➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
The State v Sani Ibrahim (2019) – SC
by “PipAr” B.C. Chima
Supreme Court – SC.1097/2016
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, 18th January, 2019
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT DEPENDS ON THE QUALITY OF WITNESSES
It is a settled principle of law that in criminal proceedings the prosecution must establish the guilt of the accused person beyond reasonable doubt. It is also well settled that proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond the shadow of a doubt or beyond any iota of doubt. If the prosecution has led evidence that is cogent, credible and compelling, which points irresistibly to the guilt of the accused, it would have discharged the burden. Proof beyond reasonable doubt depends not on the quantity of witnesses for the prosecution but upon the quality of the evidence given. — K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, JSC.
⦿ CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT SHOULD BE OBJECTED TO WHEN SOUGHT TO BE TENDERED
It must also be stated that the time to object to the voluntariness of a confessional statement is when it is sought to be tendered and not after it has been admitted in evidence. See: Godsgift Vs The State (2016) LPELR-40540 (SC) 5 31 B C; Olalekan Vs The State (2002) 2 SCNJ 104; Muhammad Vs The State (2017) LPELR-42098 ISC) g 17 18 C B. — K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, JSC.
⦿ INGREDIENTS TO PROVE CULPABLE HOMICIDE
In order to prove the offence of culpable homicide punishable with death under Section 221(b) of the Penal Code, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt: a. the death of a human being; b. that the death resulted from the act of the accused person; c. that the act or omission of the accused which caused the death of the deceased was intentional with the knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm would be its probable consequence. See: Maiyaki Vs The State (2008) 7 SC 128 @ 129; Usman Vs The State (2013) 12 NWLR (Pt.1367) 76; Ismail Vs The State (2011) LPELR9352 (SC) @ 18 – 19 F C. — K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, JSC.
⦿ A RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT MUST BE CORROBORATED TO BE ADMISSIBLE
The Respondent subsequently retracted Exhibits C & C 1. A retracted confessional statement is nonetheless admissible in evidence. The practice however is to look for some corroborative evidence outside the confession which makes the fact of the making of the confession credible and reliable before the Court relies on it to convict the accused, the maker. This practice which has come to be known as the “SYKE’S RULE”, following R. v. SYKES (1913) 8 Cr. App Report 233, has since become part of our criminal law jurisprudence, it having been cited with approval in several cases including UBIERHO v. THE STATE (2005) 5 NWLR (pt. 919) 644; FABIYI v. THE STATE (2015) LPELR 24834 (SC). The Rule ensures that the trial Court must properly satisfy itself that the retracted confession was infact made truly and voluntarily by the accused person. — Ejembi Eko, JSC.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Kudirat Motonmori Olatokunbo Kekere-Ekun, JSC
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
Fredricks E. Itula Esq.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
G.C. Ugochukwu, Esq.
➥ CASE HISTORY
The accused persons were arraigned on 21st June, 2005. They pleaded not guilty to each of the counts. The appellant was the 1st accused. The deceased who was a night guard at Mazado Timber Factory, was allegedly beaten and slaughtered to death by the appellant and his co-accused. The prosecution’s case was based, essentially, on the confessional statements of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th accused persons and Exhibit L, the post mortem report. The medical doctor, though summoned, did not attend Court to testify. The knife allegedly used in the commission of the offence was tendered but rejected.
At the conclusion of the trial, the appellant and his co-accused, except the 6th accused who had died in the course of the hearing, were found guilty on both counts and sentenced to death. They appealed against their conviction and sentence to the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division. The Court set aside the judgment of the trial Court and acquitted and discharged the appellants. It held that the confessional statements relied upon by the trial Court did not meet the credibility test; that Exhibit L as to the cause of death was in conflict with the alleged confessions of slaughtering the deceased; that the evidence of the appellants as to how and where they were arrested was contrary to the evidence of PW6 who said he arrested them all at Gidan Nama around 3am while they were asleep.
The State was dissatisfied with the judgment and has appealed to this Court vide its notice of appeal dated 9/7/15 containing four grounds of appeal.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether the lower Court was right to set aside the trial Court’s conviction and sentence of death passed on the respondent and substituting an order of discharge and acquittal?
RULING: IN APPELLANT’S FAVOUR.
A. “In the instant case, there were 6 accused persons standing trial. Their confessional statements were admissible against each of them and the Court was entitled to consider the evidence outside those statements, which made it probable that they were true. What the Court found was that each accused separately gave details of what transpired and named their co-accused. The Court found that the individual statements tallied with other evidence led by the prosecution. Indeed, the lower Court was of the same opinion. I refer to page 172 of the record. The submission of learned counsel for the respondent that the lower Court relied on the confessional statements of his co-accused to convict the respondent, is misconceived. I am inclined to agree with learned counsel for the appellant, that the lower Court erred in holding that Exhibits C and C1 could not be relied upon because they did not contain the respondent’s personal information. No such objection was raised when the statements were tendered in evidence. It was never contended that the statements were not made voluntarily. Furthermore, the learned trial Judge had properly subjected the statements to the relevant test and found the confession to be true.”
B. “It is pertinent to observe that the comments made by the lower Court regarding the state of the knife allegedly recovered from the respondent were made obiter. This is because the knife was tendered and rejected and therefore did not form part of the prosecution’s case. It was not before the Court. Any comments on its condition are speculative and not borne out by the record. The Court’s observations in this regard must be and are hereby discountenanced.”
“I am therefore in agreement with learned counsel for the appellant that the lower Court erred when it set aside the respondent’s conviction and sentence. I hold that there is merit in this appeal. It is accordingly allowed. The judgment of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division, delivered on 12/6/2015 acquiting and discharging the respondent is hereby set aside. The judgment of the High Court of Katsina State delivered on 6/5/2009 convicting the appellant of culpable homicide punishable with death under Section 221 (b) of the Penal Code and common intention to steal contrary to Section 2 (2) (b) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act, and the sentence of death and life imprisonment respectively imposed on him, are hereby restore.”
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)