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JUNAIDU v. STATE (2021) – SC

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➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
JUNAIDU v. STATE (2021) – SC

by PipAr Chima

➥ COURT:
Supreme Court – SC.321/2016

➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, February 12, 2021

➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
Murder;
Homicide;
Confessional statement;
Fair hearing.

➥ NOTABLE DICTA
⦿ RETRACTION OF CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT DOES NOT RENDER IT INADMISSIBLE
It is trite that the mere retraction of a confessional statement by the Defendant will not render it inadmissible. It will only affect the weight to be attached to it where the Defendant denies making it at the earliest opportunity. – Ogunwumiju JSC. Junaidu v. State (2021)

⦿ CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS THE BEST EVIDENCE IN NIGERIA CRIMINAL LAW
I entirely agree with the contention of the Respondent’s counsel that the nature of the corroborative evidence required does not need to be direct evidence linking the Defendant to the commission of the offence. Circumstantial evidence is sufficient, particularly where it leads to no other conclusion than the guilt of the Defendant. I agree with the Respondent’s counsel that a confessional statement is the best evidence in Nigerian criminal jurisprudence as it is direct evidence by the perpetrator giving the reasons for and how the offence was committed. So long as it is voluntary and it is a direct and positive admission of guilt, it can be used to convict even where it has been retracted. – Ogunwumiju JSC. Junaidu v. State (2021)

⦿ RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT MUST MEET FOLLOWING TESTS
My Lords, the confessional statement of the Appellant was retracted by him in the course of the trial and the position of the law as reiterated by this Court in several cases is that the statement must meet the probability test set out in R. v. Sykes (1913) 18 CR All Pg. 233: a) Whether there is anything outside it to show the statement is true, b) Whether it is corroborated, c) Whether the statement made in it of fact so far as they can be tested are true, d) Whether the accused had the opportunity of committing the offence, e) Whether it is consistent with other facts which have been ascertained and have been proved. – Ogunwumiju JSC. Junaidu v. State (2021)

⦿ FAIR HEARING INCLUDES A PARTY’S RIGHT TO CROSS-EXAMINE
There is no doubt that the well-settled position is that in order to be fair, “hearing” or “opportunity to be heard” must, inter alia, encompass a party’s right to cross-examine or otherwise confront or contradict all the witnesses who testified against him. – Ogunwumiju JSC. Junaidu v. State (2021)

Available:  Rickett v. Bank Of West Africa (1960)

⦿ THE FAIR HEARING OF A PERSON CANNOT BE WAIVED BY ANOTHER
I cannot agree with the view of the learned Respondent’s counsel that the Appellant’s counsel compromised the right of the Appellant and thus the Appellant cannot complain. The right to fair hearing cannot be waived or compromised as it is not donated but inherent for the person involved. – Ogunwumiju JSC. Junaidu v. State (2021)

⦿ RATIONALE FOR UPHOLDING CONCURRENT FINDINGS OF FACT
The attitude of this Court to concurrent findings of fact, is that it would not usually interfere with such findings unless they are shown to be perverse, not based on the evidence before the Court or where there has been an error of law or error in procedure which has occasioned a miscarriage of justice. The rationale for this position was eloquently stated by His Lordship, Belgore, JSC (as he then was) in Bamgboye v. Olarewaju (1991) LPELR 745 SC as follows: “Once a Court of trial has made a finding of fact, it is no more within the competence of the appellate Court to interfere with those findings except in certain circumstances. The real reason behind this attitude of appellate Courts is that the Court hearing the appeal is at a disadvantage as to the demeanour of witnesses in the lower Court as they were not seen and heard by the appellate Court. It is not right for the appellate Court to substitute its own eyes and ears for those of the trial Court which physically saw the witnesses and heard them and thus able to form an opinion as to what weight he place on their evidence…” – Abdu Aboki JSC. Junaidu v. State (2021)

⦿ FOR CULPABLE HOMICIDE THE FOLLOWING MUST BE PROVED
In a charge of culpable homicide punishable with death, the onus is on the prosecution to prove, either through eye witness evidence; or circumstantial evidence; or by the confessional statement of the accused, the following beyond reasonable doubt: a. That the deceased died; b. That the death of the deceased resulted from the act of the accused; and c. That the act of the accused was intentional with knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was its possible consequence. – Abdu Aboki JSC. Junaidu v. State (2021)

➥ PARTIES
Zaharadeen Junaidu

v.

