N. M. Ali & Anor V. The State (1988)
LawGlobal-Hub Lead Judgment Report
B. CRAIG, J.S.C.
The two Appellants herein were charged before the Shaki High Court in Oyo State with murder contrary to Section 254 (4) of the Criminal Code Cap.28 of the Laws of Western Region of Nigeria 1959 made applicable to Oyo State.
The particulars on the indictment were that on the 3rd day of September 1981 along Sapeteri/Igboho Road, in the Shaki Judicial Division they murdered one Mr. S.O. Ogundare, a Superintendent of Police. Altogether 10 witnesses testified for the State and at the close of the case for the prosecution the appellants’ Counsel announced that the defendants would not give evidence on oath, but would rest their case on that of the prosecution.
At the conclusion of the whole case, the learned trial Judge (Adeniran, J.W in a reserved judgment considered the evidence before him and found the appellants guilty as charged. The appellants were dissatisfied with that judgment and appealed to the Court of Appeal on various grounds of appeal, which included some on the facts.
The Court of Appeal in a well considered judgment looked carefully into the complaints of the Appellants and came to the conclusion that the appeal lacked merit and therefore dismissed it.
The appellants have appealed further to this court on one original ground of appeal but with the leave of the court they have filed three additional grounds. Essentially these three grounds are similar to those which were canvassed before the court of appeal and they are as follows:
The learned trial Judge and the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and on the facts of the case when in convicting the appellants they relied solely on the testimony of Rasaki Lalemi. The 5 P.W. to the exclusion of other independent, material and available eye witnesses.
PARTICULARS OF ERROR
1) The Testimony of Rasaki Lalemi does not induce belief because of the inherent improbability of his account of what had occurred.
(a) The late Supol Ogundare could not have approached the Three Armed Hausa men and attempted to seize all their weapons at the same time with his pistol in sheath.
(b) If the late Supol Ogundare at all fired, he could not have missed all his assailants in the circumstances of this case.
(2) The description of the attack on the deceased by the appellants as described by the appellants is different and more probable than the description of the same episode by Rasaki Lalemi, the only prosecution eye witness.
(3) The driver of the Police Land Rover, Anifowoshe did not shoot at the 1st Appellant, while the first appellant was running away from the scene of the incident as testified to by Rasaki Lalemi.
(4) In the circumstances of this case the prosecution should beside Rasaki Lalemi have called other witnesses whose evidence could have settled the case one way or the other.
The learned trial Judge and the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law and on the facts of the first appellant’s defences of self defence and provocation when they failed to make any findings on the first appellant’s statement that it was in response to the two shots that the late Supol Ogundare fired at his legs that he cut him with Exhibit D – The Matchet.
PARTICULARS OF ERROR:
1) The Prosecution did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was the first Appellant that cut the deceased with the Matchet when the deceased approached the three Hausa men to seize from them their weapons.
2) The Prosecution did not testify on the investigation they carried out on the defences of self defence and provocation put forward by the Appellants and the learned trial Judge and the learned justices of the Court of Appeal did not consider the defences in arriving at their decision to convict the appellants of murder.
3) The defence of self defence and provocation were available to the 1st and 2nd Appellants.
The Decisions of the learned trial Judge and the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal are altogether unreasonable, unwarranted and cannot be supported having regard to the evidence before the court.
1) The Court of Appeal did not evaluate some of the findings of the learned trial Judge before affirming them.
2) The Court of Appeal made inferences on points on which the learned trial Judge had made no findings.
3) The learned Justices of the Court of Appeal rejected the plea of self defense and provocation because the appellants rested their defense on the case of the prosecution.”
It is necessary to state right from the onset that this appeal rested mainly on the facts and on the findings made by the lower courts on those facts. In this respect, this court has consistently held that where there have been concurrent findings of facts by the High Court and the Court of Appeal, the attitude of this court is not to interfere with those findings unless there are special circumstances for doing so; As for instance where the findings were perverse or where they could not be supported having regard to the evidence before the court. See the case of Chief Frank Ebba v. Chief Warri Ogodo (1984) 4 SC.84 at 98. In Chief Woluchem v. Chief Simon Gudi (1981) 5 SC.291 at 326, the Supreme Court held that:
“It is now settled law that if there has been a proper appraisal of evidence by a trial court, a court of appeal ought not to embark on a fresh appraisal of the same evidence in order merely to arrive at a different conclusion from that reached by the trial court.”
