⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Samuel Chidozie v. Commissioner of Police (2018) – SC
by NSA PaulPipAr
– Criminal intimidation;
– Conviction of one witness;
– Proof beyond reasonable doubt;
Commissioner of Police
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
MARY UKAEGO PETER-ODILI, J.S.C.
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– J. A. Akubo Esq;
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Ibrahim Sani, Attorney General of Kogi State.
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The appellant was initially arraigned along with two others before the Chief Magistrate Court, Lokoja for offences of criminal breach of trust, theft, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation. Upon his arrest, appellant volunteered an extra judicial statement denying committing the offences contrary to Sections 97(1), 306, 287, 322 and 397 of Penal Code. The appellant was the 1st accused in the case before the trial Court while the 2nd and 3rd accused persons were Hycent Ndive and Cyril Onah before the trial Court.
The case of prosecution is that the PW1, Godwin Ojike and the appellant are members of the National Union of Mobile Marketers and Advertisers of Nigeria (NUMMAN). Owing to some disagreements, the PW1 pulled out of the Union. The appellant and the other members of the Union started threatening him and warned him to pack out of Lokoja town or he would be killed. In order to carry out their threats, the appellant along with the other members of the union started sending all kinds of strange visitors to harass him and followed the pw1 to monitor his movements and on one of such occasions, two boys armed with guns visited pw1’s house and threatened to kill him. The prosecution in proof of its case called two witnesses; and appellant testified on his own behalf in his defence without calling any witness. At the end of the evidence of the prosecution, a submission of no case to answer was made on behalf of the appellant which the trial Court upheld, discharging the appellant of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and theft contrary to Sections 97(1), 312 and 287 of the Penal Code respectively. The appellant was then only charged for the offence of criminal intimidation contrary to Section 397 of the Penal Code.
The trial Court at the end of the hearing convicted the appellant and sentenced him to a fine of N2,000.00 or 12 months imprisonment in case of default for the offence of criminal intimidation. The appellant dissatisfied appealed to the High Court which affirmed what the trial Court did and the appellant aggrieved appealed to the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division to contest the validity of his conviction and sentence but the Court below agreed with the High Court and further dissatisfied, the appellant has appealed to the Supreme Court.
1. Whether having regard to the totality of the evidence adduced at the trial Court below was right in affirming the conviction and sentence of the appellant.
2. Whether the prosecution has to prove physical injury to sustain the charge of criminal intimidation under Section 397 of the Penal Code.
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1 & 2. ISSUES 1 & 2 WERE RESOLVED IN FAVOUR OF THE RESPONDENT BUT AGAINST THE APPELLANT.
i. The Supreme Court cited the Court of Appeal saying:
The Court of Appeal in re-evaluating what the High Court did in relation to its review of the findings of the trial Court did state as follows: “(i) That the instances cited by the PW1 established the ingredients of the offence of criminal intimidation. (ii) That to ask PW1 to pack out of Lokoja is a threat, as this will diminish his freedom to act voluntarily and to do his business without let and hindrance. (iii) That even when he moved his office to his house, they still followed him there that he must pack out of Lokoja. (iv) That the appellant was usurping the function of the regulatory body. (v) That the appellant went beyond his (sic) boundary by threatening PW1 to pack out of Lokoja. (vi) That the appellant threatened to kill PW1 (vii). That the threat to pack out of Lokoja was a breach of his fundamental right under Section 41, of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. A careful perusal of evidence of PW1 together with the review of the findings of the trial Court would reveal that the lower Court was right to conclude that the offence of criminal intimidation has been proved against the appellant. The PW1 need not suffer any physical injury before it could be said that the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt borne out by credible evidence.”
ii. The appellant had wanted this Court to upset what the Court below did on the ground that the conviction of the trial Court which the High Court affirmed was based on the testimony of a sole witness, PW1. It is now settled law that the prosecution is not under any obligation to call a host of witnesses with whom it can prove the guilt of the accused appellant. This is because the fact that PW1 was the victim does not make out a necessity or need for an independent witness as in human dealings an alleged threat can emanate in a transaction between just two persons, one the person making the threat and the other, the person to whom it is made. To put across that once there is no other witness apart from the complainant, the offence cannot be established is to negate the intendment of the law and to give free hand to a person to dish out threats irrespective of the effects, injury or damage to the person and the perpetrator go scot free. It is to be reiterated that once the sole witness has proffered credible evidence uncontradicted and sufficient to satisfy the Court that the burden of proof has been discharged, the fact that that single witness is the complainant is of no moment.
⦿ SOME PROVISION(S)
⦿ RELEVANT CASE(S)
⦿ CASE(S) RELATED
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
It is to be noted that the onus is always on the prosecution to prove all the ingredients of the offences charged and the standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt in keeping with Section 135 (1) of the Evidence Act, 2011 as amended. – Peter-Odili, JSC. Chidozie v. C.O.P (2018)
Also to be stated is that the angle taken by the appellant that the prosecution and later the trial Court relied on the evidence of PW1 alone, is a stand point that would not stand the test of the law or practice as a Court can convict on evidence of one single witness whose testimony can be believed given the circumstances of the case. That is to say that a sole credible witness can establish a case beyond reasonable doubt, particularly in circumstances where no corroboration is required. – Peter-Odili, JSC. Chidozie v. C.O.P (2018)
That is not to say proof with absolute certainty, but what is required is that the ingredients of the offense charged are proved as expected or required by law and to the satisfaction of the Court. This onus in a criminal trial rests throughout the proceedings on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, it is not akin to proof beyond the shadow of doubt. – Peter-Odili, JSC. Chidozie v. C.O.P (2018)
To posit that the prosecution to prove criminal intimidation needs establish physical injury is a pedestrian viewpoint if I might humbly say so. This is because the need for the proof of a personal physical injury suffered by the complainant and in this case the PW1 is not an element or ingredient of the offence of criminal intimidation in establishing it as an offence worthy of conviction. It is enough if the prosecution is able to establish that the accused and in this case the appellant made a threat by which the victim is thrown into fear of a harm to himself or any other person of an instant harm. What the prosecution needs to prove are: a. That the accused threatened the complainant or some other persons. b. That the threat was of some injuries to him. c. That it was given to cause alarm to him or to cause him not to do or omit to do any act which he is legally entitled to or not bound to do. – Peter-Odili, JSC. Chidozie v. C.O.P (2018)
My attention has been attracted by the submission of the learned counsel for the appellant when he raised some insinuations or sentiments that the trial Court relied only on the testimony of one witness i.e the PW1, to convict the appellant. With due defence to the learned counsel, once the prosecution was able to discharge its burden of proof of the offence charged, the Court of trial can convict the accused even on evidence of a single witness as in this instant case. – Sanusi, JSC. Chidozie v. C.O.P (2018)