Nwali Nnabo Vs The State (1994) LLJR-SC

Nwali Nnabo Vs The State (1994)

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OGWUEGBU, J.S.C.

The appellant (Nwali Nnabo) was arraigned before Offiah, J. sitting at the Abakaliki High Court in Anambra State with the offence of murder contrary to S.319(1) of the Criminal Code, Cap. 30 Vol. II, Laws of Eastern Nigeria applicable in Anambra State. He was alleged to have murdered one Agbe Nweke at Ivakpa Okpoitumo Ikwo in the Abakaliki Judicial Division on or about 15:1:84.

The appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge. Eight witnesses were called by the prosecution. The appellant gave evidence in his own defence and called no witness. At the end of the trial, he was found guilty of the offence and sentenced to death. He unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Appeal, Enugu Division against his conviction. He has further appealed to this court not being satisfied with the decision of the court below.

From the grounds of appeal filed, the following issues were formulated in the appellant’s brief of argument for determination:

“1. Does the defence of insanity avail the appellant under section 28 of the Criminal Code?

2. Was the trial court right to have considered the confessional statement of the appellant “Exhibit A” first before dealing with the issue of insanity.”

The respondent formulated the following two issues in its brief:

“(a) Whether from the facts of this case and the evidence available to the trial Judge, the appellant is entitled to the defence of insanity under S. 28 of the Criminal Code.

(b) Whether the consideration of the confessional statement of the appellant “Exhibit A” first before dealing with the issue of insanity affected the justice of the case.”

The two sets of issues are the same and I will however, consider the appeal in line with the appellant’s issues for determination. It will be necessary at this stage to state the facts briefly in order to appreciate the issues being canvassed.

The evidence showed that on 14:1:84, P.W.4 invited the deceased, a labourer to his compound to thresh rice for him. The appellant also arrived at the house of P.W.4 on 13:1:84 to stay and harvest the yams he planted in the area. On 15:1:84, the deceased was killed. The circumstances of his death were given in evidence by P.W.4 and P.W.5.

The deceased was doing the work for which PWA hired him when the appellant went to beg him for some tobacco snuff. The deceased gave him some and warned him not to come back to ask for more. At about 6 p.m. the same day after the deceased has finished the day’s work, the appellant went to ask him for more tobacco snuff and the deceased refused. P.W.5 (the wife of P.W.4) had earlier given the appellant 20 kobo to buy his own snuff. The deceased was resting in front of the house of P.W.4 when the appellant made this second request. When the deceased refused the second request, the appellant rebuked him and told him that he would suffer. In file meantime, P. W.5 had bought 20 kobo worth of tobacco snuff which she gave to the appellant.

In the night, P.W.4 showed the deceased where to sleep. The deceased opted to sleep where P.W.4 kept his rice in a room under the same roof. The appellant was shown another room to sleep. P.W.5 in her evidence stated that she woke up from her sleep to hear the appellant shout “Eko.” After this, the appellant shouted again:

“my father I have killed somebody for you today”

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P.W.5 peeped through her window and saw the appellant inflicting matches cuts on the deceased. She closed the window and shouted on her husband (P.W.4) to the effect that the appellant was killing the deceased. P.M.4 who was attracted by the alarm came out and gripped the appellant. The appellant threatened to kill P.W.4.

Another alarm was raised and the villagers assembled. The appellant was arrested and tied hands and feet. The incident was reported to the police. The deceased died before the arrival of the police.

On 16:1:84, Dr. Daniel Nweke (P.W.1) attached to the General Hospital, Abakaliki performed a post-mortem examination on the body of the deceased. The body was identified by Nwangwu Nweke, the younger brother of the deceased, P.W. 1 testified that the body was that of an adult male about forty five years old with extensive and multiple deep and sharp matchet cuts across the face, involving both eyes and the nose with partial amputation of the left hand at the level of the wrist joint across the right anterior chest wall. He also found a long deep penetrating cut at the right of the abdomen with laceration of the abdominal contents. In his opinion, the injuries or cuts were consistent with matchet cuts and that the cause of death was due to acute peripheral circulatory failure of traumatic origin meaning excessive loss of blood resulting from the matchet cuts.

P.W.8 (Police Corporal Ezejofor) completed the investigation which was started by Police Sergeant Obaji. He visited the scene on 19:1:84. He testified that the statement of the appellant could not be obtained immediately as he appeared to he behaving abnormally: that when served with food he would be shouting on the deceased to come and eat with him. On 29:1:84. he went to the Prisons and formally arrested the appellant. He charged and cautioned him. He testified that the appellant volunteered a statement in Ibo.

