Oko Ogar Adama V. The State (2017)
LAWGLOBAL HUB Lead Judgment Report
SIDI DAUDA BAGE, J.S.C.
This is an appeal against the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Calabar Judicial Division delivered on the 19th day of November, 2013, in Appeal No. CA/C/76C/2012. The Court of Appeal affirmed the ruling of the High Court of Cross River State sitting at Ogoja.
The appellant, Oko Ogar Adama along with 13 other accused persons were arraigned before Justice E. E. Ita of Cross River High Court, charged with conspiracy, unlawful assembly, malicious damage and stealing contrary to Sections 20 (6), 70, 541 and 390 (9) of the Laws of Cross River State of Nigeria 2004 respectively.
The appellant and the other 13 accused persons denied both counts.
At the trial, the prosecution called a total of five (5) witnesses while a no case submission was made on behalf of the appellants. After hearing and evaluation of the testimonies of the five witnesses, the learned trial judge over-ruled the no case submission and requested the appellants to enter their defence.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court affirmed the ruling of the
High Court and dismissed the appeal.
This appeal is against that ruling. From the information in the charge, the facts of the case against the appellant are that they, on the 10th May 2010, at Oloko-Agwape village in Yala Local Government Area, conspired to and unlawfully assembled, caused malicious damage and stole a motor-cycle, twelve (12) Goats, two (2) bicycles and bush meat, property of Oganode Awoko Ipuole.
The appellant on the 30th April, 2015, filed his brief of argument and formulated five issues for determination in his appeal.
- Whether the trial Court has jurisdiction to try the appellant when the consent or direction of High Court Judge of Cross River State was not obtained as required by Section 309 (2) (b) of the Criminal Procedure Law, Cap. C17, Laws of Cross River State of Nigeria, 2004 (the CPL) before the information was filed
- Whether the purported arraignment and taking of the plea of the appellant was valid in law (Ground 5).
- Whether the written address and the reply on the no case submission did not breach the appellant’s right to fair hearing and thereby consequently rendering the entire trial a
nullity (Ground 6).
- Whether the decision of the Court below to be very brief and to restrict itself in reviewing the argument does not amount to a denial of the right to fair hearing of the appellant, and thus rendering the judgment of the Court below arrived at in such circumstances liable to be set aside (Ground 3).
- Whether, having regard to the entire circumstances of this case, the Court below was correct in affirming the ruling of the trial Court and thereby calling upon the appellant to enter his defence (Ground 12 and 4).”
However, the respondent in his brief of argument filed on the 8th January, 2016 formulated the following issues for determination.
“1. Whether the failure to obtain the direction or consent of a Judge to prefer the information in this case can be raised for the first time in this Court regard being had to the provision of Section 309 (3) (b) of the Criminal Procedure Law, Cap. C17, vol. 3, Laws of Cross River State, 2004 (Jurisdiction issue).
- Was the appellant arraignment in compliance with the provisions of Section 309 of the Criminal Procedure Law (Arraignment issue) (Ground 5)
Considering the facts, did the learned trial judge infringe on the appellant’s right to fair hearing as to validate a nullification of the proceedings (Fair hearing issue) (Grounds 3 and 6).
- Were the learned Justices of the Court below right in dismissing the no case submission and affirming the decision of the learned trial judge on the ground that a prima facie case has been made out against the appellant (Dismissal of case submission issue) (Ground 1, 2 and 4).”Looking at the two sets of issues above, it shows clearly that learned counsel for the parties appeared to be ad idem on the issues.
They ask the same questions. I shall accordingly rely on the appellants issues in considering this appeal.
At the hearing of the appeal, learned counsel for the appellant adopted his brief and urged this Court to allow the appeal, while learned counsel for the respondent adopted the respondent’s brief and urged this Court to dismiss the appeal and affirm the concurrent ruling of both courts below.
