➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
State v. Ibrahim (2021) – SC
by PipAr Chima
Supreme Court – SC.200/2016
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, February 12, 2021
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS ADMISSIBLE
My Lords, the position of the law as it stands today is that the signed retracted confessional statement Exh. 7A taken in vernacular is admissible in evidence. What matters is the probative value to be attached to it. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC.
⦿ PERSON WHO INTERPRETED A STATEMENT MUST TENDER IT IN COURT
It is settled that the person or officer who interpreted a statement must tender it in Court so that if necessary, the interpreter can be cross examined on whether the interpreted statement is the correct interpretation of the original words as spoken by the Defendant. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC.
⦿ APPELLATE COURT MUST NOT READ INTO RECORD WHAT IS NOT THERE
This Court had held that an Appellate Court has no jurisdiction to read into the record what is not there and it equally has no jurisdiction to read out of the record what is contained therein. Both are forbidden areas for an Appellate Court. An Appellate Court must read the record in its exact content and interpret it. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC.
⦿ CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT BEING THE BEST STATEMENT FOR CONVICTION
There is no doubt that a confessional statement is the best evidence to prove a crime. It is the evidence of the perpetrator describing why and how the crime was committed. It proves both the mens rea and the actus reus. However, such admission to be solely used to convict a defendant must be voluntarily made and must be a positive and direct admission of guilt. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC.
⦿ RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT MUST PASS THESE TESTS
In other words, the retracted confession must pass the six credibility tests forming part of our criminal jurisprudence which have been established in a long fine of cases referred to above. These are: i. Is there anything outside the confession to show that it is true? ii. Is it corroborated? iii. Are the relevant statements made in it of facts true as far as they can be tested? iv. Was the accused one who had the opportunity of committing murder? v. Is his confession possible? vi. Is it consistent with other facts which have been ascertained and have been proved? – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC.
⦿ INGREDIENTS TO PROVE ARMED ROBBERY
To secure a conviction under Sec. 1(2) (b) of the Robbery & Firearms Act, the following essential ingredients must be proved by the prosecution: i) That there was indeed a robbery or series of robbery. ii) That the robbers were armed with dangerous weapons and iii) That the accused/Defendant was the robber or one of the robbers. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC.
⦿ PROSECUTION ONLY OBLIGED TO CALL VITAL WITNESS
No doubt, the prosecution is only obliged to call witnesses whose evidence is vital to the determination of the case for the prosecution and whose evidence would settle vital points of facts one way or the other to remove any element of doubt in respect of the guilt of the Defendant from the case of the prosecution. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC.
⦿ WHO IS A VITAL WITNESS
A vital witness is a witness whose evidence may determine the case one way or the other and failure to call a vital witness is fatal to the prosecution s case. In other words, a witness who knows something significant about a matter is a vital witness. In Onah v. State (1985) 3 NWLR Pt. 12 Pg.236 a vital witness was described as a witness whose evidence may determine the case one way or the other and it is settled that the failure to call such a witness is fatal to the prosecution’s case. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC.
⦿ ARMED ROBBERY MUST BE RELATED TO SPECIFIC DATE & INCIDENT
Afterall, the charge of armed robbery is not at large, it must be related to a specific incident and date. – H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
Abu Umar Esq.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
Emmanuel Esene Esq.
➥ CASE HISTORY
The Respondent along with five other co-defendants at trial were charged before the Trial Court with the offence of Armed Robbery punishable under Section 1(2)(b) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act, Cap. 398, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990 as amended.
The Respondent was alleged to have robbed one Alh. Ummaru Masanawa (the village head of Sabuwar Kasa) at Sabuwar Kasa village in Kafur Local Government Area of Katsina State of the sum of N30, 000:00 (Thirty Thousand Naira only). The victim died of gunshot wounds inflicted during the robbery.
