[PDF copy of this judgment can be sent to your email for N300 only. Just order through email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org or text 07067102097]
SIR LIONEL BRETT, J.S.C. (Presided)
CHARLES DADI ONYEAMA, J.S.C.
MICHAEL OGUEJIOFO AJEGBO, J.S.C. (Read the Judgment of the Court)
CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE – Murder – Witnesses – Prosecution witness earlier arrested as a suspect – Whether a person with an interest to serve.
PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – EVIDENCE – Witness’s evidence – Prosecution witness earlier arrested as suspect -Whether a person with an interest to serve
J.A. Cole -for the Appellant.
F. Ayalogu, State Counsel (East) -for the Respondent.
AJEGBO, J.S.C. (Delivering the Judgment of the Court): This is an appeal brought by Njoku Nwaegbuaba against his conviction in the High Court of Eastern Nigeria for the Murder of Livinus Okwo.
The facts of the case relied on by the prosecution are as follows: The appellant went in company of Nomeh Mba (P. W. 3) and Odo Nwauzu (P. W . 4) to a village of Obinagu-Iji-Nike to watch a dance; it was a feast day in the village. After the dance the three men were returning home when on the way they met the deceased in the company of one woman, Nwanigho Mba (P. W. 2), coming in the opposite direction. The deceased greeted Odo Nwauzu and shook hands with him; The appellant asked the deceased why he did not greet him and the deceased answered that he greeted only the person he knew. The appellant then blocked the way and prevented the deceased from passing unless he greeted him. The deceased and the appellant began to struggle and the appellant gave the deceased a blow with his fist and later stabbed him with a pen knife and the deceased shouted that he had been killed. Realising what he had done, the appellant bolted away and the deceased returned to the house of one Samuel; seeing the condition of the deceased, Samuel raised an alarm which attracted the attention of the villagers who came and removed the deceased to Enugu General Hospital where he died the following day.
In his evidence the appellant said he would adopt his second statement to the police as part of his defence. Part of the statement reads:
“When myself, Odo Nwauzu and Nome Mba were returning, we met one woman and one man along the road. I do not know any of them. By that time Odo Nwauzu was vomiting wine and myself and Nome Mba rebuking him for drinking too much. As he was just vomiting he went to the man who was in company of a lady and started to talk to him. I told Odo Nwauzu to come let’s go. At that time I was standing with Nomeh Mba on the other side of the road. The woman asked me what I was saying. Immediately the other man speaking to Odo Nwauzu left him, came to me and slapped me. I stood still. The woman then told me “make I go fight now”. As the man wanted to come to me again, Odo held him, and told him to leave me as two of them know themselves before. As Odo was holding him, two of them fell into a gutter. They got up from the gutter, that man ran up and held me with his two hands on my mouth. That’s the time I started to fight with the man. The woman ran back to the place they seemed to come from. Ian too, for I was afraid and thought that the woman might go and call their people who would come and kill me.”
Continuing his evidence, the appellant said that the deceased and Odo Nwauzu (P.W. 4) fought and fell in a gutter and that the Police refused to take him to show them the gutter and that the fight took place between the deceased and P. W. 4. He denied blocking the way for the deceased and said that he, P.W. 3 and P.W. 4 had plenty of drinks that day. He also denied stabbing the deceased and said his shorts and shirt got stained with blood when he was trying to separate P. W. 4 and the deceased during their fight.
P.W. 3 and P.W. 4 were eye-witnesses to the crime. They confirmed that they went with the deceased to witness a dance in the village and that on their way back the appellant provoked a fight with the deceased. Both of them said they saw the appellant stab the deceased.
In a careful judgment the learned trial Judge considered the evidence before him and the issue of drunkenness, self-defence and provocation raised. He came to the conclusion that on the facts, which he found proved, the defence of drunkenness, self-defence and provocation was hot available to the appellant and he found him guilty of murder.
Learned Counsel for the appellant has submitted that P. W. 3 and P, W. 4 were arrested for the murder and that there being no evidence that they had been released, they were persons who had some interest to protect and the learned trial Judge ought to have warned himself of the danger of convicting without the corroboration of their evidence. It is a notorious fact that in cases of murder the police tend to arrest every person who, they suspect, may help them in their investigation. Usually, they release the persons arrested on getting the real suspect. This, no doubt, was what they did on this occasion and we cannot, therefore, hold that P. W. 3 and P. W. 4 had any interest to subserve. Learned Counsel next challenged the findings of fact. We are satisfied that the learned Judge made correct findings of fact and came to the right conclusion. The appeal is dismissed.
BRETT, J.S.C.: I concur.
ONYEAMA, J.S.C.: I concur.