From this, it is clear that the main task of the appellants is to convince this Court that the evaluation of evidence carried out in the two lower Courts was wrong, and to show that it is necessary to interfere with the findings of those facts. I shall now briefly state the facts.
The circumstances under which the appellants were charged with murder were based on two contemporaneous incidents, which happened on the same day. Two eye witnesses (1 P.W. and 2nd P.W.) gave evidence in respect of the first incident whilst another eyewitness (5 P.W.) testified in respect of the second incident.
On 3rd September 1981, the appellants were two of three Hausa men who boarded a public transport travelling from Igboho to Sepeteri. There were four other passengers on the vehicle, and one of them was a forest guard (1 P.W.) Who sat in front of the lorry Whilst the vehicle was in motion, one of the passengers sitting at the back raised an alarm, saying “O yobe, o yobe” meaning -“he has pulled out a knife.” When the forest guard turned to see what the commotion was about, the 1st appellant stabbed him on the chest. Whereupon the 1 P.W. too raised alarm and the driver (2 P.W.) had to stop the vehicle. Before the forest guard could come down from the vehicle, the 1st appellant had already alighted; he rushed to the 1 P.W. and attacked him again. He inflicted a matchet cut on 1 P.W.’s head whereupon the 1 P.W. pushed him down and escaped into the bush. The other passengers including the driver also fled. From his hiding place, the driver kept watch over his lorry. Sometime later, he saw the three Hausa men pick up their luggage from the lorry and proceed on their journey on foot. When the coast was clear, 2 P.W. went back to his vehicle and sounded his horn, the forest guard (1 P.W.) and three other passengers returned to the lorry. The 1 P.W. was bleeding and the driver decided to take the 1 P.W. to the Shaki Baptist Hospital. On the way to Shaki, they passed the three Hausa men on the road and soon after saw a Police vehicle approaching in the opposite direction. 2 P.W. stopped the vehicle and reported the stabbing incident to the Policemen. At that stage, the police officers asked two of the other passengers to join them in the Police vehicle so as to identify the Hausa men The 2 P.W. left the scene with the injured forest guard, and at Shaki he lodged a report at the Police Station.
The 5 P.W. Rasaki Lalemi, (a Police Corporal) was in the police land rover when it was stopped by the 2nd P.W. Also in the vehicle were Mr. Ogundare a Superintendent of Police and a Police Driver (P.C. Anifowoshe), After they had received the complaint from the 2.P.W., two passengers came into their vehicle and together they continued their journey. Some time later, they saw the three Hausa men, who were identified by the passengers in the vehicle.
At this stage, Mr. Ogundare stopped the Police vehicle and alighted. He beckoned to the Hausas to come forward. According to the 5 P.W.’s evidence:
“The three Hausa men on that day were holding knives, arrow and cutlass. SP Ogundare asked them to bring all these weapons with them SP Ogundare was moving towards the three Hausa men. When he attempted to seize the weapons from them. One of the three Hausa men who was at the rear and holding a matchet dealt a matchet cut on S.P. Ogundare’s forehead. It was the first accused who dealt the matchet cut on Ogundare’s forehead. As SP Ogundare was inflicted with the matchet cut he was covered in his own blood. He staggered back and was trying to take out his pistol from his pocket the 1st accused continued dealing him several matchet cuts. SP Ogundare managed to fire some shots but’ as blood had covered his face, he could not aim at any object but fired to scare away his attackers. I rushed forward to hold back the 1st accused and the 2nd accused stabbed me on my right hand palm. I moved back; and the third Hausa man who is not now in Court gave SP Ogundare a matchet cut on the right hand and as a result the pistol fell off to the ground. The driver of our vehicle came down and as he was trying to come to our assistance, the third Hausa man who is not now in Court scared the driver away by flying the matchet at his face. The driver and myself then ran into the bush for our dear lives. We hid at a distance from where it was possible to watch all that would be going on. We thereafter saw SP Ogundare fall down the three Hausa men observing that SP Ogundare became helpless started to inflict him with stabs and matchet cuts.”