The Respondent and the other five (5) defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge before the Hon. Justice Sanusi Tukur at the Trial Court. At the trial, eight (8) witnesses testified for the Appellant and some Exhibits were tendered and admitted in evidence. P.W.1, P.W.2 & P.W.6 were relatives of the victim who witnessed the robbery. None of them could identify the robbers. P.W.3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 were Investigating Police Officers who investigated the crime and took statements from all the six defendants. The only evidence against the present Respondent is the statement of a non-witness that he was one of several robbers in the Kaduna Area. The Respondent as the 2nd Defendant on the other hand testified for himself and did not tender any exhibit at the Trial Court.
The Respondent and five others were thereafter found guilty and subsequently convicted and sentenced to death accordingly.
Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Trial Court, the Respondent had appealed to the Court of Appeal (Lower Court) sitting at Kaduna. He was discharged and acquitted by the Lower Court on the 13th November, 2015, Coram Habeeb A.O. Abiru, JCA and Adefope-Okojie, JCA and Amina Wambai, JCA.
Dissatisfied with the said decision, the Appellant- Katsina State Government, has now appealed to this Court.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether there are pieces of evidence outside the retracted confessional statement of the Respondent (Exhibit 7A) warranting him to be convicted solely on it even though he did not sign Exhibit “7B” (Translation of Exhibit 7A).
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
I.A. It is my view that the interpreted version of the statement need not be signed by the Defendant. After all, where the Defendant is the maker of the original statement in Hausa Language and he has duly signed same as had happened in this appeal, whether retracted or not, the interpreted version made by another person (the IPO) need not be signed by the Defendant who was not the maker. By the law of evidence, Exh. 7B was made by the IPO. In other words, it is only essential that the Defendant sign or thumb print the confessional statement in vernacular, to lend credence to its voluntariness, he/she need not sign or thumb print the interpreted version. In short, the two statements are not joined at the hips.
They each stand alone. Exhibit 7A, the confessional statement made in the language of the defendant and the interpreted version made by a Police officer or interpreter as being the correct version of the original. However, the maker of the interpreted version must tender it in Court, failing which it would be regarded as mere documentary hearsay and inadmissible.
Thus, Exhibit 7B, the interpreted version of the statement of the Respondent was admissible and was so properly admitted by the trial Court and the lower Court.
I.B. There is absolutely no scintilla of evidence linking the Respondent to the commission of any crime except the retracted confessional statement. The prosecutorial style of the Nigeria Police, in seeking conviction for serious offences armed with nothing but so called “confessional” statement of the defendant will continue to be deprecated. In this case, the prosecution cannot fall back on any compelling piece of circumstantial evidence which is not cogent and irresistible enough to prove that the Respondent participated in the commission of the offence with which he was charged and convicted.
II. Whether Idris Abdullahi and Danbuzu said to be mentioned by PW3 and PW5 are vital witnesses who ought to have been called by the Appellant and failure to call them is detrimental to the Appellant’s case, casting doubt in the mind of the Court.
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
II.A. Even if Idris Abdullahi to whom the vehicle was traced had been merely an informant of the Police, where he witnessed a scene of crime and told the police, the prosecution would have been obliged to call him to give evidence. Where he gave general information as in this case, the Police would be obliged to investigate the veracity of the information before arresting the Respondent. The Respondent was arrested on the word of one Idris Abdullahi who was not charged or called to give evidence on oath. No evidence linked the particular Ford owned by the Respondent to the Ford vehicle owned by Danbuzu (also arrested but not charged). I agree with the Lower Court that Idris Abdullahi and Danbuzu should have been called to supply the missing link between the Respondent, the Ford vehicle which appeared from nowhere and was supposedly used to commit the offence and the commission of the offence. Idris Abdullahi might have been able to supply the evidence linking the Respondent with the particular offence with which he could have been successfully charged and convicted. Afterall, the charge of armed robbery is not at large, it must be related to a specific incident and date. I must commend the erudite and thorough lead judgment of Wambai JCA.
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)