➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Mohammed Usman v The State (2019) – SC
by “PipAr” B.C. Chima
Supreme Court – SC.228/2016
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, 12th April, 2019
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ WHAT DOES “APPEAL” MEANS?
The word “appeal” is simply to make a formal request to somebody in authority “for a decision to be changed” Oxford Learners Dictionary. In an Appeal, the lower Court’s decision is submitted to a higher Court “for review and possible reversal” see Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th Ed. — A.A. Augie, JSC.
⦿ AN ACADEMIC QUESTION DOES NOT REQUIRE AN ANSWER; IT IS NOT A LIVE ISSUE
It is settled that an academic question is an issue that does not require any answer or adjudication by a Court see Agbakoba V. INEC (2008) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1119) 489 SC, wherein this Court, per Chukwuma-Eneh, JSC, further explained as follows – An action becomes hypothetical or raises mere academic point when there is no live matter in it to be adjudicated upon or when its determination holds no practical or tangible value for making a pronouncement upon it; it is otherwise an exercise in futility. When an issue has become defunct, it does not require to be answered or controvert about and leads to making of bare legal postulations, which the Court should not indulge in; it is like the salt that has lost its seasoning. And like the salt in that state, it has no practical value to anybody and so also, a Suit in that state has none. See also Adeogun V. Fashogbun (2008) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1115) 149 SC, wherein this Court, per Niki Tobi, JSC, also observed as follows – Academic and hypothetical issues of questions do not help in the determination of the live issues in a matter. They are merely on a frolic or they are frolicsome; not touching or affecting the very tangible and material aspects in the adjudication process. As a matter of law, they add nothing to the truth searching process in administration of justice. This is because they do not relate to any relief. — A.A. Augie, JSC.
⦿ FAILURE TO TENDER STOLEN ITEMS DOES NOT MAKE PROSECUTION’S CASE WEAK
The position of the law is that where there is overwhelming evidence from Witnesses, which is not contradicted, and which is believed, that property or money were stolen during an armed robbery operation, the non-tendering of these items in Court, as Exhibits, will not destroy the Prosecution’s case – see Ajumobi v. State (2018) LPELR-(43854) SC, wherein Akaahs, JSC, observed that – The production of the stolen items, no doubt, will make watertight the case of the Prosecution. The law, however, still remains that where the evidence adduced by the Prosecution is capable of being believed and the trial Judge believed it and convicts the Accused, an appellate Court will be slow to overturn the verdict simply on the basis that the trial Court could have viewed such evidence otherwise. Where it is suggested that a piece of evidence casts some doubt on the Prosecution’s case, it is necessary to show, unless such is manifest or evident from the Records, what aspects becomes doubtful by reason of the evidence. — A.A. Augie, JSC.
⦿ A PIECE OF EVIDENCE IS SAID TO BE CONTRADICTORY WHEN IT ASSERTS THE OPPOSITE OF ANOTHER PIECE
Now, a piece of evidence is said to be contradictory to another piece of evidence, when it asserts or affirms the opposite of what the other piece of evidence asserts. It is settled that if the contradiction in the evidence adduced by the Prosecution goes to the root of the case, as to raise doubt in the mind of a Court, the Court should not convict. In other words, if there is contradiction in evidence as to material fact, which raises doubt, the benefit of doubt must be given to the Accused. However, where the contradictions are not as to material facts, such contradictions should not disturb the finding of guilt, if sufficient evidence has been led on material facts to the Charge see Ochemaje V. State (2008)15 NWLR (Pt. 1109) 57SC, wherein Tobi, JSC, explained: Contradictions definitely arise in evidence of witnesses in Court. That explains the human nature and the humanity in witnesses. Although witnesses see and watch the same event, they may narrate it from different angles, in their individual peculiar focus, perspective or slant. This does not necessarily mean that the event that they are narrating did not take place. It only means most of the time that the event took place, but what led to the event was given different interpretations, arising from the senses of sight and mind dictated by their impressions and idiosyncrasies. That is why the law says that contradictions, which are not material or substantial will go to no issue. — A.A. Augie, JSC.
⦿ CO-ACCUSED INCRIMINATING CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT
On the issue of his Co-Accused’s Statement, the Appellant is right that his statement cannot be used against him. The position of the law is that the Statement of a Co-Accused Person to the Police is binding on him only see Suberu v. State (2010) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1197) 586. However, where the evidence incriminating an Accused Person comes from a Co-Accused Person, the Court is at liberty to rely on it as long as the co-accused person who gave such incriminating evidence, was tried along with that Accused Person. see Dairo v The State (2017) LPELR-43724(SC) and Micheal V. State (2008) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1104) 383. — A.A. Augie, JSC.
