Agboroma Iteraye & Anor. V. The State (1984) LLJR-SC

Agboroma Iteraye & Anor. V. The State (1984)

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The appellants were convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The Court of Appeal affirmed the convictions.

The facts found by the trial court show that the deceased in company of one other man were suspected to be thieves and were arrested by a crowd armed with cutlasses; both were led away by the crowd and their beheaded bodies were later discovered.

The 1st appellant was identified by PW4 and PW12 as being one of the members of the crowd that held the deceased and led him away. A matchet stained with human blood was found in the house of the 1st appellant after the incident.

The trial judge treated PW4 as an accomplice but found his evidence was corroborated by PW9 and the blood stained matchet. At the hearing of the appeal before us learned counsel for the appellant has nothing to urge in his favour. I am satisfied the appeal of the 1st appellant has no merit. It is dismissed.

In respect of the 2nd appellant, PW4 and PW7 who the trial judge regarded as accomplices identified the 2nd appellant as being a member of the crowd that led away the deceased. A matchet stained with human blood was found later in the 2nd appellant’s house; in his statement to the police which he retracted at the trial, he admitted having visited the scene where the suspected thieves were arrested at the night in question.

He went with his matchet but said that he did not follow the crowd. He returned to his house. At the trial, he put up a defence of alibi which was destroyed by his own witnesses. The trial judge treated the sum total of the circumstancial evidence against the 2nd appellant as corroborative evidence and convicted the 2nd appellant. The only issue canvassed at the hearing of the appeal before us is that there is no sufficient corroborative evidence to sustain the conviction.

I am satisfied the blood stained matchet, the 2nd appellant’s confession that he was at the scene with his matchet and the total failure of his alibi constitute sufficient corroboration of the evidence of the accomplices to warrant his conviction. His appeal is accordingly dismissed.

Convictions and sentences are affirmed.

ESO, J.S.C.: This is a most unfortunate incident. It depicts barbaric ritual, the like that should never be heard of in this generation. The two appellants were convicted of the murder of Jasper by the High Court at Ughelli, Bendel State and sentenced to death for the murder of Jasper, Jasper’s head was decapitated.

They both appealed to the Court of Appeal which court after hearing arguments dismissed their appeals. Now they have appealed to this court. The learned Senior Advocate representing the appellants has submitted and rightly, in my view, that there is nothing that could be usefully urged in favour of the 1st appellant. The evidence of the 4th and 7th witnesses for the prosecution was evidence from accomplices but then there was the 12th PW.

He cannot be classified as an accomplice. The judge believed his evidence to the effect that he saw the appellant (that is the 1st appellant) as being one of the people who held a “suspected thief” (that was Jasper) thus establishing the presence of the appellant at the scene of the killing. A matchet with human blood stains (exhibit 5) was also found in his house. There was sufficient evidence to convict the 1st appellant and I hold he was rightly convicted.

It was in regard to the 2nd appellant that learned Senior Advocate put up a lusty plea. He contended that the two witnesses P.W.4 and P.w.7 who gave evidence against this appellant were accomplices. This is in fact so. What is necessary here is whether there has been adequate corroboration of the evidence of these accomplices whose evidence was believed by the learned trial judge. There was found in the house of the 2nd appellant, a matchet which is stained with human blood, there was the denial of the appellant that he was in that area with a matchet when in fact, he later admitted he was, there was the alibi of the appellant which he himself destroyed. All these I think afforded adequate corroboration of the evidence of the accomplices 4th and 7th. In other words, there was circumstantial evidence of his presence, the matchet having human blood stains and his lies that he was not in the vicinity at all in a place where Jasper was killed and his head decapitated.

There is sufficient evidence before the learned trial judge therefore, for coming to his conclusion that the appellant was guilty of the offence of murder of Jasper. The Court of Appeal was right in dismissing the appeal of the appellants.

I will dismiss the appeal and affirm the conviction and sentence passed on both appellants.

ANIAGOLU, J.S.C.: There is indeed no merit in this appeal. The deceased was killed at Evwreni in Ughelli Judicial Division by the villagers who claimed he was a thief. They cut off his head. The trial judge believed the general story. The only issue was whether there was corroboration. Both courts below were satisfied as to the guilt of the 2nd appellant upon the facts and circumstances of this case.

There was the fact of the matchet which was blood-stained, being found in the house of the 2nd appellant; then there was the alibi put up by the 2nd appellant which he, himself, proceeded to destroy in his testimony. In exhibit B1 the appellant stated that he went to the scene with a “cutlass” and that he went to Okoloba before the incident. This he later changed to “after” the incident.