When the appellants had left, the 5 P.W. and the Police driver came out of the bush, and searched for SP Ogundare’s pistol. The police driver found it and he pursued the three Hausas. He fired at the 1st appellant and he fell down. He also shot the 3rd Hausa man and he too fell down. The 2nd appellant managed to escape into the bush, but he was caught on the following day. SP Ogundare’s corpse was later deposited in the Hospital mortuary, whilst the two injured Hausa men were admitted for treatment.
At the end of that sorry tale, the 5 P.W. was rigorously cross-examined, but in his judgment, the learned trial Judge found as a fact that: “The 5 P.W. remained unshaken.”
As previously stated, the appellants did not give evidence in rebuttal of the grave allegations made against them by the 5 P.W. However, soon after they were arrested, the appellants made written statements to the Police. In his own statement, the 1st Appellant said in part:
“The policemen ordered us to enter their vehicle. We did not argue with them myself and Danladi Atta entered the vehicle and they received our loads and put it in the front of their vehicle (land rover). When I was about to enter into police vehicle the Police Officer then fired me with his gun on my leg two times. As I feel the pain I said Danladi Attah please in the name of God help me, he then brought a matchet for me. I then cut the police Officer on his forehead two times on his head because of the shooting he fired me and that is why I also cut him with matchet; He fell down and I also fell down on the ground”.
In his own statement, the 2nd Appellant stated:
“He (meaning the 1st accused) asked me to take the matchet in the front of the police land rover. I answered him that I will not take it; he resisted that I should take it for him. I then went to the front of the police land rover and took the matchet he asked me to give him. I refused he pressed so much he repeated same about 4 times before I gave him the matchet, before giving him we were dragging ourselves before I left for him.”
It will be seen from these statements that the defence which the 1st Appellant was putting up was that of provocation and/or self defence. In effect, he admitted that he matchetted the deceased, but stated that he did so under great provocation in consequence of the fact that the deceased had previously shot him twice on the legs.
With regard to the 2nd Appellant, he said that he did not actually kill the deceased but had merely handed over to the 1st Appellant the matchet which the 1st Appellant used in killing the deceased. He did so after a persistent demand by the 1st Appellant.
The learned trial judge considered these statements along with the evidence of the 5 P. W. and made the following significant findings of fact:
- “That the deceased died as a result of the matchet cuts and stab wounds inflicted upon him by the two appellants
- That the 5 P.W. was a truthful witness and his evidence was credit worthy.
The Court then rejected the account of the incident as given by the 1st accused in his statements Exs. A. B. and L on the issue of self-defence. The learned judge added: “This however is not because he did not give evidence but because I have seriously considered both versions and I have no doubt in my mind in accepting that of the 5 P.W.”
In regard to the 2nd appellant, the Court found as follows:
“I have said I believe the evidence of the 5th P.W. as regards his account of the part played by the 1st accused. I also believe and accept his account on the 2nd accused, Apart from the evidence of 5 P.W. the 2nd accused himself said in his statement that he gave the 1st accused the matchet which the latter used to kill the deceased; although he said he did it under pressure. He said this to exculpate himself. On his own admission he is caught up with Section 7(c) of the Criminal Code. Further on the evidence of the 5th P.W. which I accept, he, the 2nd accused prevented the 5th P.W. from arresting the situation when he stabbed the 5th P. who tried to stop the 1st accused from inflicting other matchet cuts on the deceased after the 1st one. This piece of evidence, which I accept also, brings 2nd accused within the purview of the provision of Sec. 7(c) of the Criminal Code.
For the above reasons, I reject the submission of learned Counsel for the 2nd accused that he was merely present without taking any part.”
In the face of these powerful findings of facts, the appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal complaining that there was no proper evaluation of the evidence but the lower court rejected that submission.
Before us, the appellant’s Counsel has formulated three issues which he wants this Court to look into and they are as follows:
“1. Whether in the circumstances of this case, the learned trial judge and learned justices of the Court of Appeal were right in relying solely on the testimony of Rasaki Lalemi, the 5th P.W. in deciding to convict the Appellants of the offence charged without calling other eye witnesses who were present.
