a confessional statement, like admission in civil procedure, has repeatedly been held to be the best and strongest evidence of guilt on the part of an accused person. Indeed it has been held to be even stronger than the evidence of an eye witness. See Basil Akpa V. The State (2008) 4 SCNJ 50 and Nigeria Navy 2 Ors V. Lt Commander S.A. Ibe Lambert (2007) 9 SCNJ 1 John Timothy V. The Federal Republic of Nigeria (2012) 5 SC (Pt III) 159, Chiokwe V. The State (2012) 12 SC (Pt v) 147. – DATTIJO MUHAMMAD, J.S.C. Okoh v. State (2014)
The standard of proof in a criminal charge is not proof beyond any shadow of doubt but proof beyond reasonable doubt. It is not enough for the prosecution to suspect, arrest and charge a person to court, there must be assembled cogent, credible and reliable evidence which would identify the person charged with the offence. – Okoro Inyang, J.S.C. Okoh v. State (2014)