➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
UMARU SUNDAY v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2018) – SC
by PipAr Chima
Supreme Court – SC. 145/2013
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, December 14, 2018
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Illiteracy Law in confessional statement;
Plea of guilty.
➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ THUMB-IMPRESSION IS PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE OF ILLITERACY
It is trite law that mere thumb-impression on a document tantamount to prima facie as in this instant case, is prima facie evidence that the person who appended his thumb-impression is/was an illiterate. In this case, the appellant has the burden to readily prove to the satisfaction of the court that he is an illiterate. – Sanusi, JSC.
⦿ FREE & VOLUNTARY CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT CAN GROUND CONVICTION
It is trite law that where a person makes a free and voluntary confessional statement which is direct and positive and is properly proved, a trial court can comfortably convict him even on such confessional statement alone, without necessarily looking for any corroborative evidence. – Sanusi, JSC.
⦿ ACCUSED PERSON MUST PLEAD BY HIMSELF
What is required is that the accused person must plead himself. If he pleads through his counsel or through some other person, the trial is a nullity: R v Boyle (1954) 2 QB page 292; R v Ellis (1973) 57 Cr App R.571. – Sanusi, JSC.
⦿ PROPER TIME TO RAISE OBJECTION IS DURING TENDERING
The appropriate time for the Appellant, through his Counsel, to raise objection to the admissibility of Exhibit A, either on the ground of Illiterates (Protection) Law or on the ground of the Appellant’s inability to understand, speak or understand English Language was at the time the prosecutor sought to tender Exhibit A as evidence. The Appellant herein, having lost the vital moment to raise his preliminary objection to Exhibit A at the trial Court, is deemed not to have any objection, a fact made expressly by his counsel, to the admissibility of Exhibit A. – Sanusi, JSC.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Amiru Sanusi, JSC
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
Taiwo Kupolati Esq.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
F. A. Oloruntoba Esq.
➥ CASE HISTORY
The appellant was on 6th June, 2011 arrested with 18kilograms of cannabis sativa (otherwise known and called “Indian Hemp”). Upon his arrest on 7th day of June, 2011 he made an extra judicial statement to the officers and men of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency on 7th June, 2011 which said confessional statement was tendered at the trial court and marked Exhibit A, during his trial.
In the said statement (Exhibit A), the thumb prints or thumb impressions of the accused, now appellant were contained in several pages as means of authentication or owning up of the said statement by the appellant. The appellant, as accused person, was arraigned before the trial court.
His confessional statement was tendered, as well as other exhibits (including the drugs), and he was convicted for 18kilograms of Cannabis Sativa (otherwise known as Indian Hemp) drug similar to Cocaine, Heroin, LSG etc and thereby committed an offence, contrary to and punishable under Section 11C of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N3.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
I. Whether the court below was right when it held that Illiterate Protection Law does not apply to criminal proceedings, hence not applying to the Appellant?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. The lower court went further to state that “Sections 215 and 218 of Criminal Procedure Code and Section 36(6) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provide that where person charged with criminal offence does not understand the language of court, he is entitled to an interpreter who can read and interpret the charge or offence he is charged of committing.”
To my mind, the context of the statement by the lower court quoted above, simply meant that the existence of relevant laws governing or relating to recording of confessional statement of an accused person by police or other law enforcement agents in criminal matters renders the provisions of Illiterate protection law [otiose].
B. The trial court also relied on the voluntary admission of the offence in open court explained to him.
C. In this instant case, it is worthy of note, that the present appellant even though represented by a counsel when his confessional statement Exhibit A issue of illiteracy. Similarly, he did not raise the issue that he did not understand the meaning of or the contents of Exhibit A when same was tendered by the prosecution. He also did not raise the issue of absence of jurat or more importantly, that the statement in question was made by him under duress or inducement or that he required the services of an interpreter to explain its contents to him or even that he did not understand the language of the court. All these failures on the part of the appellant, clearly show that the appellant failed to establish that he is really an illiterate especially if one considers the fact that throughout the duration of the proceedings he never pleaded illiteracy or that he did not understand the contents of Exhibit A.
II. Whether the court below was right to have admitted the confessional statement, Exhibit “A” without the prosecution calling the officer who recorded it in view of “plea of guilty” by the appellant?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. On the complaint on the failure on the part of the prosecution, now respondent, to call the recorder of the statement I think it is only fair to bear in mind and appreciate the fact that the trial court in this appeal conducted short summary trial since the appellant right from the outset admitted committing the offence he was charged with. Immediately after his arrest he confessed committing the crime and chose to make a voluntary confessional statement i.e Exhibit A. Moreso, the appellant never pleaded illiteracy as I stated earlier. Similarly, when arraigned before the trial court, he still maintained his earlier stance by pleading guilty to the charge when same was read and explained to him.
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ DEFINITION OF AN ILLITERATE
In the case of Ntiashagwa V Amodu (1 509) WNLR 273 the word “illiterate” has been defined to mean “a person who is unable to read and understanding and to express his thoughts by writing in the language used in the document made or prepared on his behalf.” This definition was endorsed by Kutigi JSC, later CJN (of blessed memory), in the case of His Highness V.A. Otitoju vs Governor of Ondo State & Ors (1994) SCNJ (pt.II)224 at 234.
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)