“Whether the trial Court has jurisdiction to try the appellant when the consent or direction of a High Court Judge of
Cross River State was not obtained as required by Section 309 (2) (b) of the Criminal Procedure Law, Cap. C 17, Laws of Cross River State of Nigeria, 2004 before the information was filed”
Learned counsel to the appellant argued that, this is an issue of jurisdiction and as such, the leave of the Court is not required before same can be raised. He relied on decision of the Court in BENSON AGBULE V. WARRI REFINERY & PETROCHEMICAL CO. LTD (2012) LPELR 20625 (SC) at p. 13.
He further argued that the trial was not initiated by due process of law as the condition precedent to the exercise of the jurisdiction of the trial Court was not fulfilled. He cited Section 309 (2) (b) of CPL.
He submitted that, it is apparent from the record that no such consent or direction was obtained before the respondent filed the information against the appellant. At least, no such consent or direction of the High Court of Cross River State forms part of the record.
He argued that, it is trite that the content of the record of proceedings of a Court are binding on the Court and the parties, and in appellate Court, which is always bound by the record and the
He urged the Court to hold that failure of the respondent to obtain consent of a judge of High Court of Cross River State before filing the information against the appellant robbed the trial Court of the jurisdiction to try the appellant. Finally he submitted that the information is liable to be quashed and this Court should quash same and strike out this action for want of jurisdiction.
On the other hand, learned counsel for the respondent submitted that, the above arguments canvassed by the appellant are misleading, although he admitted that the issue of jurisdiction can be raised at any time during the course of proceedings, he submitted that it is not free for all procedure particularly where there is a procedure to be followed in raising the objection.
He also argued that this issue is a non starter, even though the appellant was represented by counsel throughout the trial, this issue was not raised, he cannot now raise it. It is dead on arrival.
He further submitted that the appellant cannot, as he seeks to do, split in piecemeal, his objection to the jurisdiction of the lower Court. The jurisdiction argument must be
made as a whole, not bits and pieces. He finally submitted that the appellant is precluded from contending non-compliance with Section 309 (2) (b) of the CPL as a basis for invalidating the proceedings. Had the appellant counsel exercised reasonable diligence, he would have made this argument as addition in his challenge to the jurisdiction of the Court. But he did not, and cannot now do so. He urges the Court to reject the appellant’s submission and hold that the trial was validly undertaken before the trial Court.
Looking at the above arguments from both counsel, there are two issues to be considered by this Court, whether failure to seek the consent of the trial judge in arraigning the appellant is fatal and can render the trial to be struck out for want of jurisdiction and whether this issue can be raised on appeal for the first time in this Court.
Section 309 (3) provides that:-
“(3) If an information preferred otherwise than in accordance with the provisions of Sub-section (2) of this Section has been filed by the registrar the information shall be liable to be quashed:
(b) Where a person is
convicted on any information or on any count of an information, that information or count shall not be quashed under this section in any proceedings on appeal, unless application is made at the trial that it should be so quashed.”
It is pertinent to state that, the trial judge before arraignment of the appellant ordered prosecution to file certified true copy of all the proceedings that took place at the Magistrate’s Court together with the exhibit to enable him determine whether or not he can assume jurisdiction, see page 38 of the record. Sequel to that, on the 9th June, 2011, the trial judge ruled that:-
“At the stage where the matter was struck out I do not see any injustice that will occasion the accused person if the charges are pursued in this Court.”
This Court is satisfied that the trial judge, based on the above facts had impliedly consented and given his directives in respect to the procedure provided under Section 309 (2) (b) above.
However, failure from the respondent to seek for consent of the judge cannot be said to have rendered the trial a nullity and liable to be struck out.
In ANTHONY OKORO V. STATE (2012) 7 NCC page 184. This Court held
“There is a distinction between a matter of procedure that affects substantial justice in the trial of a case and a matter of procedure which in no way affects the justice of the trial of a case.”
See also IDEMUDIA V. STATE (1999) 7 NWLR (Pt.610) 202.