- Whether in view of the fact that the confessional statements of the Appellants were presented In evidence by the Prosecution and admitted and considered by the lower courts in arriving at their decision to convict the Appellants, it was fatal to the case of the Appellants in the circumstances of this case, that they did not testify in court but rested their defence on the case of the Prosecution.
- Whether either from the findings of fact or from inferences drawn from the facts the decision of the lower Courts to convict the Appellants were not altogether unreasonable, unwarranted, unsupportable having regard to the evidence before the Court and having regard to the unresolved conflict in the accounts of events preceding the matcheting of the deceased by the 1st Appellant.”
I shall deal with the 3rd issue first. In his oral submissions, the appellants’ Counsel was unable to show any unresolved conflict in the evidence, nor could he pinpoint any unreasonable findings of fact made by the trial Court and confirmed by the Court of Appeal.
I have myself gone over the record of appeal and I am satisfied that the two lower Courts correctly evaluated the evidence and any complaint in this regard is completely unfounded.
In regard to the 1st issue, the appellant’s complaint is that the trial judge had convicted the appellants on the evidence of only one eye witness, when two others were available. Unfortunately Counsel did not state what these two would have said which was different from what the 5 P.W. had already said. Furthermore, no foundation of any sort was laid by the Defence either under cross-examination of prosecution witnesses or in the testimony of any defence witness which might tend to show that the evidence of the 5 P.W., was not credit worthy.
In my view the lower Court (per Onu, J.C.A.) correctly stated the law when it said that it was unnecessary for the prosecution to call every available piece of evidence. In the case of Samuel Adaje v. The State (1979) 6-9 SC.18 at p. 28, the Supreme Court held that:
“All that the prosecution need do is to call enough material Witnesses in order to prove its cause; and in so doing, it has a discretion in the matter.”
See also E.O. Okonofua & Anor. v. The State (1981) 6-7 S.C.1 at p. 18.
There is in fact no Law or rule of practice, which stipulates that any particular number of witnesses should be called in proof of any case. If one credible witness testifies on an issue and there is no other evidence tending to show that the testimony of that sole witness is untrue, the Court may believe him. In this respect, the trial Court who saw and heard the witness is in a better position than an appellate Court to decide on the credibility of such witness. Igbo v. The State (1975) 1 All N.L.R. (Part II) 701 at p. 75.
In the instant appeal, three eyewitnesses who were present and witnessed the circumstances leading to the murder gave evidence about what they saw and did, and they were believed. This, in my view, is an end of the matter. There is no merit in this ground of appeal and it is dismissed.
I now come to the 2nd issue formulated by the appellants’ Counsel. Unfortunately, it was clumsily worded, but the Respondent’s Counsel has in his brief given a clearer version of the issue thus:
“2. Could the defence of provocation and self defence avail the appellants having regard to the facts of this case as well as the fact that the appellant rested their case on that of the prosecution”
The defences of provocation and self defence were raise by the 1st Appellant in his Statement to the Police. This statement was tendered by the prosecution and received in evidence. Thereafter the Appellants did not testify in their own defence but “rested their case on that of the prosecution.” All the same, in his overall consideration of the evidence, the trial Judge did not hold this against them he nonetheless considered the defences raised in their written statements; he came to the conclusion that the story of the 5 P.W. was more probable and accepted it.
The points, which fall for decision on this appeal, are:
- What is the legal effect of an accused person who elects not to give evidence on oath
- What does it imply when such accused rests his case on that of the prosecution
The answer to the first question is covered by statute. Section 287 (1)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Act stipulates three alternatives open to an accused person after the prosecution has closed its case. The accused may:
- Make an unsworn statement from the dock in which case he will not be liable to be cross-examined.
or 2. He may give sworn evidence in the witness box and be cross-examined.
or 3. He may elect not to say anything at all.
In the instant case the Appellants chose the third alternative and they were well within their legal rights to do so. But the legal effect of that is this, that if in the course of the hearing, prosecution witnesses had given evidence which called for rebuttal or some explanation from the appellants, and that rebuttal and/or explanation was not forthcoming, then the Court would be free to accept the uncontradicted evidence of the prosecution witnesses. See the cases of the The State v. Nafiu Rabiu (1980) 1 N.C.R.47, Igbo v. The State (1978) 3 S.C.87.