The State

Available:  Kingsley Okoro v. The State (2012)

➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, J.S.C.

➥ APPEARANCES
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
– Esene Emmanuel Esq.

⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
– Mr. Abu Umar, Esq.

➥ CASE HISTORY
The Appellant was charged vide an amended CHARGE NO: KTH/8C/2012 dated 9th April, 2014. The Appellant was accused of causing the death of his wife Rukayya Zaharaddeen by hitting her on the chest with an axe with the knowledge that death would be the probable consequences of his act. He was charged with committing the offence under Section 221 of the Penal Code Law, Cap. 96, Laws of Katsina State, 1991.

At the end of the trial, the trial Court found the Respondent guilty, convicted him as charged and sentenced him to death accordingly on the 30th of May, 2014.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial Court, the Appellant had appealed to the lower Court which affirmed the decision of trial Court.

The Appellant being dissatisfied with the decision of the lower Court has now appealed to this Court.

➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION
[APPEAL: DISMISSED]

I. Whether from the facts and circumstances of this case, the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt against the Appellant.

RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
I.A. My Lords, the evidence here is very clear. The Appellant rushed to his neighbor P.W.1 to report that a door fell on his wife and she was wounded and he needed assistance to take her to the hospital. P.W.1 on oath stated that when he got to the scene, the deceased was near death with a big gash on her chest. He also noted that there was no fallen door on her body or anywhere in the house to which her wound could be attributed. P.W.2, the father of the deceased stated on oath that the Appellant was in the habit of beating the deceased. That he had even beat her with a cable when she was pregnant and the matter was reported to the Sharia Court. He swore that he saw the dead body of his daughter in a pool of her own blood and later buried her. This evidence was not seriously controverted under cross-examination by the Appellant during the trial. The IPO, P.W.4 tendered an axe which was found in the house. The Appellant initially denied ownership of the axe but later admitted that he owned an axe but the axe was not in the house on that day. In his evidence on oath, the Appellant denied killing his wife and insisted that his wife had a leg injury prior to the incident and that she fell and wounded herself.

Available:  Arab Contractors (O.A.O.) Nigeria Ltd. V. Gillian Umanah (CA/L/445M/09, 26 April 2012)

I.B. However, the circumstantial evidence which corroborates foul play is the fact that the Appellant lied that a door fell on her. The confessional statement Exh 2 & 2A is corroborated by the state of her body and the existence of the axe Exh 1 in the house when police searched the place.
.
.
II. Whether the respondent’s failure to present P.W.4 for cross-examination did not amount to lack of fair hearing and thereby nullifying the conviction.

RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
II.A. My Lords, I am of the view that in the peculiar circumstances of this case, while the axe recovered by the witness may be disregarded, the confessional statement may not be disregarded. There was a trial within trial to test the admissibility of the statement and there was a ruling admitting the statement. It would have been a different matter if there was no separate trial in which that aspect of the evidence of the witness was diligently looked into by the Court and all parties given an opportunity to be heard. I would expunge that part of the evidence not tested under cross-examination but leave the portion of the evidence already well tested in evidence.

II.B. Even though the confessional statement has been made an issue in this Court, its admissibility has been tested and determined by the trial Court. That aspect of the trial and the admissibility of the statement would not be affected by the IPO’s absence to answer questions on some other areas of his investigation. In this appeal, the failure to cross-examine the IPO cannot lead to an acquittal of the Appellant. There is sufficient circumstantial evidence even without the confessional statement of the Appellant to prove the offence of culpable homicide beyond reasonable doubt. The half-hearted defence of provocation put up by the Appellant in his extra-judicial statement was not well articulated enough to be taken seriously. Neither was there any effort to press that defence during the trial. The story that a door fell on the deceased and caused her death was debunked by P.W.1 and P.W.2 whose evidence was not seriously controverted during the trial.

➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS

➥ REFERENCED (STATUTE)

➥ REFERENCED (CASE)

➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)

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