Litigants should expect no technical but substantial justice from this Court. We have said several times that we are not a workshop for technical justice. Over and over again, we have reiterated the need to do substantial justice and avoid delving into the error of technicalities, see for example the case of NATIONAL REVENUE MOBILIZATION ALLOCATION AND FISCAL COMMISSION (N.R.M.A.F.C) V. JOHNSON (2007) 49 W. R. N. Pages 169-170 where per PETER-ODILI, JCA (as he then was) opined as follows:-
“….. The Courts have deliberately shifted away from narrow technical approach to justice which characterized some earlier decisions to now pursue the course of substantial justice. See MAKERI SMELTING CO. LTD V. ACCESS BANK (NIG) PLC (2002) 7 NWLR (Pt.766) 441 at 476 – 477 The attitude of the Court has since changed against deciding cases on mere technicalities. The attitude of the Courts now is
that cases should always be decided, wherever possible on merit.
Blunders must take place from time to time, and it is unjust to hold that because a blunder has been committed, the party blundering is to incur the penalty of not having the dispute between him and his adversary determined upon the merits.”
See also AJAKAIYE V. IDEHIA (1993) 8 NWLR (Pt. 364) 504, ARTA IND. LTD V. NBCI (1997) 1 NWLR (Pt.183) 574, DAKAT v. DASHE (1997) 12 NWLR (Pt. 531) 46, BENSON V. NIGERIA AGIP CO. LTD (1982) 5 SC. 1.”
In the case at hand the respondent’s failure to seek the consent of the judge does not in any way affect the justice of the trial. Therefore the appellant cannot rely on the provision of Section 309 (2) (b) above. See also EGBEDI V. THE STATE (1981) 11-12 SC.98 and AJAYI V. ZARIA N.A No. 2 (1964 NNLR 61.
In EGBEDI v. STATE above, this Court held that:-
“It is settled law that an accused person who acquiesced to an irregular procedure that did not lead to miscarriage of Justice cannot complain of the procedure on appeal.”
In this case the proper procedure as provided under Section 309 (3) has not been followed. The Section provides
“(3) If an information preferred otherwise than in accordance with the provisions of Sub-section (2) of this Section has been filed by the registrar the information shall be liable to be quashed – provided that
(b) Where a person is convicted on any information or any count of an information, that information, or count shall not be quashed under this section in any proceedings on appeal, unless application is made at the trial that it should be so quashed.”
In ADEJOBI V. STATE (2011) 12 NWLR at page 351 this Court held that:-
“A question of law and jurisdiction can be raised at anytime in the proceedings, but it is not a free for all procedure, where a statute under which an issue or matter is to be raised has provided a procedure for raising such issue or matter, that procedure and no other, must be followed. In the instant case, the procedure that must be followed to quash the information or count was as provided under Section 340 (2) (b) of the Criminal Procedure Law, Cap 39 Laws of Oyo State, 2000. Failure to apply to quash it at the trial Court rendered both the grounds of appeal on that point and the
issue raised thereon incompetent.
Indeed the Court of Appeal has no jurisdiction to quash any information or count unless there has been an application to quash it at the trial.”
However, in JOV V. DOM (1999) NWLR (pt.620) 538 at 541, this Court held that a question of law and jurisdiction can be raised at any time in the proceedings, but it is not on a free for all procedure. Per BELGORE JSC at P. 547 para C. F. has this to say:-
“This is so in order to avail the other side every opportunity to advert to that issue.
But to contend that issue of law or the Constitution can be raised at anytime and do nothing more than to raised it in argument is like laying a disrupting ambush for the opponent. This is not the spirit of our practice of adjudication of holding the even balance. Proper application must be made so that the other side will know clearly what he has to meet. In the present appeal, the appellant introduced ground 5 on lack of jurisdiction by trial Area Court, a matter not raised in the appellate High Court and in the Court of Appeal. It came like a bird out of the whirlwind, why was this not raised at the High Court or at the
Court of Appeal.”
As stated earlier I am satisfied that, failure of the respondent to seek consent of Justice Ita E. E. does not invalidate the trial. This issue is hereby resolved in favour of the respondent.
