[PDF copy of this judgment can be sent to your email for N300 only. Just order through firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com or text 07067102097]
FEDERAL SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
22ND MAY, 1958.
BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS:
SIR ADETOKUNBO ADEMOLA, F.C.J. (Presided)
WILFRED HUGH HURLEY AG. F.J.
SAMUEL OKAI QUASHIE-IDUN AG. F.J. (Read the Judgment of the Court)
Appellants absent and unrepresented.
C.H.E. MILLER -for Respondent.
CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE:- Murder – Lynching of a person accused of stealing by dreaded gang/group – How proved – Delayed investigation – Where deceased’s body not found – Whether fatal to prosecution’s case
HUMAN RIGHTS:- Right to life – Extra-judicial Lynching of a citizen alleged to have stolen a goat – Activity of dreaded cult group – The Odozi-Obodo Society menace – Attitude of court thereto
CHILDREN AND WOMEN LAW:- Women and Crime/Justice Administration – Women as indirect victim of crime – Women and Law enforcement – Extra-legal killing via lynching of person suspected of stealing – Activities of dreaded cult groups/gangs and effect on women and Families/communities – Deceased husband/son lynched by members of dreaded cult – Brace efforts of mother and wife to secure police investigation 6 months after – How treated
QUASHIE-IDUN, AG. F.J. (Delivering the Judgment of the Court):
The appellants, Ogbule Nnabu and Nwajibia Alagu, were convicted of the murder of Nwanshi Nwannaji by Reynolds J., sitting at the High Court of the Eastern Region, holden at Abakaliki and were sentenced to death on the 13th February, 1958. The appellants have appealed against their conviction. The grounds of appeal filed by each of the appellants are identical. They are:
“1. That the learned trial Judge was wrong in law in holding that the confessional Statement of the first appellant was made voluntarily.
The evidence led in support of the charge against the appellants was briefly as follows:
In November, 1956, the deceased who lived at Onitsha Ago left his house to visit one Utobo Nwali at Esse Ago which was about 1½ miles away from the deceased’s village. The deceased did not return.
On the day after the deceased had left, his wife and brother went to Utobo Nwali and they enquired about the deceased. Utobo Nwali denied having seen the deceased. While they were talking to Utobo Nwali, Utobo’s mother started weeping. The deceased’s wife and his brother later made a report to the Police. Six months after the report the Police commenced their investigations at Ezza Agu. The Police received information that on the day the deceased had disappeared, one Ogboji Imoke had visited the first appellant and had seen the first appellant with a man whom first appellant had said he had caught stealing a goat. Acting upon this information and others received by them, the Police arrested the appellants and others, including Utobo Nwali, and one Ezeali Ekechi.
The appellants were taken to Enugu and were duly cautioned. The first appellant made a statement in which he said he had caught the deceased stealing a goat in the night. He continued:-
”When all the men I mentioned came, we carried the deceased to Aboye River bush. There, the deceased was killed by us. It was Ezeali Ekechi’s knife which was used to kill the deceased.” The second appellant also made a statement to the Police. In the statement he said:-”It is true that we killed the Onitsha man. The Onitsha man was a thief… It was a goat he wanted to steal. When the thief was caught he had a rope in his hand … Ogbule Nnabu went to Ezeali Ekechi and got a matchet … When we reached Aboye River, Agutorm Eze took a rope and put the deceased on his neck and killed him. When he died Ogbule Nnabu took the matchet and cut the deceased’s legs…”
The statements of the appellants were accepted in evidence. Apart from the statements, the Police called witnesses who gave evidence as to what they knew.
The first and second appellants gave evidence before the Court. They all denied that they had caught the deceased or that they had killed him. The first appellant denied having made the statement (Exhibit D) voluntarily. The second appellant denied having made the statement (Exhibit E).
On the 16th May, 1958, we dismissed the appeals of the appellants and now give our reasons for doing so. Ground (1) – It is clear from the Record of Proceedings that the learned trial Judge considered the evidence as to the manner in which the statements of the appellants was taken and the objection put forward to their admissibility as evidence against the appellants. He came to the conclusion that each of the appellants had made a statement to the Police and that it had been made voluntarily. We agreed with the learned trial Judge’s finding and this ground, therefore, failed.
Grounds (2), (3) and (4) – On the evidence before the Court it is impossible to imagine that any conclusion could have been arrived at other than the man Nwanshi Nwannaji was the one the appellants had caught as a thief, that he is dead and that he was murdered by the appellants. It is true that the body was not discovered and may not have been discovered to this day. There was evidence of admissions by each of the appellants that they killed the deceased. There was, in our opinion, ample corroboration of the evidence of Ezeali Ekechi against the appellants. Ezeali Ekechi’s evidence was properly treated by the learned trial Judge as that of an accomplice. Ekechi’s evidence was that he saw the appellants with the deceased tied up and that they were dragging him towards the Aboye River. Apart from this evidence there was evidence that the witness Aga Akan saw first appellant tying up the deceased and second appellant was there. There was also evidence that the witness Ogboji Imoke saw first appellant holding the deceased, that first appellant charged the deceased with stealing a goat and that second appellant came and beat the deceased. In our view grounds 2,3 and 4 also failed. Ground (5) – We have already expressed the view that the learned trial Judge was justified in accepting the statements of the appellants in evidence. As ground (one) of each appellant has failed, ground 5 must also fail. Ground (6) -There was ample evidence to support the verdict. We can find no justification in the allegations that the verdict is unreasonable, unwarranted and cannot be supported having regard to the evidence. This ground and the general ground, therefore, failed.
In the result we found no substance in the grounds of appeal and, therefore, dismissed the appeal of the appellants.
ADEMOLA, F.C.J.: I concur.
HURLEY, AG. F.J.: I concur.