⦿ A RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS ADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE
The Appellant may have retracted his Confessional Statement but it is settled that where the Accused says that he did not make the Confession at all, the trial Court is entitled to admit it in evidence, and thereafter, decide whether or not he made the said Confession, at the conclusion of trial. So, a retracted Confession is admissible in evidence Ikpasa v. State (supra), Sule V. State (2009) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1169) 33. However, the trial Court is enjoined to look for some evidence outside the Confessional Statement, which renders it plausible or true. This entails examining his new version of events that is different from his retracted confessional Statement, then the trial Court must ask – Is there anything outside the confession, which shows it may be true? Is it corroborated in anyway? — A.A. Augie, JSC.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Amina Adamu Augie, JSC
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
Dr. E. West-Idahosa, Esq.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
David Yohanna, Esq.
➥ CASE HISTORY
At about 8.30pm on the 18th of March 2008, a band of armed robbers, who were masked, and armed with guns, sticks and cutlasses, invaded the home of one Korau Chiroma at Tal in Billiri Local Government Area, Gombe State, and robbed him of some sum of money and handsets. The victim’s neighbours and relations “traced the footsteps” of the robbers to the house of one Dauda Mohammed and the Appellant. They were both arrested around 3am that night and taken to the Billiri Police Station. They were later transferred to “State CID Office” where they made confessional Statements to the Police. Thereafter, they were arraigned before the High Court of Gombe State on a two-Count Charge of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed robbery. They both pleaded not guilty to the Charge.
The High Court convicted the Appellants as charged. The appeal to the Court of Appeal was unsuccessful. This is a further appeal.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether there were contradictory testimonies regarding the exact sum of money recovered from the Accused Persons, which casts doubt on the Prosecution’s case, and whether the non tendering of the sum of money recovered, worsened the Prosecution’s case in that regard?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. “In this case, the lower Courts accepted the Prosecution’s evidence that some money was recovered from the Appellant, who admitted in his Confessional Statement that the money recovered from him was part of his share of the proceeds from the said armed robbery operation. It is clear from their Judgments that this was just one of the many pieces of evidence used to corroborate the Appellant’s confession that he participated in the armed robbery operation, and even if that piece of evidence is expunged from the Record, it would make no difference to their concurrent findings that the Appellant was guilty as charged. In the circumstances, the non-tendering of the money recovered from the Appellant did not make any dent in the Prosecution’s case, and the Appellant’s contention that it was fatal to its case, lacks merit.”
II. Whether or not the lower Court was right in affirming the Judgment of the trial Court based on the confessional statement of the Appellant?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. “The Appellant retracted his Confessional Statement at defence stage but this Court has repeatedly stated that the appropriate time to object to the admissibility of a Statement said to be a Confession is, when the Statement is sought to be tendered — see Oseni V. State (2012) LPELR-7833(SC), wherein I.T. Muhammad, JSC, observed that – Appellant’s counsel at the trial stage did not object to the admissibility of [his] confessional statement, yet he went on to blame the trial Court in not treating [the] confessional statement with utmost caution. It [is] too late in the day to seek to supply a remedy to a dented or a crucified matter, which can hardly be revived. It is too late to seek to retract such confessional statement after its admission without objection from the defence. It is taken as an afterthought, which Courts are not ready to accommodate.”
B. “A challenge to an alleged confessional Statement must be made at the time it is tendered to be admitted in evidence, when the Prosecution’s case is being pursued. A challenge to the voluntariness of a statement made after it has been admitted in evidence without objection on that ground, as in this case, is exactly what the two lower Courts said; nothing but an afterthought. Something added later, which makes no difference to what occurred.”
C. “I have no reason to fault the concurrent findings of the trial Court and the Court of Appeal because the Appellant’s confession in the said Exhibits are so detailed that no one can be left in doubt as to its truth. His narration of events was in line with the evidence of PW1 and PW5, and the Court of Appeal was absolutely right when it concluded that: The learned trial Judge was satisfied with the truth of the confessional statements, and he was also satisfied that they were positive and direct, and thus, his action in proceeding to convict them cannot be faulted.”
“There is no doubt that the Appellant’s confession in Exhibits D1 & D3 solidified the Prosecution’s case, and since he has not presented this Court with any good reason to interfere with the concurrent findings of the two lower Courts, there is nothing this Court can do about it. Consequently, this Appeal lacks merit and it is hereby dismissed.”
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)