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  • 2002-10-07
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Nwachukwu v. The State

UCHENNA NWACHUKWU

V

THE STATE

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

SALIHU MODIBBO ALFA BELGORE, JSC ( Presided )

ANTHONY IKECHUKWU IGUH, JSC ( Read the Lead Judgment )

SAMSON ODEMWINGIE UWAIFO, JSC

AKINTOLA OLUFEMI EJIWUNMI, JSC

EMMANUEL OLAYINKA AYOOLA, JSC

SC.399/2001

FRIDAY, 12TH JULY, 2002

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Aiding and abetting - Person who aids another in committing an offence - Whether deemed to have taken part in the commission of the offence

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Cause of death - Proof of - Whether medical evidence a sine qua non thereto

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Certificate signed by a pathologist as an officer named under section 42 of Evidence Act - Evidence of the pathologist thereon - When court can dispense with same Whether accused who failed to specifically apply for the named officer can complain if court fails to call same

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Confession - Free and voluntary confession - When can support conviction without corroboration Need for court to test the truth thereof

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Confession - Meaning of

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Confession -  Uncorroborated confession of an accused person - Where subsequently retracted Whether same can still ground conviction

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Confession - When admissible -

Weight to be attached thereto - Duty of court to so decide

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Informal admissions - Whether conclusive evidence against the maker

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Murder - Conviction therefor What the prosecution must prove to justify same

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Murder - Conviction therefor When the deceased’s body is not found - Circumstances under which an accused can be convicted for murder

EVIDENCE - Cause of death - Proof of - Whether medical evidence a sine qua non thereto

EVIDENCE - Confession - Meaning of

EVIDENCE - Confession - Oral extral - Judicial confession - Whether carries less weight than one made in writing

EVIDENCE - Confession - Weight to be attarched thereto - Duty of court to decide same

EVIDENCE - Confession - When admissible

EVIDENCE - Hearsay evidence - When may be received in evidence as confession

EVIDENCE - Informal admissions - Whether conclusive evidence against the maker

EVIDENCE - Official or judicial acts - Presumption of regularity of same until contrary is proved

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Confession’ - Meaning of

Issues:

1.            Whether the Medical Report (exhibit E) and PW2’s evidence were wrongly admitted; and if not, can it be said that the admission occasioned a miscarriage of justice, in the case?

2.            Whether the circumstantial evidence adduced by the prosecution sufficiently established the guilt of the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.

Facts:

Anthony Nwachukwu now at large enlisted the assistance of late Christopher Ndulaka and the two accused persons his younger brothers by the name Uchenna Nwachukwu and Chibuzor Nwachukwu to kill one

Benjamin Iheama deceased. On the day of the incident all the accused persons together with Anthony Nwachukwu congregated in the flat of Anthony Nwachukwu which he shared with the deceased. Anthony Nwachukwu pounced on the deceased in his room and with the help of Christopher Ndulaka now deceased, the 1st accused person strangulated and killed him. Later in the night, Anthony Nwachukwu, late Christopher Ndulaka and the 1st accused person carried the dead body in the booth of the deceased’s car and drove to the express road and buried him in a shallow grave in the bush. The 1st accused person before his arrest made a voluntary confession to the police of the part he played in the murder.

The accused persons were subsequently arraigned before the High Court. During the pendency of the trial, Christopher Ndulaka was reportedly shot by Anthony Nwachukwu now at large. At the conclusion of trial, the trial court found both accused guilty of the offence of murder and accordingly sentenced them to death. Dissatisfied, both convicts appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal of the 2nd accused/appellant and set aside his conviction. It therefore discharged and acquited him. The Court of Appeal however dismissed the appeal of the 1st accused person and affirmed his conviction. Dissatisfied the accused/appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.