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Blessing Maduka Okoro Vs The State (1972) LLJR-SC

Blessing Maduka Okoro Vs The State (1972)

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We now give our reasons for dismissing this appeal summarily on the 21st September, 1972. The appellant was convicted by Inko-Tariah, J., (High Court, Port Harcourt, Rivers State) of the murder of one Merinah Joshua at Owube-Ekpeshe farm in Ahoada Division of Port Harcourt.

At his trial, seven witnesses gave evidence for the prosecution and the appellant himself gave evidence in his own defence. One of the prosecution witnesses, Joshua Orji, was the husband of Merinah and he testified that some five days after his wife had gone to her farm and did not return, about five policemen brought the appellant with them to his house. He stated in his evidence as follows:-

“The five policemen and accused invited me to the farm where my wife went to harvest yams and cocoyams. In the farm the accused took the policemen and me to a pond where he dumped the body of my wife; it was in the thick area of the bush. The accused showed the pond to us; it was full with water and accused told the Police and me that after he had killed my wife he carried her on his shoulder and dumped her body into the pond.”

The witness further testified that the appellant and one Richard Azoku (3rd P.W.) has earlier on quarrelled with him because they said the charm which, as a native doctor, he had made for them for securing the love of the opposite sex did not work and wanted back their deposits of 10/- each which he would not give up.

Richard Azoku himself was the 3rd prosecution witness and he testified that whilst he was locked up in the same police cell with the appellant he, i.e. the appellant, had confessed to him that it was he who had killed the woman Merinah Joshua. He stated that the appellant told him that he had killed Merinah with his hand by hitting her jaw with a heavy blow and after killing her he tied her body to a log of wood and carried and dropped it into the water of the pond.

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One of those who had dived into the pond whither the appellant had taken the police and company, was Benjamin Number (4th P.W.) and he described how he and one David had dived into the pond which the appellant had shown them as the place where he had dumped the corpse of Merinah and recovered that corpse in the presence of the appellant.

Soon after the arrest of the appellant, he made a confessional statement to the investigating police-officer, Sunday Marcus (5th P.W.) who took him to the Assistant Superintendent of Police, Moses Adesanya Aina (2nd P.W.), before whom the appellant confirmed the voluntariness and correctness of the statement.

The statement was admitted in evidence at his trial as Exhibit B. In the statement, Exhibit B, the appellant said that he had killed Merinah by dealing her a heavy blow on her face near the ear because she had resisted his stealing yams from her farm and had threatened to report to the whole town that he, i.e. the appellant, he had come to steal yams from her farm. Before making the statement Exhibit B, he had made another statement to the Police in which he denied killing the deceased and stated that he was arrested by the Police soon after he had a quarrel with Joshua Orji (1st P.W.), about the inefficacy of the charm he had made for him. This statement was admitted in evidence as Exhibit D. Apart from Exhibits B and D, the appellant also made another statement, Exhibit C, and in Exhibit C he confessed that he was the only one that had killed the deceased. As stated before, the appellant gave evidence at his trial in his defence.

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In the course of that evidence he denied making the statement Exhibit B, denied killing the deceased or confessing to the killing and told a different story of his own differences with Richard Azoku (3rd P.W.). He admitted having taken the policemen to the stream where they found the corpse of Merinah, but explained that he did so because it was he who had earlier on discovered the skull of a human being in that stream whilst he was fishing therein. In a reserved judgment, the learned trial Judge considered that the statements Exhibits B and C were voluntary expressions of the appellant of his own guilt and commented thus:-

“On the facts before me I find that the deceased Merianah Joshua died by the voluntary act of the accused. To kill another person in order to conceal an act of felony such as this constituted the offence of murder.”

Earlier on in the judgment, the learned trial judge had reviewed the evidence given at the trial. He had considered the effect of the statements of the appellant on the other facts of the case, the evidence of which he had accepted. He observed thus:-

“On an examination of the evidence for prosecution and defence, I believe that the accused confessed to killing the deceased while he and prosecution witness 3 were in the cell and it is an admissible evidence which I have accepted. Accused’s statements Exhibits ‘B’ and ‘C’ coupled with his leading the way to the pond where the skull and skeleton were recovered show and point out to that indisputable conclusion that accused killed her. Accused made Exhibit ‘D’ in an attempt to wriggle out a difficult situation; I do not accept the contents of Exhibit ‘D’ on his denial of the offence.”

He therefore convicted the appellant of murder as charged and sentenced him to death. The appellant appealed to this court against the conviction and, as stated before, we dismissed his appeal summarily. Before us on appeal, learned counsel assigned to argue the appeal had nothing useful to urge in favour of the appellant.

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The facts of the case are despicable and portray the barbarous reaction of a bully to the threats of his exposure for his own transgressions. The learned trial Judge, rightly in our view, considered and rejected the defences of self-defence and provocation put forward on behalf of the appellant at his trial and expressed the view that he did not consider “these defences appropriate in this case.”

The appeal had no merits whatsoever, so we dismissed it as stated.

Other Citation: (1972) LCN/1250(SC)

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