Nse Obong Jonah V The State (1977) LLJR-SC

Nse Obong Jonah V The State (1977)

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We dismissed this appeal on the 9th day of December, 1976, for lack of merit and now give our reasons.The appellant was tried by Ete, J., in the High Court of Cross Rivers State Holden at Ikot Ekpene for murder of one Wilson Iwok Akpan, contrary to Section 319(1) of the Criminal Code, and convicted and sentenced to death.It is against the conviction that he lodged this appeal.The facts are not much in dispute. Four witnesses testified for the prosecution and the accused alone testified for the defence.  It is on record that the appellant admitted the killing both to the police and the court. Briefly stated, the facts of the case are as follows:

The appellant and the deceased were related by blood and lived in the same compound in their village, Afaha Ikot village. Their relationship could not be described as friendly. The deceased was a senior relation and more prosperous. The appellant coveted his crops, sweet yams (potatoes) and yams and harvested them. The matter was reported to the police. He was arrested, prosecuted and convicted for stealing. After serving his sentence, he returned home with a grudge. He became obsessed with the feeling of oppression by the deceased. He accused the deceased of not procuring treatment for him to cure him of hernia.  He accused the deceased of tormenting him with witchcraft and of preventing people from buying his mats when he took them to the market for sale.  According to the appellant, it was on his return from the market that following a little altercation, he took his matchet, followed deceased to his wife’s kitchen and matcheted him in his backyard.

P.W.1., Elizabeth Wilson, widow of the deceased who passed bath water for the deceased and saw deceased (enter into the bathroom) was subsequently attracted by the sound of a heavy matchet cut. She ran to the bathroom, saw appellant emerge with blood-stained ‘knife’ and found her husband’s head almost cut off through the neck.

P.W.2, Nwa Iwok Uko, a cousin of the appellant and a half brother of the deceased also heard the sound of cutting (he called it cutting sound) coming from the direction of the deceased’s house. As he heard it a second time, he called the attention of P.W.1. Not long after, P.W.1 raised alarm that her husband had  been killed. P.W.2 ran to the deceased’s house and saw appellant first holding a blood-stained matchet.  When he asked him what he slaughtered, appellant did not reply.

The appellant’s version which explains the cause of his action reads:

“On 25/6/74 I took some mats I had made to the market. Wilson followed after me on his bicycle on which he tied a matchet. At the market, he went round telling people not to buy my mats. He told me that that was the harm he had sworn to do me. I sat in the market for a long time but nobody bought any mat from me, so I carried them home. As I rode home, he too rode home taking another route. He placed his bicycle in our father’s house and then he removed the matchet he had tied to his bicycle from its sheath. He had decided on a date that he would kill me. When he removed the matchet he came towards me brandishing it in my face. I had nothing in my hand. Then he went and kept the matchet somewhere and then went to his wife’s kitchen. I followed after him and asked him why he persecuted me so. Then he asked me again who it was I was able to kill. He said a lot more things. I was annoyed and he was annoyed. I ran to my own house and brought my own matchet as he had decided to kill me that day. I met him at the backyard and I asked him again what I had done to warrant his persecution of me and to torment me by witchcraft. It was then that I matcheted him and then went away. People who were around then went away.”

After a detailed review of the evidence adduced in the case, the learned trial Judge considered whether there was sufficient evidence of provocation and he held (in his judgment):

“However, even if the accused held the belief that Wilson had used witchcraft  on him, such belief would be unreasonable and the court will not countenance it as a provocation [See R v. Gadam (1954) 14 WACA 442] ….
I am satisfied that in our case, none of the acts the accused complained of or a combination of all of them was sufficient to amount to provocation in Law to excuse him from what he did not even taking into account his standing in life and degree of civilisation … I find the charge proved and the accused guilty”.

It is against the judgment that the appeal was lodged. The appellant filed four grounds of appeal. Of the four grounds of appeal, only one “That the decision is altogether unwarranted, unreasonable and cannot be supported having regard to the evidence”  is a ground of appeal.

We have read and studied the record of proceedings and we find nothing in the evidence of prosecution witnesses and even of the accused person himself that would have led the trial Judge to a verdict other than that of ‘Guilty’ and we find the judgment amply supported and justified by the evidence. This was a case of the appellant armed with a matchet descending upon an unarmed and defenceless person quietly taking his bath and slaying him in cold blood. The appellant did not kill in the heat of passion but when in full control of his faculties .

We found no merit in the appeal and agreed with the learned counsel for the appellant that there was nothing useful to urge in favour of the appellant. We accordingly dismissed the appeal for the above reasons.

Other Citation: (1977) LCN/1950(SC)

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