ISSUES 2, 3, and 4 will be taken together.
“Whether the purported arraignment and taking of the plea of the appellant was valid in law.
Whether the written address and the reply on the no case submission did not breach the appellant’s right to fair hearing and hereby consequently rendering the entire trial a nullity.
Whether the decision of the Court below to be very brief and to restrict itself in reviewing the arguments canvassed in the appellant’s brief of argument does not amount to a denial of the right of fair hearing of the appellant, and thus rendering the judgment of the Court below arrived at in such circumstances liable to be set aside.”
Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that a cursory look at the record will reveal that the trial of the appellant did not commence with the arraignment of the accused. He argued, this is in breach of the settled principle of the
procedure for arraignment in criminal matters. He submitted that the trial did not comply with the provisions of Section 36 (6) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. He urged the Court to discharge and acquit the appellant.
On the third issue, learned counsel submitted that the entire proceedings leading to the overruling the appellants No case submission” at the trial Court is violated by the manner in which the no case submission was rendered by the appellants and respondents counsel. The learned trial judge by permitting both counsel to the appellant and respondent to file the written address and reply, breached the constitutionally-entrenched provision relating to appellants right to fair hearing.
He also argued that it behoves on the Court below to give a full and comprehensive consideration of all the issues and argument canvassed in the appellants brief of argument and pronounce on them.
Failure to do so, as the Court below had done in the instant appeal, is tantamount to not hearing the appeal at all. This failure, he argued no doubt breached the appellant’s right
to fair hearing and resulted to a miscarriage of justice. He cited LONGE v. FBN PLC (2010) 6 NWLR (Pt.1189) 1 at p.20 para H – P 21.
Learned counsel submitted that had the Court below fully reviewed the arguments and issues canvassed in the appellant’s brief of argument, there is no doubt that it would have come to a different conclusion. He urged this Court to resolve the issue raised herein in favour of the appellant and set aside the ruling of the Court below.
In his response, learned counsel for the respondent on issue of arraignment contended that the arraignment of the appellant complied substantially with the provisions of Section 209 of the CPL and this suffices to validate the arraignment. He cited EREKANURE V. STATE (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt.294) 385 and JAMES EDUN & ORS (1996) 1 All NLR 17. He submitted that as the record indicated, the proceedings were conducted in the English language, a language which from available evidence on the record, the appellant understands perfectly. He finally submitted that the arraignment of the appellant is proper, valid and complies with Section 209 of the CPL.
The learned counsel argued that there can
be no merit in the appellant’s complaint that the trial was not conducted in public simply because the written address was adopted and not read in open Court, as a matter of fact, adoption of written address is so deeply entrenched in the practice and procedure of our superior Courts, he cited OBODO V. OLOMU (1987) 3 NWLR (PT. 5911).
He further argued that it was the appellant who first filed a written address apparently without an express order of Justice Ita, he appeared to have done so of his own accord.
He submitted that appellant cannot turn-around to complain about the alleged irregularity. If anything, he has acquiesced in, or waived his right to complain. He urge the Court to reject the appellants contention that he was not accorded a fair hearing in the consideration of this case by both the trial High Court and the Court below. The proceedings were entirely fair.
Determination of the issues
The object of arraignment in terms of Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Law is to ensure that justice is done to the accused by ensuring that he understands the charge against him and so as to enable him to make his defence.
CHIKAODI MADU V. THE STATE (2012) NCC at 553 this Court on the essential requirement of valid arraignment enumerated conditions for valid arraignment:
“(a). The accused must be placed before the Court unfettered unless the Court shall see cause otherwise to order
(b). The charge or information shall be read over and explained to the accused to the satisfaction of the Court by the registrar or other officer of the Court; and
(c). The accused shall then be called upon to plead instantly thereto unless course, there exist any valid reason to do otherwise such as objection to want of service where the accused is entitled by law to service of a copy of the information and the Court is satisfied that he has in fact not been duly served therewith.”