The learned counsel appearing for the appellant objected to the statement being admitted in evidence on the ground that it was not made voluntarily. A trial within the trial was conducted. The objection was overuled led and the statement was admitted in evidence as Exhibit “A.” It reads:

“On the month of December. 1983 I came and stayed at one Oka Ede’s house to enable me harvest my yams which I planted in his area. Reaching on the 13th day of January, 1984 one Agbeh Nweke a native of Odeligbo Okpuilutuo arrived atone Oka Ede’s house to tresh rice for him. He arrived at night time. On the following day being 14/1/84 he started treshing the rice. Agbeh Nweke was my good friend even on that day he was trashing rice for Oka Ede he gave me his snuff and I snuffed it. I have never, in my life have misunderstanding with him. When night reached on that 14/1/84. Oka Ede instructed both myself and Agbeh Nweke to go and sleep at his palace. Then both myself and Agbeh Nweke went and slept at the said place. Reaching in the midnight of 15/1/84, I used my knife and killed one Agbeh Nweke. I did not know what pushed me to do such a thing. Because we were very good friend before. Nobody instructed me to kill the said Agbeh Nweke. It was Satan work that pushed me to do such a thing. One Agbeh Nweke was shouting when I was giving him matchet cut, and as a result, one Oka Ede, James Ede, John Nwoba, Pius Undo, Nweke Oka, Elizabeth Oka and Igboke Ede came and held me. They beat me up and one Pius Utulo wanted to matchet me with his matchet but one James Ede told him not to do that. That hence he is a Mobile Policeman that he can got me arrested. Later they tied me both my hands and legs. After that, I did not know myself again. The relationship between me and Oka Ede is that he married from my family. He is marrying one Elizabeth a daughter to one Nwanchor Oganyi of the same family with me. That is all.”

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P.W.8 told this superior officer that the appellant made a confessional statement. Both of them went back to the Prison where the appellant was being detained. When confronted with Exhibit “A”, he denied making it and volunteered another statement – Exhibit “B” which reads thus:

“On 14/1/84 at night time both myself and Agbeh Nweke were sleeping one Oka Ede came and killed one Agbeh Nweke. I did not know the type of instrument used by Oka Ede to killed (sic) one Agbeh Nweke. Why Oka Ede accused me of killing one Agbeh Nweke is that I did not allow him to kill me. I was with Agbeh Nweke by the time Oka Ede killed him. The following people beat me up. They are one Oka Ede, John Nwoba, Nweke Oka, Igboka Ede. Elizabeth Oka, Monica Oka, Pius Utulo and many others. Because I did not allow Oka Ede to kill me, that is why they accused me of killing Agbeh Nweke. Oka Ede said that he will kill me and used his money and end it. That nobody will ask of me. The relationship between me and Oka Ede is that Oka Ede married one Elizabeth Oka from my family. I was in Oka Ede’s house to do job for people and get food to eat. Oka Ede has earlier told me and Agbeh Nweke to sleep in one of his room. And on the day of the incident both myself and Agbeh Nweke slept at the same room, that was why I knew that Oka Ede was the one who killed him. During my staying at Oka Ede’s house, he used to brought many native doctors and piginy to his house always. I did not know when I was brought to the Prison Yard.”

In his evidence at the trial, the appellant denied the charge. He testified in part: “I am not sure of what happened on the day of the incident.” He further stated that he made only one statement to the police and that it was made in the presence of the Chief Warder -Patrick Ebo. The said Chief Warder testified on 25:2:85. Part of his evidence reads:

“I am a Chief Warder in charge. I know P.W.8 Harrison Ezejiofor. I know the accused. On 29:1:84 P.W. 8 Ezejiofor came to my office and told me he wanted to see the accused to make a statement. I asked him why he came to the prisons for a statement instead of taking it at the Police Station. He said that the accused was not normal when he arrested him. After the explanation, I sent an escort to bring the accused from the cell. When accused came, I asked him if he knew the CPI. (P.W.8). He said he knew him. I told him P.W.8 was there to take a statement from him. P.W.8 cautioned the accused before obtaining a statement from him. The accused then made a statement which was recorded by the Corporal. The statement was read over to the accused and he admitted that it was correct. There was no promise held out to the accused before he made the statement nor was there any treat (sic). I saw the accused on 18:1:84 when he was brought to the prison. He was behaving abnormally when he was brought to the prison.”

It is now convenient to consider the first issue: whether from the facts of the case the defence of insanity avails the appellant under S.28 of the Criminal Code. Section 28 of the Criminal Code Cap. 30 Laws of Eastern Nigeria, 1963 applicable in Anambra State provides:

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“A person is not criminally responsible for an act or omission if at the time of doing the act or making the omission he is in such a state of mental disease or natural mental infirmity as to deprive him of capacity to understand what he is doing, or of capacity to control his actions, or of capacity to know that he ought not to do the act or make the omission. A person whose mind, at the time of his doing or omitting to do an act, is affected by delusions on some specific matter or matters, but who is not otherwise entitled to the benefit of the foregoing provisions of this section, is criminally responsible for the act or omission to the same extent as if the real state of things had been such as he was induced by the delusions to believe to exist.”

The law is that every person is presumed to be of sound mind and to have been of sound mind at all times material to the incident being investigated until the contrary is proved. See section 27 of the Criminal Code. The defence of insanity can only avail an accused person if he can show that he was insane at the time he committed the offence. It must be clearly proved that, at the time of committing the act, he was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, he did not know he was doing what was wrong.

The evidence of P.W.8 and the Chief Warder who testified as P.W.2 during the trial within the trial raised the question of the appellant behaving abnormally when he was taken to the prisons. The evidence available was in respect of his behaviour after the incident. In cases of insanity, the behaviour of the accused before, during and after the inci


Other Citation: (1994) LCN/2597(SC)

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