‘Proof beyond reasonable doubt not proof beyond all doubt’
ADEWUNMI Vs. THE STATE IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA ON FRIDAY, THE 18TH DAY OF MARCH, 2016 SC.105/2013 LN-e-LR/2016/4 (SC) OTHER CITATIONS (2016) LPELR-40106(SC) BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS MAHMUD MOHAMMED, J.S.C SULEIMAN GALADIMA, J.S.C OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR, J.S.C NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA , J.S.C MUSA DATTIJO MUHAMMAD, J.S.C BETWEEN PETER ADEWUNMI Appellant(s) AND THE STATE Respondent(s) REPRESENTATION C.E. Obuagwu with him, Mrs. U. Aneto For Appellant AND Dr. J.Y. Musa with him, Mrs. A. A. Tuki DPP Ondo State T. Olubodun DDPP Ondo State M.O. Onyilakwu E. E. Eko J.O. Musa I. W. Zom. For Respondent MAIN JUDGMENT
OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR, J.S.C. (Delivering the Leading Judgement).:
The Appellant was arraigned before an Akure High Court on a one count charge which read:
STATEMENT OF OFFENCE
ARMED ROBBERY contrary to and Punishable under Section 1(2) (b) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special. Provisions) Act Cop 398. Vol. xxii Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
PARTICULARS OFFENCE OF
PETER ADEWUNMI (M) and others at large on or about the 28th December, 2001 at about 4.30 p.m., at Value Tech. Company, Ijare are in Akure Judicial Division robbed Jide Amodu of the sum of N1,000.00, Osuntunji Fredrick the sum of N, 1,650.00 and Value Tech Company the sums of N40,000.00 while armed with offensive weapons to wit: Ã½guns and cutlasses.
Trial commenced on the 21st of February, 2005 before Akeredolu J, sitting in on Akure High Court, Ã½Ondo State. The Respondent called five witnesses and tendered four exhibits to wit: Exhibits AI, A2, A3 and A4. The Appellant gave evidence in his defence. He did not call any witness.
After closing speeches on 30 March, 2006, the learned trial judge delivered a wellconsidered judgment on May 4, 2006, wherein the Appellant was sentenced to death. The trial Judge reasoned thus:
“The unchallenged evidence before the Court is that accused in company of others was armed with gun and cutlasses when they robbed Value Tech. Co. ljare on the 25 December, 2001. I believe the un-contradicted evidence of PW1 which is corroborated by the evidence of PW2 that the accused committed armed robbery of Value Tech. co. ljare. Ã½ I am highly impressed by the demeanour of the 1st PW. Despite the fact that she lost her husband in the unfortunate incident, she was calm and did not betray any emotion. She impressed me as a truthful witness. I am satisfied that the prosecution has proved the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt in compliance with Section 138 of the Evidence Act Cap 112, 1990 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria. I find the accused guilty as charged and I hereby convict him. He is sentenced to death by hanging by the neck till he be dead or by firing squard as the Governor may direct.”
Dissatisfied with the Judgment, the Appellant quickly filed on appeal. It was heard by the Akure Division of the Court of Appeal. On 30th October, 2012 that Court affirmed the judgment of the High Court and dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.
This appeal is against that judgment. In accordance with Rules of this Court briefs of argument were duly filed and exchanged by counsel. The Appellant’s brief was filed on 16 May, 2013 while the Respondents brief was filed on 4 June, 2013.
Learned counsel for the Appellant formulated two issues for determination. They are:
Whether the arraignment of the Appellant at the trial Court was in compliance with provisions of Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Ondo State, and if it is not whether non-compliance rendered the entire trial a nullity?
Whether the prosecution adduced sufficient evidence to prove its case against the Appellant beyond reasonable doubt?
Learned counsel for the Respondent adopted the two issues formulated by the Appellant.
At the hearing of the appeal on 14 January, 2016 learned counsel for the Appellant adopted the Appellant’s brief filed on 16/5/2013 and urged the Court to allow the appeal. On the other side of the fence learned counsel for the Respondent adopted the Respondent’s brief filed on 4/6/2013 urged the Court to dismiss the appeal.
The issues formulated by the Appellant and adopted by the Respondent shall be considered in determining this appeal.
The Appellant and other persons still at large, armed with guns and cutlasses invaded the premises of value Tech Company at ljare at about 3 p.m. on 28 December, 2001. The armed robbers shot and killed Musa, a gate man of the Company and Olowomeye, a company driver, PW1’s husband. While the mayhem was in progress PW I and PW2 female employees of the Company scampered into the bush from where they had a good view of the robbery operation. PW I and PW2, eyewitnesses to the robbery recognized the Appellant on sight and identified him as one of the robbers. The Appellant and his gang made away with N42, 650 after killing two male employees of the Company. The Appellant was charged and convicted of armed robbery in the trial Court. His appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed.
Whether the arraignment of the Appellant at the trial Court was in compliance with provisions of Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Ondo State, and if it is not whether non-compliance rendered the entire trial a nullity.
Learned counsel for the Appellant observed that the charge was not explained to the Appellant and the Court did not indicate if it was satisfied that the Appellant understood the charge before pleading guilty. He argued that since the Record of Appeal does not show that the charge was explained to the Appellant, this Court should invalidate the arraignment and acquit the Appellant.
Learned counsel for the Respondent observed that the learned trial judge complied fully with Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Ondo State when His lordship said in his judgment that:
“On the 23rd of February, 2005, Mr. lbikunle of counsel appeared for him. The Court took his plea after the registrar of the Court read the charge and explained it to him in Yoruba language. He pleaded not guilty.”
Learned counsel submitted that the charge was read, interpreted and explained to the Appellant and his plea taken.
Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Ondo State, states that:
“215. The person to be tried upon any charge or information shall be placed before the Court unfettered unless the Court shall see cause otherwise to order, and the charge or information shall be read over and explained to him to the satisfaction of the Court by the registrar or other officer of the Court, and such person shall be called upon to plead instantly thereto, unless where the person is entitled to service of a copy of the information he objects to the want of such service and the Court finds that he has not been duly served therewith.”
Continued on www. dailytrust.com.ng/law