See also OLABODE V. STATE (2009) 4 NCC 199, OGUNYE v. STATE (1999) 5 NWLR (Pt.604) 518; MONSURU SOLOLA & ORS V. STATE, 22 NSCQR 254 at pp. 289-290.
Looking at pages 62- 63 of the record, this is what transpired in the trial Court when the appellant was arraigned.
“J – I Ushie for the State
J – I Ofen & C Odey for the accused plea
Count 1 read to accused persons in
Each of the 14 accused persons says he/she understands the charge and pleads not guilty.
Count 2 Read to the accused persons in English Language.
Each of the 14 accused persons says he/she understands the charge and pleads not guilty.
Count 3 read to accused persons in English Language.
Each of the 14 accused persons says he/she understands the charge all pleads not guilty.
Count 4 read to accused persons in English Language.
Each of the 14 accused persons says he/she understands the charge and plead not guilty.”
From the foregoing, this Court is satisfied that what transpired at page 62 of the record in this case is in conformity with the provision of the law above. The appellant has not furnished this Court with any evidence or fact to prove his claim.
The charge having been read over and explained to both accused persons in English language and each of them pleaded not guilty thereto, I find it difficult to conceive how the arraignment of the accused persons can be faulted. Without doubt, it would have been preferable for the learned trial judge to have recorded the plea of each of the accused
persons separately in the direct speech. However, failure to do this cannot be fatal to their plea so long as the charge was read over and over and explained to them, whether jointly or separately, and they both understood the same and each of them individually entered his plea thereto. It would not matter, whether the Court’s record which described the event was written in direct or reported speech. See UDEH V. STATE (1999) 7 NWLR (Pt.609). Anthony Okoro v. The State (Supra). National Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission V. Johnson (Supra).
The authorities do not say that it must be recorded that the charge was read and explained to the accused to the satisfaction of the Court (as claim by the appellant) before proceeding to record his plea thereto.
Without doubt it is good practice for the trial Court to record that “the charge was read and fully explained to the accused to the satisfaction of the Court” but I do not think the failure to record will render the trial a nullity. SeeEYISI VS STATE (2000) 15 NWLR (Pt.691) 555.
On the issue of filing and adopting written address as permitted by the trial judge in which the
appellant claimed to have contravened Section 36 (1) (3) & (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This Court found no merit in the claim. As a matter of fact, adoption of written address is a practice of this Court and other lower Courts.
Rules of different Courts have made provisions for filing and adoption of written address. In this case, Order 33 Rules 1 – 6 of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules of Cross River State and Order 30 Rules 13, 14, 15 and 16 of the same law stipulates the time within which each party shall file its written address. Once the written address is adopted, it is taken as read.
This Court will not waste time in resolving this issue against the appellant.
On the basis of the above, issues 2, 3 and 4 are hereby resolved in favour of the respondent.
“Whether having regard to the entire circumstances of this case, the Court below was correct in affirming the ruling of the trial Court and thereby calling upon the appellant to enter his defence.
The learned counsel for the appellant argued that, the law is settled that before an accused person can be called upon to enter his
defence, the prosecution must have established a prima facie case against the accused where the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against the accused, such an accused would not be called upon to enter his defence. He cited UBANATU V. COP (2000) 2 NWLR (p.643) 115 at 128 G. He further argued that where a prima facie case was not made out against an accused, a submission of no case to answer made by such an accused person ought to be upheld by a trial Court and such accused person be discharged and acquitted.”
He submitted that, evidence of PW1 and PW 2 which was relied upon by the trial Court to hold that there was conspiracy is unreliable.
No reasonable tribunal could have safely convicted the appellant on such unreliable evidence on the crucial issue of the actual commission of the offence. He finally urged this Court to resolve this issue in favour of the appellant.
On the contrary, learned counsel for the respondent contended that an in-depth evaluation of the evidence adduced by the prosecution at the trial does not support the appellants contention. He argued that the primary consideration at the stage of a no case
to answer submission is not whether the evidence laid by the prosecution would sustain a conviction but whether, on the strength of the evidence, the prosecution has established a prima facie case against the defendant.
