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M.C. NAGEON DE LESTANG, AG. F.C.J. (Presided and Read the Judgment of the Court)
SIR HENLEY COUSSEY, AG. F.J.
ROBERT YORKE HEDGES, AG. F.J.
[Sam Eleanya, Agboola Omolola Oluwafolakemi, Vincent Eleanya Kalu, Eleanya Ugochi Vine]
APPEAL – Finding of fact – Attitude of Appellate Court
CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE – Accomplice – Evidence of – Not corroborated – Effect
CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE – Conspiracy – Proof of
CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE- Suspicion – Not basis for conviction
EVIDENCE- Evidence of an accomplice -Absence of corroboration – Effect
TRANSPORTATION LAW: Vehicle permits – official corruption
S.O. Lambo -for 1st Appellant. A.G.F. Razaq – for 2nd Appellant.
3rd Appellant in person.
C.H.E. Miller -for Respondent.
DE LESTANG, AG. F.C.J. (Delivering the Judgment of the Court):
The appellants were jointly tried and convicted of conspiracy contra section 516 of the Criminal Code. All three appellants were at the material times employed by the P.W.D. and the conspiracy in question consisted of an agreement between them to accept for the performance of their duties rewards, beyond their proper pay and emoluments, from members of the public applying for Heavy Vehicle Permits from the P.W.D.
The only ground of appeal argued on behalf of appellant 1, Gabriel Awonuga, was “That there is no evidence from which it can be reasonably inferred that the appellant conspired with the accused to commit the acts alleged to amount to an offence under section 99 of the Criminal Code.” Mr. Lambo’s main argument on this ground of appeal was that the statement given by this appellant to the Police had been wrongly admitted in evidence. That statement was highly incriminating. The. appellant did not deny making it, but when it was tendered in evidence at the trial objection was taken to its admission on the ground that it was not voluntary, whereupon the learned trial Judge held a “trial within a trial” at the end of which he ruled that the statement was admissible. Mr. Lambo submitted that he ought not to have so ruled in view of the allegations which the appellant had made. It is sufficient to say that the learned trial Judge disbelieved the appellant and believed the Police Officer who recorded the statement. It is impossible for us to say that he was wrong, since in coming to his decision he had the advantage, which is denied to us, of seeing and hearing the Police Officer and the accused give their evidence. But quite apart from this incriminating statement there was, in our view, good evidence against appellant 1. Two letters, Exhibits “1A” and “1B,” which he admitted writing to appellant 3, established clearly the existence of conspiracy between them in regard to Heavy Vehicle Permits. There is, therefore, no substance in appellant 1’s appeal.
It is convenient to deal next with the appeal of appellant 3. His complaint was that a copy of a letter purporting to have been written by him to appellant 1 was wrongly received in evidence. That letter was found among this appellant’s papers in his house. In our view it was admissible in evidence against him and it established clearly the existence of the conspiracy charged. There is no merit in his appeal also.
The case of appellant 2 is somewhat different. He was the messenger employed in the P.W.D. office at Kaduna where appellant 3 was the clerk who had charge of the preparation of Heavy Vehicle Permits after they had been approved. The only real evidence against him is that of Amani Kano who said in effect that he paid money to this appellant and subsequently received permits from him. The learned trial Judge held correctly, in our view, that this witness was an accomplice whose evidence required corroboration. The learned Crown Counsel conceded that in fact there was no corroboration and that Exhibits “1A.” “1B” and “2” tended to show that this appellant was not in the conspiracy. Strong suspicion certainly attaches to this appellant, but we do not think that the charge was made out against him.
In the result the appeals of appellant 1 and appellant 3 are dismissed and that of appellant 2 is allowed. A verdict of acquittal must be entered in this case.
COUSSEY, AG. F.J.: I concur.
HEDGES, AG. F.J.: I concur.
Appeals of 1st and 3rd Appellants Dismissed.
Appeal of 2nd Appellant allowed