⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Suraju Olanrewaju v. The State (2020) – SC
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Paul Adamu Galumje, J.S.C.
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
⦿ FACT (as relating to the issues)
The Appellant and one Lekan Olatayo together with one Fatai Ademola were living and sharing one-bedroom apartment at Oke Abesu, Osogbo sometimes in June, 2006. A girl, by name Bilkisu Adeyemi, who was said to be a girl friend to Fatai Ademola joined them and was sharing the same room with the three persons. On the 31st May, 2005, at about 1:00a.m after Fatai Ademola had had sexual intercourse with Bilkisu and slept off, the Appellant and Lekan Olatayo forcefully had sexual intercourse with Bilkisu. In order to prevent her from shouting they decided to block her mouth with bread. The blockage of her mouth lead to suffocation and subsequently her death. The Appellant in this appeal is neither questioning the facts of the case as disclosed before the trial Court nor is he questioning the evidence led before the trial Court. His complaint is that the Appellant was not properly arraigned before the trial Court, as such the trial that led to his conviction was a nullity, and that the lower Court acted in error when it affirmed the decision of the trial Court.
The Appellant herein along with one Lekan Olatayo were arraigned before the High Court of Osun State of Nigeria on a two count charge of conspiracy to commit murder and murder of Bilikisu Adeyemi contrary to Sections 324 and 319(1) of the Criminal Code, Cap 34 volume 11, Laws of Osun State 2003.
When the charge was read and explained to them, they pleaded not guilty. In order to establish its case, the prosecution called three witnesses and tendered in evidence the statements of the accused persons which were confessional in nature. The two accused persons through their counsel objected to the admissibility of the statements on the ground that they were not voluntarily obtained. A trial within trial was conducted after which the learned trial Judge admitted the statements in evidence and marked them exhibits P1 and P2. At the end of the trial and in a reserved and considered judgment delivered on the 13th January, 2014 the two accused persons were found guilty as charged. For the first count, they were cautioned and discharged. For the 2nd count they were each sentenced to death by hanging by the neck.
The Appellant herein unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Appeal, Akure Division.
His notice of Appeal before this Court, dated 26th February, 2016 and filed on the 1st of March 2016 contains two grounds of appeal.
1. Whether the trial Court and the lower Court observed all the requirement of the law before convicting the Appellant?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
1. Issue 1 was resolved in favour of the Respondent, and against the Appellant.
i. The supplementary record of the trial Court clearly shows that the Appellant was in Court and was fully represented by Mr. Ukaegbu, his learned Counsel on 13th November, 2007. The trial Court’s record also shows that the charge was read and explained to the Appellant in English Language and was interpreted into Yoruba language, and the Appellant was asked to plead thereto. The fact that the name of the interpreter was not recorded does not render the proceeding a nullity.
ii. In the instant case, the accused did not displace the presumption of regularity of the proceedings, as such, I am of the view that the trial Court did provide interpreter at the subsequent proceedings after the arraignment of the Appellant. Learned Counsel for the Appellant has failed to make out a case that will warrant my interference with the concurrent findings of facts by the trial Court and the Court of Appeal. The sole issue formulated by the Appellant is resolved against him. Having so resolved the only issue against the Appellant, this appeal shall be and it is hereby dismissed. The conviction and sentence passed on the Appellant, which was affirmed by the lower Court, is further affirmed by me.
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Osun State discloses that for a proper arraignment of an accused person before a trial Court, three essential elements must be satisfied in the following order: 1. The accused person shall be placed before the Court unfettered unless the Court shall see cause to otherwise order. 2. The charge or information shall be read and explained to him in the language he understands to the satisfaction of the Court by the registrar or other officer of the court; and 3. The accused person shall then be called upon to plead instantly thereto unless objection in respect of writ of service of a copy of the information is successfully taken.
⦿ RELEVANT CASES
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
Arraignment is not a matter of mere technicality. It is a very important initial step in the trial of a person on a criminal charge. Where there is no proper arraignment, any subsequent trial is a nullity, no matter the strength or cogency of the evidence adduced by the prosecution. – Galumje, J.S.C. Olanrewaju v. State (2020)
Where an interpreter is provided at the arraignment of the accused, and the record does not show that interpreter was provided at the subsequent proceedings, there is presumption of regularity that interpreter was provided during subsequent daily proceedings, unless the accused is able to prove otherwise. – Galumje, J.S.C. Olanrewaju v. State (2020)
Each case is decided on its peculiar circumstance. – Ejembi Eko, J.S.C. Olanrewaju v. State (2020)