He holds that evidence disclosed a ‘prima facie case’ when it is such that if un-contradicted and if believed, will be sufficient to prove the case against the respondent.
He finally submitted that the Court below rightly affirmed the findings of fact made by the trial Court. He urged this Court to find that the appellant has been properly called to defend the charges against him, his no case submission was rightly dismissed by the Court below.
The law is settled that if at the close of the evidence in support of the charge, it appears to the Court that a case is not made out against the defendant sufficient to require him to make a defence, the Court shall, as to that particular charge discharge him.
In AJULUCHUKWU V. THE STATE (2012) 7 WCC 281 the Court of Appeal on when a no submission will be upheld, stated that:-
“Where there has not been any evidence to establish the essential ingredients of the alleged
offence, or the evidence of the prosecution has become manifestly unreliable after cross-examination, that it cannot reasonably be basis for conviction, the respondents should be discharged without being called upon for defence.”
In the case at hand, the prosecution called a total of five witnesses out of which PW.1 and PW.2 were eye witnesses.
PW.1 in giving his testimony stated, as contained in pages 63-64 of the record, thus:
“On 10/5/2010 at about 7:20am, I left Echumoga village to Echumofana to write my Senior School Certificate Examination. I saw a large crowd including the accused persons. They carried sticks and cutlasses I saw the accused singing war songs and breaking my father’s buildings.
3rd accused person was holding a gun.
4th accused person was holding my younger brother Awoko Joseph by his hand. I asked 4th accused why he was holding my brother and he said if I did not keep quite he will kill me. He asked me whether my wife did not pass to me the message he, 4th accused, sent through her. 3rd accused pointed the gun he was holding at me and said if I did not keep quite he will shoot me. He shot unto the air to
show me he was serious. I was afraid and run away to Yegu village and informed my elder brother, Fidelis Awoko, about what was happening in our compound. Fidelis and I left to the Police station, Area Command, Ogoja where we laid a complain.
A Police man (Agara) accompanied us to Oloko Ogwobe village where the incident took place. When we got to Oloko Ogwobe we met the crowd at Adamode’s compound.
8th accused person told the Police that they were more than those we met there. That the Police should go and bring truck to accommodate all of them.
Accused persons destroyed three zinc houses and four huts in my father’s compound.
They used sticks to hit and destroy the building. They used their hands and cutlasses to cut the huts.
I was leaving at Echumoga until trouble started between my father and Oloko people. The people wrote a petition against my father and we were invited to the Local Government Council Office. It was because of that problem that I and my brothers left Oloko. I went to leave at Echumoga.
Apart from the building, they damage a motorcycle, two bicycles and many other things I cannot remember the value of the
properties damaged. My elder brother would know that.”
PW 2 in giving his testimony, after corroborating what PW.1 had earlier said, stated that he had a grinding machine, cushion chairs, box and 12 goats which were all missing. See pages 69-70.
Looking at the testimonies of PW1 and PW2 above, (which was not discredited during cross-examination) I am left with no doubt that the prosecution has established a prima facie case against the accused persons.
In ABOGEDE V. THE STATE (1996) NWLR (Pt.118) page 270 at 280 the Supreme Court held that:-
“When a Court is giving consideration to a submission of no case, it is not necessary at that stage of the trial for the learned trial judge to determine if the evidence is sufficient to justify conviction. The trial Court only has to be satisfied that there is a prima facie case requiring at least some explanation from the accused person.”
See alsoR. V. OGUCHA (1959) 4 FSC pg 64.
In SHATTA V. FRN (2009) 3 NCC 527 the Court of Appeal held that:-
“Without going into the credibility of the witnesses called by the prosecution, but based on the evidence presented before the trial Court,
it is my view that the Court does not have to believe the evidence adduced by the prosecution at this stage but the issue to be determined is that if the case for the prosecution is believed, is there anything for the appellant to explain.”