In the case on hand, evidence was given that:
(a) Whilst SP Ogundare was asking the appellants to surrender their weapons, the 1st Appellant came from the rear and struck the deceased with a matchet on the head.
(b) The 2nd Appellant also joined in attacking the deceased until he fell down dead.
(c) When the 5 P.W. wanted to rescue the deceased from the hands of the 1st Appellant, the 2nd Appellant stabbed him on the head and prevented him from assisting the deceased.
These and other matters called for a rebuttal from the appellants, but none was offered and in my view the trial court was right to come to a decision on the evidence available to it.
In regard to the second question posed above, what does it mean when an accused rests his case on that of the prosecution In my view, it means no more than that the accused does not wish to place any facts before the Court other than those, which the prosecution had presented in evidence. It also signifies that the accused is satisfied with the evidence given and does not wish to explain any fact or rebut any allegations made against him. This of course does not prevent the accused (or his Counsel) from making legal submissions on the evidence before the Court. He could for instance, say that even if all the evidence were believed, it would not support the charge before the Court, he could submit that the evidence was so conflicting or had been so discredited that it is not credit-worthy. No such submissions have been made on this appeal and I am satisfied that the appellants were rightly convicted on the evidence before the trial Court.
There was in fact no merit on any of the grounds of appeal canvassed and it was for this reason that the Respondent’s Counsel was not called upon.
In consequence of the foregoing, the appeal fails on all grounds and it is dismissed. The conviction and sentence passed on the Appellants by the High Court Shaki, and affirmed by the Court of Appeal Ibadan are hereby sustained.A. O. OBASEKI, J.S.C.: I have had the pleasure of reading in draft the judgment just delivered by my learned brother, Craig, JSC. And I agree that the appeal be dismissed for lack of merit.
The appellants were arraigned before the High Court, Shaki on a charge of murder of police Superintendent S.O. Ogundare on or about the 3rd of September 1981. They were tried and convicted by Adeniran, J. and sentenced to death.
During the trial, the appellants called no evidence and did not testify. They rested their cases on the evidence adduced by the prosecution through 10 prosecution witnesses. Being dissatisfied with the judgment of the learned trial judge, the appellants appealed to the Court of Appeal holden at Ibadan. Their appeal came before the Court of Appeal (coram, Omo, Ogundare and Onu, JJCA.) sitting at Ibadan. After hearing arguments of counsel, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal for lack of merit. The decision did not give satisfaction to the appellants so they have further appealed to this Court. Three grounds of appeal were argued. These grounds were argued extensively in a brief running to 33 pages filed by the appellants. The respondent filed a reply brief. At the hearing of the appeal, appellants’ counsel directed the court’s attention to the issues raised in the grounds of appeal for determination by the court and stressed the point that of the several eyewitnesses alleged to have been present when the appellants attacked and slew the deceased with a matchet, only one eyewitness, P.W.5, was tendered to testify at the hearing. Learned counsel observed that although his evidence was accepted and believed by the learned trial judge, the totality of the evidence could not properly inspire belief.
He found the statements made by the appellants to the police though confessional, at variance in matters of detail from the evidence of p.w.5. was tendered to testify at the hearing.
He found the statements made by the appellants to the police though confessional, at variance in matters of detail from the evidence of p.w.5.
Learned counsel for the respondent submitted that there is uncontradicted overwhelming evidence to support the conviction and sentence. He further submitted that although the evidence of 5th p.w. alone was sufficient to support the conviction, the confessional statements made by the appellant provided ample corroboration to establish the case for the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.
The three issues for determination formulated by the appellants are as follows:
(1) whether in the circumstances of this case, the learned trial judge and learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right in relying solely on the testimony of Rasaki Lalemi, the 5th p.w. in deciding to convict the appellants of the offence charged without calling other eye witnesses who were present;
(2) whether in view of the fact that the confessional statements of the appellants were presented in evidence by the prosecution and admitted and considered by the lower courts in arriving at their decisions to convict the appellants, it was fatal to the case of the appellants in the circumstances of this case, that they did not testify in court but rested their defence on the case for the prosecution.
