➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Sirajo Muhammed Dondos v. The State (2021) – SC
by PipAr Chima
Supreme Court – SC.905/2014
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, January 29, 2021
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF ARMED ROBBERY
In a case of armed robbery such as the one under discourse, it is incumbent on the prosecution to prove the essential elements of the offence which are as follows: – 1. That there was a robbery or series of robberies; 2. That each robbery was an armed robbery i.e., stealing plus violence with a weapon or arms 3. That the accused/appellant was one of those who took part in the armed robbery. – Peter-Odili, JSC.
⦿ REASON WHY NOT TO INTERFERE IN CONCURRENT FINDINGS
True, it has long been established that this Court, generally speaking, should not interfere with findings of facts by lower Courts. The reason is simple. In the first place, the trial Courts had the unique opportunity of seeing and hearing the witnesses give evidence. They not only see the witnesses, they equally observe all their habits and mannerisms. These include their demeanour and idiosyncrasies. As a corollary to these peculiar advantages, the Law anticipates that they should utilize all their judicial competence; competence or skill rooted or anchored on law and commonsense to evaluate the evidence by eliminating the chaff from the grain of probative evidence. Proper conclusions which a reasonable Court ought to arrive at, expectedly or ideally, should eventuate from that rigorous exercise. The lower Court, upon being persuaded by such findings, would endorse them as concurrent. – Chima Centus, JSC.
⦿ WHAT MAKES A DECISION PERVERSE
In all then, a decision is said to be perverse: (a) When it runs counter to the evidence; or (b) Where it has been shown that the trial Court took into account matters which it ought not to have taken into account or shut its eyes to the obvious; or (c) When it has occasioned a miscarriage of justice. – Chima Centus, JSC
Sirajo Muhammed Dondos
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
Dr. Adekunle Oladapo Otitoju.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
Emeka Obegolu Esq.
➥ CASE HISTORY
This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division or lower Court or Court below; Coram: Abdu Aboki J.C.A. (as he then was), Theresa Ngolika Orji Abadua, Ita G. Mbaba J.J.C.A. delivered on the 30th day of May, 2014, wherein the lower Court confirmed the decision of the Katsina State High Court which convicted the appellant for the offence of armed robbery and sentenced him to death with two other accused persons.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether having regards to the available evidence and the entire circumstance surrounding the matter, the lower Court was right to affirm the decision of the trial Court in this matter.
RULING: IN APPELLANT’S FAVOUR.
I.A. The decision of the trial Court which was anchored on Exhibit B, the confessional statement was affirmed by the Court below in circumstances which left some questions unanswered. This is because there arose the issue of the statement having been obtained by torture including a gun shot on the leg and threats on the appellant which induced him to sign the Exhibit B as his. Those facts were elicited during the proceedings at the trial within trial.
The situation therefore brings to mind the fact that a confession is irrelevant in a criminal proceedings if the making of the confessional has been caused by inducement, threat, promise or torture having reference to the charge against the accused person proceeding from a person in authority as the case in hand thereby raising the issue if the admission of the said confessional statement was not improper and having been admitted ought to be expunged. See Inusa Saidu v State (1982) 2 SC 26 at 36. Again, to be said is that the truth of Exhibit B was not examined by both the trial Court and the lower Court and the evidence elicited during the mini trial was enough to render the said exhibit unreliable and the situation in this case become more dire with the sole reliance on the said doubtful confession to support the conviction of the appellant.
The point is all the more crucial as there is corroborative evidence from DW5 and appellant that the appellant had wounds and blood all over him while with the police at the time Exhibit B was obtained from him and this critical piece of evidence was not challenged or controverted by the police at the trial thus providing a curious scenario as to why the Court of trial believed and relied on it. This runs counter to the principle that evidence not challenged is taken as admitted by the opposing party.
I.B. It needs be reiterated that the law still remains as it is to the effect that in ascertaining the truthfulness or otherwise of a confessional statement, the Court is enjoined to seek any other evidence of circumstances which make it possible if the confession is true and in this instance that principle was not applied by either of the two Courts below and so leaves me without option than to hold Exhibit B, an unreliable piece of evidence that cannot on its own sustain a conviction.
I.C. Of note is that the ingredients of the offence must co-exist and proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction. In the case at hand, the prosecution failed woefully to dislodge the doubt the defence implanted both at the trial within trial as to the involuntariness of the Exhibit B, the confessional statement and during the defence when the defence witnesses testified avowing that the extra-judicial confessional statement was obtained involuntarily through blood shed when appellant was shot in the leg and through oppression, inducement and threats. Those assertions were not debunked by any cross-examination. In fact, they were left unchallenged.
I.D. It can be seen clearly that the statement of the accused persons where obtained by force through threat, under duress by inflicting bodily harm on them which resulted in death of one Mannir. The alleged confessional statement cannot stand the test of admissibility for being unreliable under this circumstance. The accused signed the statement given to them so that the torture and beating would stop; human instinct would always find a way to preserve its existence in the glaring face of death and acceptance and signing a statement made by another would mean preservation of life at least they will not die like their co-accused who died and was buried and nothing came out of it. Clearly, what is evident is that the exceptional circumstances that would make the Supreme Court disregard its policy of not intervening in concurrent findings have made themselves available here, leaving the Court no option than to resolve the doubts that are present in favour of the appellant in line with the decision in Yav v State (2005) 2 NWLR (pt. 917) 1 at 25; Shekete v The Nigerian Airforce (2000) 15 NWLR (pt. 692) 868 at 880-881.
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
This decision is not complete unless an order is made directing the relevant prosecutorial authorities to immediately investigate and prosecute if necessary, the circumstances of the brutality to the appellant by the PW.1. All the Police Officers responsible for the alleged shooting and killing of one Mannir in the Police Cell shall also be brought to book. The counsel for the respondent, Emeka Obegolu, Esq., is hereby directed to convey the duly certified copies of this judgment to the Inspector-General of Police and the relevant State authorities including the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Police of the State. The Appellant’s Counsel, Dr. Adekunle Oladapo Otitoju shall collaborate with the respondent’s Counsel to ensure that the order is effectively carried out. – Ejembi Eko, JSC.
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)