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Conviction On The Evidence Of A Lone Witness

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Abeke Onafowokan V. State

(Exerpts)

 (2006) 2 LC 25

Abeke Onafowokan

            V

The State Supreme Court Of Nigeria

Kayode Eso (presiding)  JSC

Anthony Nnaemezie Aniagolu JSC

Boony Amin Oladiran Kazeem JSC

(Delivered Lead Judgment)

Saidu Kawo              JSC

Chukwodifu Akunne Oputa   JSC

ISSUE

Whether it was proper on the facts of this case for the Court of Appeal to rely on the evidence of P.W. 4. In confirming the conviction of the 1st accused/appellant for murder when the Court of Appeal had held that the evidence of P.W. 2 which is inextricably interwoven with that of P.W. 4 was unreliable and on that basis allowed the appeal of the 2nd accused.

FACTS

In this appeal the appellant was the 1st accused person at the trial. She and her daughter, one Adesunbo Onafowokan, who was then the 2nd accused person, were convicted by Bakare, J. at the High Court of Lagos State for murdering one Ganiyu Shittu, the deceased on 22nd April, 1981 at Lagos. They were both convicted and sentenced to death.

On an appeal to the Court of Appeal in Lagos, against those convictions, the appeal of Adesunbo, the daughter, succeeded on the ground that the case against her was not proved beyond reasonable doubt, and her conviction was quashed. She was thereafter acquitted and discharged. The mother, whose appeal was dismissed (the present Appellant) has further  appealed to the Supreme Court against the decision of the Court of Appeal.

HELD (Unanimously Allowing the Appeal)

It is a cardinal principle of our criminal law that in all cases, the burden of proving that any person has been guilty of a crime or wrongful act, subject to certain exceptions (which are not applicable here), is on the prosecution.

And if the commission of the crime is directly in issue in any civil or criminal proceeding, it must be proved beyond reasonable doubt. See section 137 (1) of the Evidence Act of Lagos State Cap 39 of Laws of Lagos State. Thus in a privy council case of RV. Basil Ranger Lawrence (1932) 11 NLR.6, Lord Atkin at page 7 observed that “it has to be remembered that it is an essential principle of our criminal law that a criminal charge has got to be established by prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.

It should be remembered that the law requires the guilt of an accused person to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and that if there is any lingering  doubt; the accused person must be given the benefit of that doubt – Kazeem JSC.

Proof beyond reasonable doubt will not admit of plausible or fanciful possibilities and use these to defeat the end of justice. It merely admits of a high degree of cogency consistent with an equally high degree of probability.

The courts can act on the evidence of one single witness if that witness can be a majority vote. One solitary credible witness can establish a case beyond reasonable doubt.

But if the evidence of that solitary witness is either incredible (see case of Frank Rice  (1927) 20 CR. App. R. 21), or doubtful given all the surrounding circumstances then the appellate court should hold either that the case was not proved beyond reasonable doubt or that it will  be quite unsafe to convict on that evidence and either way the appeal should be allowed.

It is legally correct that no onus of proof lies on the Appellant. This, however,  should be interpreted to mean that the primary onus of establishing  the case or the guilt of the accused is always on the prosecution except in very special and limited  circumstances like cases of insanity where the law presumes him sane and costs on him the onus of establishing the contrary: Woolmington V. D.P.P. (1935) 25 CR. App. R 72 at p.95. But when the prosecution has made out a prima facie case which if unanswered will lead to his conviction  then the duty of adducing such evidence as would make the jury find any issue in his favour is definitely on the accused – C. A. Oputa, JSC.

 