(3) whether either from the findings of fact or from inferences drawn from the facts the decision of the lower courts to convict the appellants were not altogether unreasonable, unwarranted, unsupportable having regard to the unresolved conflict in the accounts of events preceding the matcheting of the deceased by the1st appellant.
In view of the evidence on record, the findings of the learned trial judge and the Court of Appeal, the above issues must be resolved in favour of the respondent and against the appellants.
It is the law supported by a long line of authorities that the evidence of one credible witness accepted and believed by a trial court is sufficient to justify a conviction. See Oteki v. Attorney-General of Bendel State (1986) 2 NWLR. 643, 668 Anthony Igbo v. The State (1975) 1 All NLR (Part II) 70 at 75.
In the instant appeal, the deceased (S.O. Ogundare) was, while in the execution of his police duties, attacked viciously by the 1st appellant who, on his own admission, inflicted mortal wounds on him with the matchet handed over to him by the 2nd appellant. All this took place in the presence of the 5th p.w. Further, the appellants did not deny the attack and the injury inflicted, which caused the death of the deceased. They admitted the facts in their statements to the police. But 1st appellant explained in the statement that he attacked in retaliation for being shot in the legs by the deceased. This allegation of the deceased shooting the 1st appellant was destroyed by the evidence of the 5th p.w. that denied that the deceased ever shot the appellant in the legs and explained that the police driver shot the 1st appellant in the leg to effect his arrest when he was fleeing after matchetting to death S.O. Ogundare. The behaviour of the 1st appellant, before, during and after the incident received due consideration by the learned trial judge. On this issue, he said:
“The behaviour of the 1st accused before, during and after the incident must be taken together. There is evidence before me of the 1st and 2nd p.w., i.e. Akinwunmi Ogundare and Sunday Adetunji that the 1st accused for unknown cause stabbed the 1st P.W. on the chest in the Toyota bus driven by the 2nd p.w. and inflicted a matchet cut on the 1st p.w.’s head while trying to come out of the vehicle. The 1st accused in Exhibit A and A1 also said that he stabbed a Yoruba man on the face. In the circumstances, therefore, having watched the demeanour of 1st and 2nd p.w.s I accept their evidence as being true. I believe them. It was after the incident the deceased when he met the1st accused with two others that he invited them to come. The deceased, according to the 5th p.w., was also approaching and as he was about to seize the weapons the Hausa men were holding, the 1st accused launched an attack inflicting several matchet cuts on the deceased who died as a result. The only irresistible inference one can draw and which I draw from the facts is that the three Hausa men, the 1st accused inclusive, mindful of their previous assault on the 1st p.w. earlier on that day, thought they were being arrested for their action. They therefore launched an attack on the deceased. The 1st accused dealt matchet cuts on the deceased who died. The 5th p.w. was rigorously cross-examined by counsel for the two accused but he remained unshaken. He impressed me as a witness of truth . . .
I reject the account as given by the 1st accused in his statements Exhibit A and A1, B and B1 and C and C1 on the point of the issue of self defence …
I have considered the issue of provocation. In view of the fact that I believe 5th p.w.’s account in preference to that of the 1st accused, there is no basis upon which a defence of provocation arises …
The case against the 2nd accused is also from the oral evidence of the 5th P. W. wherein he said of the 2nd accused thus:
“I rushed forward to hold back 1st accused and the 2nd accused stabbed me on my right hand palm” . . .
The 2nd accused bent down and shook SP. Ogundare and when the three of them observed that he, SP Ogundare could not move; they left him and went off . . . The 2nd accused escaped with their load into the bush.”
These findings were not disturbed by the Court of Appeal, which rightly dismissed the appeal for lack of merit. My learned brother, Craig, J.S.C. has dealt with the issues raised in greater detail and I need not effect a repetition of them here. Concurrent findings will not be disturbed by this Court except for good reasons occasioning miscarriage of justice.
I would, for the above reasons and those stated in the judgment of my learned brother, Craig, J.S.C., dismiss the appeal and I hereby dismiss the appeal and affirm the decision of the Court of Appeal.M. L. UWAIS, J.S.C.: I have had the advantage of reading in advance the judgment read by my learned brother Craig, J.S.C. I entirely agree with the judgment and I adopt it as mine.
Accordingly, the appeal is hereby dismissed and the decision of the Court of Appeal is affirmed.