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Rabiu Ruma Vs Daura Native Authority (1960) LLJR-SC

Rabiu Ruma Vs Daura Native Authority (1960)

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The appellant in this case was convicted by the Native Court of the Emir of Daura of the murder of his wife, and sentenced to death. Heart appealed against his conviction to the Moslem Court of Appeal which dismissed his appeal. He then appealed to the High Court of the Northern Region which likewise dismissed his appeal to this Court.

The original grounds of appeal filed by the appellant were formulated either by the appellant himself apparently or at least by somebody with no legal knowledge, and Mr. J.A. Cole, who appeared before us for the appellant, asked leave to abandon these and filed and argue three additional grounds of appeal and this request was granted. It is only necessary, however, in view of what we have to say later in this judgment, to deal with the third which reads as follows:-

‘The learned Chief Justice, High Court, Kano, was wrong in law and misdirected himself by holding that there was no evidence of provocation as would reduce Appellants offence from murder to manslaughter.’

The first intimation that there might have been some sort of provocation for the appellants attack on his wife appeared when the Moslem Court of Appeal asked the appellant to narrate the circumstances in which he committed the attack, and he there said this: ‘What had triggered the incident was that she looked at me and said that I and a dog were the same. That was what had pained me. Then I killed her.’ It is no criticism of the Moslem Court of Appeal to point out that in their judgment they did not refer to any question of possible provocation because in Maliki Law a homicide is either intentional or accidental killing. There is no middle line as there is in English Law leading to a verdict of manslaughter.

At the hearing before the High Court of the Northern Region Counsel for the appellant submitted that the Record showed that the appellant was provoked into the attack on his wife and that the sentence of death should be reduced to one of manslaughter. The High Court dealt with this in the last two paragraphs of their judgment as follows:-

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‘At the trial, the appellant gave no reason for this homicide; but before the Moslem Court of Appeal he reiterated his admission of guilt, and gave as his reasons for doing so that his wife had looked at him and said that he and a dog were the same. Mr. Ete, who appears for the appellant, has asked us to say that those words constitute provocation, and that we ought, while upholding the conviction for homicide, to substitute a sentence to imprisonment upon the ground that this case would have been manslaughter if it had been tried under the Criminal Code. We cannot agree with that. There is, so far as we can see, no evidence of provocation which if the case were tried under the Criminal Code would reduce the offence from murder to manslaughter; and the appeal is dismissed.’

Mr. Cole, who appeared for the appellant before us, submitted first that it is clear that the appellant is a Moslem and secondly that this Court should take judicial notice of the fact that to call or liken a person to a dog is a very serious term of opprobrium to any Moslem, particularly when the insult is offered by a woman to a man. Mr. Cole referred us to two authorities on this subject – R v. Igiri 12 WACA 377, and R v. Adekanmi 17 N.L.R. 99 at page 101. Igiris case is a much stronger one, we think than that now before us in that there the wife who was killed by her husband had accused him of being impotent and followed this up by spit-ting in his face. In Adekanmis case the wife of the accused taunted him in the same way and told him that she was having sexual connection with other men, and the learned trial Judge towards the end of his judgment said this:-

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‘According to these principles the provocation suffered must be judged by the effect it would be expected to have on a reasonable man, not by the effect it did actually have on a particular person charged (R v. Alexander,) 9 CAR. 139 and R. v. Lesbini, 11 CAR. 7) and moreover the mode of resentment, as instanced by the weapon used, must be in a reasonable proportion to the provocation (Mancini v. Director of Public Prosecutions, 28 CAR. 65). In applying these principles to this case, it is my considered opinion that the words ‘the effect it would be expected to have a reasonable man must be taken to mean the effect it would be expected to have on a reasonable man of accused standing in life’, for it would, I think, be improper to examine the question in the light of what would be sufficient provocation in the case of an educated and civilized person. The accused, be it noted, is an illiterate and primitive peasant of this country, and it must be beyond doubt that the passions of such a type are far more readily aroused than those of a civilized and enlightened class.’

‘Now holding, as I do, that the accused was jeered at by his wife with impotency and at the same time was told by her that she had had connection with other men, I think it is reasonable to assume that the accumulated effect of the insult and sudden knowledge of her adultery so infuriated him that the accused in the heat of his passion picked up the first weapon to hand, a cutlass, and killed his wife. And it seems to me that this is just what might be expected from an ordinary simple and primitive person of the accused status in life whose passions would less easily be restrained than those of a more civilized person.’

Adekanmi was then convicted of manslaughter.

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Finally, Mr. Cole submitted that the High Court of the Northern Region was going too far in saying that there was no evidence of provocation such as, if the case were tried under the Criminal Code, would reduce the offence from murder to manslaughter, and he asked us to order that the appellant be retried by the High Court of the Northern Region sitting at first instance.

Mr. Folarin, Crown Counsel who appeared for the prosecution before us, could offer no opposition of any substance to the submission advanced by Mr. Cole.

With the greatest respect to the learned Chief Justice of the Northern Region and Mr. Justice Bate, we consider that there is sufficient evidence of possible provocation to require that that issue be fully investigated by the hearing of evidence upon it. It was not possible owing to the system of law operating both in the Native Court and the Moslem Court of Appeal for either of those Courts to take cognisance of the possibility of provocation. In order that the issue of provocation may, therefore, be fully investigated, we think that the proper order to make in this appeal is that the appellant be retried before the High Court of the Northern Region at first instance, and we therefore order accordingly. The conviction by the Native Court is, therefore, quashed and the sentence passed by that Court set aside.

Neither of the Judges who heard the appeal at the High Court will, of course, preside at the retrial.

Conviction quashed. Order for retrial.

Other Citation: (1960) LCN/0863(SC)

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