Mercy Oke –Chinda

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Law/Judiciary

Travel Agent Charged With N1.3m Visa Fraud

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A 40-year-old travel agent, Eze Sunday, was on Monday arraigned at a Yaba Chief Magistrates’ Court in Lagos for allegedly obtaining N1.3 million from a client on the pretext of procuring a Turkey visa for her.
Sunday is facing a three-count charge bordering on conspiracy, stealing and obtaining by false pretences.
The defendant, who resides in Yaba, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The Prosecutor, Mr J.I. Eboseremen, told the court that the defendant committed the offences sometime in January on Association Avenue in Igando, Lagos.
He said that the defendant stole the N1.3 million from the complainant, Miss Charity Obeta, which she gave him through a United Bank of Africa electronic transfer, for her travel logistics.
According to him, the defendant promised to procure a Turkey visa, get a return flight ticket and hotel reservation for Obeta, but failed.
Eboseremen alleged that the defendant absconded with the money and refused to take the complainant’s calls.
“My lord, the complainant’s intended travel date was drawing close but she could not contact the defendant.
“His colleagues at workplace told her that the defendant travelled and did not intend to return to the office.
Obeta reported the case to the police, and the defendant was tracked and arrested,” the prosecutor said.
He said that the alleged offences contravened Sections 411, 314 and 287 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015 (Revised).
The Chief Magistrate, Mrs Oluwatoyin Oghere, released the defendant on bail in the sum of N2 million with two sureties each in like sum.
Oghere said that one of the sureties must be a blood relation of the defendant and reside within the court’s jurisdiction.
She ordered that the sureties must be gainfully employed and show evidence of three years’ tax payment to Lagos State Government.
Oghere adjourned the case until September 11 for trial.

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Remove Nwosu’s Name As Guber Candidate, Court Orders INEC

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The Federal High Court, Abuja, last Monday, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to remove the name of Uche Nwosu as a governorship candidate in the last election held in Imo State.
Justice Inyang Ekwo voided Nwosu’s candidacy on the grounds of double nomination by two political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Action Alliance (AA), in violation of section 37 of the Electoral Act.
The ruling came as Nwosu, a son-in-law to the immediate-past Governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, is currently pursuing an election petition at the state’s Governorship Election Petition Tribunal as the candidate of AA, challenging the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, in the March 11 poll.
In his judgment on Monday, Justice Ekwo upheld the case of the plaintiffs, the Action People’s Party (APP) and its Deputy National Chairman, Mr Uche Nnadi, to the effect that Nwosu’s governorship candidature was null and void on the grounds of multiplicity of nominations as a governorship candidate of both the APC and AA.
According to him, the nomination of Nwosu by AA as a governorship candidate is invalid, null and void, having been made at the pendency of similar nomination of the 2nd defendant (Nwosu) by the All Progressives Congress for the same position.
The judge noted that Nwosu affirmed to be the APC’s governorship candidate in his statement on oath sworn before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
The judge similarly declared that Nwosu “has not been validly nominated by the 3rd defendant (AA) as its governorship candidate for the state governorship election having been made at the pendency of the order of Justice Valentine Ashi of the Abuja High Court recognising the 2nd defendant as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the Imo 2019 governorship election.”
He noted that Nwosu participated in the APC’s primaries held on October 6, 2018 and was subsequently nominated as the party’s governorship candidate.
While laying claim to the APC’s governorship ticket, amidst stiff opposition from members of the party, he was said to have on October 9, 2018, obtained an order of Justice Valentine Ashi (now deceased) of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, recognising him as the valid candidate of the party.
In the midst of this, Nwosu was also offered the ticket of the AA.
In his judgment, Justice Ekwo said, “There is no controversy that, on October 6, 2018, the 2nd defendant (Nwosu) had himself nominated as the governorship candidate of the APC.

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Law/Judiciary

Enugu Police Nab Suspected Armed Robbers, Recover Pistol

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The Enugu State Police Command has nabbed two suspected armed robbers terrorising Abakpa Community in the outskirts of Enugu metropolis.
The police also recovered one locally made Beretta pistol from the suspects.
The Command’s Public Relations Officer, SP Ebere Amaraizu, said this in a statement made available to newsmen yesterday in Enugu.
Amaraizu said that the suspects were arrested on August 16 by Anti-Cult Unit of the command after a raid on a black spot in the community.
He said: “Following an attack on Abakpa Police Division operatives by hoodlums, the Anti-Cultism Unit of Command went on raid at Umuchigbo axis of Abakpa Community.
“The operatives arrested one Chekwube Igwe and one Teddy Otti both of Vikings confraternity, who have been terrorising Abakpa Community and its environs.
“The police operatives also recovered a local pistol from them.’’
The police spokesman said that the suspects had been helping police operatives in their investigation on their nefarious activities.
“They will be charged to court as soon as investigation is over,’’ he said.

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