➥ CASE SUMMARY OF:
Usaini Mohammed v. Commissioner of Police (2017) – SC
by Branham Chima (SAL).
Supreme Court – SC.625/2014
➥ JUDGEMENT DELIVERED ON:
Friday, the 15th day of December, 2017
➥ AREA(S) OF LAW
➥ PRINCIPLES OF LAW
⦿ CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS THE BEST EVIDENCE
Confessional statement is the best evidence to ground conviction and, as held in a number of cases, it can be relied upon solely where voluntary. The criminal guilt of an accused person could be established by confessional statement, circumstantial evidence and evidence of an eye witness. A confessional statement of the Appellant that was free and voluntary led to the crystallisation of the procedure stipulated under Section 156 and 157 of the CPC, which 17 were duly applied as held above. A confessional statement does not become inadmissible even if the accused person denied having made it. This has been the settled position in our jurisprudence of criminal justice. — S.D. Bagel, JSC.
➥ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
Sidi Dauda Bage, J.S.C.
⦿ FOR THE APPELLANT
Chief Bankole Falade.
⦿ FOR THE RESPONDENT
G.D. Fwomyon D.P.P. PLS.
➥ CASE FACT/HISTORY
The Appellant on the 4th February, 2012, was driving a stretched vehicle (a truck), along Mangu Road when he was involved in a fatal accident in which the passenger of a Motor cyclist road user was killed while the rider himself sustained injuries while driving his Motor Cycle as a result of the most unfortunate mishap. The Appellant was then tried before the Upper Area Court sitting in Mangu in Plateau State for the offence of causing death through dangerous driving under Section 5 of the Federal Highways Act.
The charges were read and the Appellant, then an Accused person, confirmed the allegation, by declaring thus: “The allegation is true because I drove the car dangerously and so caused the death of the motorcyclist that I knocked down. I am sorry. I was actually reckless.”
This is an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal, Jos Division delivered on 30th June, 2014, wherein the Court below dismissed the Appellant’s appeal against the judgment of the High Court which had earlier confirmed the conviction of the Appellant by the Upper Area Court sitting in Mangu, Plateau State on the offence of dangerous and reckless driving under Section 5 of the Federal Highways Act, Cap 135 of the Laws of Federation, 1990.
The Court below found that the procedure for summary trial as provided under Sections 156 and 157(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code was duly complied with, and proceeded to affirm the conviction of the Appellant.
➥ ISSUE(S) & RESOLUTION(S)
I. Whether the mandatory provisions of Section 156 and 157 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) were complied with in convicting the Appellant who had pleaded guilty to the offence for which he was charged?
RULING: IN RESPONDENT’S FAVOUR.
A. THE APPELLANT AFFIRMED HIS GUILT
“In the instant case, as shown on page 27 of the Record of Proceedings, the Appellant in clear and unambiguous language affirmed and acknowledged his guilt. There is no better way of crystallising the provisions of Sections 156 and 157 of the Criminal Procedure Code (C.P.C.). The Appellant clearly understood the offence which he wholly admitted in specific and definite words. His plea for leniency (allocutus) was also neither ambivalent nor unguided as contained in page 97 of the record of appeal. The effect of the above is that, as rightly held by the Court below, recourse was had to the forthrightness of the Appellant in admitting his guilt which earned him gross and remarkable diminution from what would have been a 7 year sentence to mere six (6) months imprisonment. To the extent that the provisions of Sections 156 and 157(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (C.P.C.) are clear and unambiguous, they must be so declared and affirmed by this Court. This stems from the fact that the duty of Court, is to interpret the statute in accordance with the intention of the law makers.”
“The above finding also becomes inevitable given the provisions of Section 222 of the Criminal Procedure Code.”
“It is in view of the foregoing that I hold that this appeal lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed. The conviction and sentences of the Appellant by the Court below are hereby reconfirmed.”
➥ MISCELLANEOUS POINTS
➥ REFERENCED (LEGISLATION)
✓ Section 156 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides thus: “When an accused person is brought before the Court, the particulars of the offence of which he is accused shall be stated to him and he shall be asked if he has any cause to show why he should not be convicted.”
✓ Section 157(1) is to the effect that: “If the accused admits that he has committed the offence of which he is accused, his admission shall be recorded as nearly as possible in the words used by him and if he shows no sufficient cause why he should not be convicted, the Court may convict him accordingly, and in that case it shall not be necessary to frame a formal charges.”
✓ Section 288 of the Criminal Procedure Code: “A Court exercising appellate jurisdiction shall not in exercise of such jurisdiction interfere with the finding or sentence or other order of the lower Court on the ground that only that evidence has been wrongly admitted or that there has been a technical irregularity in procedure, unless it is satisfied that a failure of justice has been occasioned by such admission or irregularity.”
✓ Section 382 of the Criminal Procedure Code: “Subject to the provisions herein before contained, no finding, sentence or order passed by a Court of competent jurisdiction shall be reversed or altered on appeal or reviewed on account of any error, omission or irregularity in the appeal or reviewed on account of any error, omission or irregularity in the complaint, summons, warrant, charge, public summons, order, judgment or other proceedings before or during trial or in any inquiry or other proceedings under the Criminal Procedure Code unless the appeal Court or reviewing authority thinks that a failure of justice has in fact been occasioned by such error, omission or irregularity.”
➥ REFERENCED (CASE)
⦿ A STATUTE IS AN EXPRESSION OF THE LEGISLATIVE WILL
In UGWU VS ARARUME (2007) 12 NWLR (pt. 1048) 367 at 498 this Court stated thus: – “A statute, it is always said, is ‘the will of the legislature’ and any document which is presented to it as a statute is an authentic expression of the legislative will. The function of the Court is to interpret that document according to the intent of those who made it. Thus, the Court declares the intention of the legislature.”
⦿ COURTS DO NOT DECIDE CASES ON TECHNICALITIES
See MAKERI SMELTING CO. LTD. VS. ACCESS BANK (NIG.) PLC (2002) 7 NWLR (Pt.766) 447 at 476-477. “The attitude of the Court has since changed against deciding cases on mere technicalities. The attitude of the Courts now is that cases should always be decided, wherever possible on merit. Blunders must take place from time to time, and it is unjust to hold that because a blunder has been committed, the party blundering is to incur the penalty of not having the dispute between him and his adversary determined upon the merits.”
➥ REFERENCED (OTHERS)