One aspect of this case which is worth remembering although it does not form part of the submissions, is that if in fact the killing was done by the Ogbu Society in ritual sacrifice as the Principal State Counsel has asked us to believe, then the members of the Society could be seen as acting in concert in the killing of the deceased.

The 2nd appellant was a member of this Society. In exhibit B1, at page 170 of the record, he said:

“I am a holder of Ogbu title. The eagle feather and the long cutlass recovered from my house are my own. The eagle feather and the cutlass are the instrument of Ogbu office”. Appellant’s counsel rightly did not challenge the conviction of the 1st appellant.

I agree that this appeal should be dismissed and is hereby dismissed. The judgment of the Court of Appeal is hereby affirmed.

NNAMANI, J.S.C.: The two appellants were among 11 accused persons charged with the murder of one Jasper Tokunbo. The prosecution case was substantially that there was a mock alarm about Jasper and 1 other being thieves and that they were killed and were decapitated. At the end of the trial the learned trial judge discharged and acquitted 9 of the accused persons and only convicted the appellants. With respect to the 1st appellant, I agree with the submission of both learned counsel that there is nothing that can be usefully urged in his favour. The main witnesses against him were PW4, PW7, PW9 and Pw12. In substance the witnesses saw him at the scene of crime. Later he was seen carrying a human head and shouting “Erawo, Komu! Osue!!” indicating that a gorilla or a human being had been killed. The learned trial judge disregarded the evidence of PW9 but there was still substantial evidence against him. Although the learned trial judge found PW4 and PW7 to be accomplices, he treated them as such and duly warned himself. He sought for and found corroboration in the blood stained matchet found in the house of the 1st appellant.

It is in regard to the 2nd appellant that learned Senior Advocate has submitted that the circumstantial evidence such as there was does not point irresistibly to this guilt. He further submitted that the little blood stain found on the matchet recovered from the 2nd appellant’s house was not enough corroboration of the evidence of PW4 and PW7, who were accomplices, a fact. The human blood found on Exh. T, he said, was nowhere traced to be that of Jasper Tokunbo.

Having given these submissions very deep and anxious consideration, it is my view that the circumstantial evidence available is enough to satisfy me that the learned trial judge was right in convicting him. One has to take the whole circumstances of this case to come to this conclusion. The only evidence against the 2nd appellant was admittedly that of PW4 and PW7. The learned trial judge sought for and found corroboration of this evidence from the circumstances of the case.

There was the matchet Exh.T which was found in the house of the 2nd appellant so close to the date of this incident I do not put so much emphasis on the quantity of blood found on it but rather on the fact that the blood was human blood. There is also the fact that on the night of the incident the 2nd appellant dashed out of his house on hearing the so-called alarm with cutlass – admitted in his statement to the police but which he belatedly denied in court. It is significant that in defence to this crime the 2nd appellant set up an alibi claiming that he, on a day previous to the day of the incident, travelled to Okoloba village. He later retracted this to say he travelled after the incident. I am inclined to view this lie as something which could be regarded as corroborative of the testimony of PW4 and PW7.

In the circumstances, I am of the view that the learned trial judge was right in convicting the 2nd appellant. The Court of Appeal again considered the evidence and the points of law raised and affirmed the conviction and sentence of the two appellants. This appeal in my view lacks merit and I would dismiss it. I further affirm the conviction and sentence passed on the two appellants by the High Court and affirmed by the Court of Appeal.

UWAIS, J.S.C.: I agree with the reasons given and conclusion reached by my learned brother Bello, J.S.C. The evidence against the 1st appellant was overwhelming and I think both counsel are right in submitting that there is nothing useful to be urged in favour of his appeal. In the case of the 2nd appellant, the contention of Mr. Akinrele, learned senior advocate was that there was no corroboration to the evidence of P.w.4 and P.w.7 who, being accomplices, incriminated the 2nd appellant. He said that the blood stain found on exhibit T (the cutlass found in the room of the 2nd appellant) was not proved to be the blood of the deceased.

With respect I disagree. There is evidence in the statement made to the police by the 2nd appellant, that is exhibit B1, in which he said that he was together with others at the scene where the deceased was arrested and that he (2nd appellant) had exhibit T with him. Another material fact which corroborated the evidence of P.w4 and P.w.7 was the admission by the 2nd appellant in exhibit B1 – that he was present at the scene where the deceased was caught as a thief.

I am therefore satisfied that although P.w4 and P.w.7 were accomplices, their evidence was sufficiently corroborated. The learned trial judge was therefore right in convicting the 2nd appellant of murder.

Consequently I agree that the appeal of both the 1st and 2nd appellants be dismissed and the decision of the Court of Appeal affirming the convictions and sentences imposed by the trial Court be confirmed.

Appeal dismissed.


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