In ADUKU V. FRN (2009) 4 NCC 350. On the meaning of prima facie case the Court of Appeal has this to say:-
“What is meant by Prima Facie case It only means that there is a ground for proceedings … but a prima facie case is not the same as proof which comes later when the Court has to find whether the accused is finally guilty or not….. and the evidence discloses a prima facie case when it is such that un-contradicted and if believed it will be sufficient to prove the case against the accused.”
See on thisDR. OLU ONAGORUWA V. THE STATE, (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt.303) 49 at 80 – 83.
There are several decisions of this Court warning against the discharge of accused persons after a submission of no case to answer particularly when it is clearly from the evidence adduced that the facts disclose some explanation which the accused has to make in view of what the prosecution has so far established from the
In THE QUEEN V. OGUCHA (1959) 1 FSC 64 Abort F. J. stated that:-
“It is the judge’s duty however, when a submission of no case to answer is made to discharge an accused where the evidence adduced by the prosecution does not disclose the necessary minimum evidence establishing the facts of the crime charged. In doing so, the judge does not write judgment.
It is not the judge’s job, at that stage, to weigh and evaluate evidence or decide who is telling the truth or who is lying and is not to conclude that the prosecution is unreliable.”
The learned trial judge in his ruling at page 97 of the record stated that:-
“Count 1 is one of conspiracy. The evidence of PW.1 and PW.2 is that the accused persons gathered at the village square and from there moved on to damage the houses of PW.2. A Court can infer conspiracy from the fact of doing things together upon that inference I can convict the accused persons, so they owe me an explanation which I call upon them now to offer.”
On the 2nd count of unlawful assembly, the trial judge found in his ruling at pages 97 -98 that:-
“These pieces of evidence show that people,
including the accused persons gathered with stick and cutlasses and moved up to the gate of PW2. They started breaking the house of PW2. It is only left for me to decide whether they conducted themselves in such a manner as to cause persons in the neighborhood to fear on reasonable ground that the persons so assembled will turn tumultuously to disturb the peace or that they will provoke other persons tumultuously to disturb peace. There is prima facie evidence from the above evidence in support of this charge and I call upon the accused persons to offer their explanations.”
Learned trial judge found, however, on the third count in his ruling at page 98 that:-
“Count 3 is for malicious damage to property par 1 & 2 said they saw the accused persons destroying the property of PW2. Counsel for the accused persons fell into error in his address when he went into how the property was damage. Whether by breaking down or by fire. This is not the stage for that. Section 451 of the Criminal Code Law under which the charge is had does not make such distinction. There is prima facie evidence put in by the prosecution that accused persons can be convicted, if
believed, accused persons are called upon to offer this defence.”
On the last count, i.e. stealing the trial Court found that:-
“PW2 said the above items were in his house when the accused persons destroy his house and that after the destruction, he could no longer find those items in his house. This is prima facie evidence of stealing those items.
It is now time for the accused persons to tell me what happened, and if they do not, I can convict them on the evidence of PW.2 alone.”
This well respected view of the learned trial judge was also affirmed by the court below where the court in its judgment dismissed the appeal and affirmed the ruling of the trial High Court.
The law is settled that the Supreme Court, this noble Court, will not interfere with concurrent findings of facts made by the trial Court and the Court of Appeal unless such findings are perverse; or are not supported by the evidence; or are reached as a result of a wrong approach to the evidence; or as a result of a wrong application of any principle of substantive law or procedure.
See ARABAMBI V. ADVANCE BEVERAGES IND. LTD (2005) 19 NWLR (Pt. 959) 1 per ONNOGHEN,
J.S.C (as he then was) at (P46, C – E).
It is my conclusion in the circumstances that since the appellant has not been able to show these findings to be perverse; this Court cannot interfere with the decisions of both Courts below.
In the end I am satisfied that the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right in affirming the ruling of the trial Court, on the evidence presented by the prosecution. The case of no case submission is hereby over-ruled. Appeal dismissed.