⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Ofoke Njoku v. The State (1993) – SC
(1993) NWLR (Pt.299) 272;
(1993) 7 SCNJ 36;
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
– Seyi Sowemimo, Esq;
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
– O’ Connel Ogbonna;
The Appellant was convicted under S. 319 (1) of Criminal Code Law of former Anambra State for the murder of her husband, Njoku Igboke. The trial took place at Abakaliki Judicial Division. The prosecution’s case was that on the 29th day of December, 1977 at Amagu Izzi the deceased arrived home from the market and asked for his supper which the appellant gave him. He complained that the fish in the stew was full of bones and implying it was not good. It would seem he made a big issue of it but the appellant apologised and promised to get better fish to cook next time. At the time he came home their son, Njoku Igboke, 18 years old, had just finished eating his own meal. So he was around when his father the deceased, complained that his stew was full of fish bone’s rather than fish and in the words of the young man (who was P.W.1) “he protested that only fish bones were in his soup and blamed the accused for not recognising his status as the head of the family”.
He threatened to discipline her. The deceased, the appellant and P.W.1. then retired to the same apartment to sleep for the night. P.W.1 then claimed he was on the same mat with his mother while the deceased was on another one opposite them. Here the divergent stories started. The prosecution’s case was that the deceased had just slept when the appellant picked up a pestle with which they normally wedged the door and with it dealt three blows on the deceased’s head. The deceased groaned, stretched his legs and then became motionless. At the time of the attack, the deceased was facing away from the appellant and P.W.1., and had his hands under his head with his matchet that he customarily kept by his side. The appellant picked up the matchet of the deceased and ran out and away. According to P.W.1, the incident occured around 9 p.m.
The appellant’s story in defence as told by her in her voluntary statement to the police and as P.W.4, Nwazufu Erinye, a neigbour, said, was that because of the heated argument on the stew full of fish bones rather than fish, he threatened he would kill her bringing out his matchet which he kept by his side. Although, in her voluntary statement, Exhibit C, she said as follows: “I told him to forgive that the following day I would buy another fish to cook for him. He said both of us would die. He then took his matchet to cut me, I quickly went to a corner of the house, got hold of a pestle, I gave him two hits by side of the head and he fell down and died…My son named Igboke Njoku was at home during the incident.” When P.W.4., who was the village councillor, went to the house of the deceased, he saw the deceased lying on a mat with his two hands clasped under his head with extensive flow of blood.
The medical report of the autopsy, Exhibit D, says inter alia as follows: “A 4cm vertical laceration wound (sic) surrounded by a marked scalp contusion of the left side on the scalp behind the right ear and covered with blood. Depressed fracture of the frontal bone on the left side. Extradural hemorrhage on the left side of the anterior crarial tossa. I certify the cause of death in my opinion to head injury.” Though the appellant in her evidence on oath in court elaborated fully her version of what happened, it is not much different from her voluntary statement. She agreed her attack on her husband killed him but she claimed she did so in self defence. Learned trial Judge preferred the version of the P.W.1, the son of both the deceased and the appellant; that is to say the deceased had gone to sleep on the mat when stealthily the appellant from the back rained blows on his skull with a pestle. He disbelieved the story of the appellant that she pre-empted the deceased attacking her with a matchet as he threatened, he rather found the appellant rashly rushed at the sleeping deceased and smashed his skull. The Court of Appeal refused to interfere with the decision and dismissed the appeal lodged by the appellant and this led to this appeal.
Whether the evidence adduced at the trial was sufficiently cogent to discharge the burden beyond reasonable doubt?
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
ISSUE 1 was judged in favour of the Respondent.
i. The evidence before the court did not support the defences of provocation or self-defence raised on behalf of the Appellant. For defence of self-defence there must be clear and unambiguous evidence before Court of trial that the victim was attacking or about to attack the appellant in a manner that grievous hurt and or death was possible and had to defence (sic) himself; that the self defence was instantaneous or contemporaneous with the threatened attack; and that the mode of self-defence was not greater or disproportionate with the threatened attack. This case was a clear case of calculated cold blooded murder perpetrated by a wife on her husband. There is no merit whatsoever in this appeal.
S.319 Criminal Code;
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
⦿ RELEVANT CASES
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
For defence of self-defence there must be clear and unambiguous evidence before Court of trial that the victim was attacking or about to attack the appellant in a manner that grievous hurt and or death was possible and had to defence himself; that the self defence was instantaneous or contemporaneous with the threatened attack; and that the mode of self-defence was not greater or disproportionate with the threatened attack. – Belgore, JSC. Ofoke Njoku v. State (1993)
We would not normally interfere with the findings of facts by the trial court except where such findings are perverse or unreasonable. – Kutigi, JSC. Ofoke Njoku v. State (1993)
The burden of establishing that she did so by accident or under provocation or in self-defence rested squarely on her. It would have been discharged on a balance of probabilities (see R. V. ONAKOYA) 4 FSC 150; (1959) SCNLR 384). – Kutigi, JSC. Ofoke Njoku v. State (1993)