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C.O.P. v. Onyelor

COMMISSIONER OF POLICE

V

RICHARD ONYELOR

CHUKWUDI AFAM

NWADIEFE ATAGBUALE

PETER ONYELOR

ONUOHA MOSES

JOHN EGBUKE

OGBUEFI F. UGBOMEH

JOHN I. AGBUNYA

FIDELIS AGUNYA

JOHN AGAI

IKE AGUNYA

COURT OF APPEAL

( BENIN DIVISION )

RAPHAEL O. ROWLAND, JCA ( Presided and Read the Lead Judgment )

KUMAI BAYANG AKAAHS, JCA

AMINA ADAMU AUGIE, JCA

CA/B/260/2000

MONDAY, 3RD MARCH, 2003

COURT - A no case submission - Duty of court when delivering ruling thereon

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - No-case submission - Instances where could be upheld

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - No-case submission - Purport of

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - No-case submission - What the court should consider therein


CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Prima facie case - Meaning of

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Prima facie case and proof of the guilt of an accused - Need to distinguish in a no-case submission

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Ruling on a no-case submission -  Duty of court when delivering

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Submission of no-case to answer by an accused person - Meaning of

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Prima facie case’ - Meaning of WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘No case to answer’ - Meaning of

Issues:

1.              Whether the learned Judge misapplied the principles upon which a no case submission may be made and upheld, in the circumstances of this case.

2.              Whether the learned Judge was right in holding that the defences of bona fide claim of right and alibi which were disclosed by the prosecution’s case, could in the circumstances of this case, avail the respondents at the stage of a no case submission.

Facts:

In the Chief Magistrate’s Court 3, Asaba, Delta State, the respondents were arraigned on a two count charge of conspiracy to commit the offence of malicious damage of a building of one Kenneth Onyelo situate at Okwe, Delta State. Four witnesses testified. PW1 under cross-examination testified that there was a suit at the High Court, Asaba in which Okwe community laid claim to the land as theirs. The existence of the said suit was also admitted by PW3 under cross-examination.

PW4 also testified that the 1st to 6th and 9th to 10th accused persons claimed that the land belonged to Okwe community. The statements of the 1 st to 6th and 9th and 10th accused persons also lent support to the evidence of PW4 under cross-examination. PW4 was cross-examined as to the alibi raised in the statement of the 7th, 8th and 11th accused persons. She admitted that she did not investigate the said alibi. PW2, the only eye witness to the incident did not mention the names of 7th, 8th and 11th accused persons in his statement to the Police. At the close of the case for the prosecution, counsel for the accused made a no-case submission. The respondents’ appeal against the ruling to the High Court, Asaba, was allowed.

With respect to the 1st to 6th, 9th to 10th respondents, the learned appellate Judge found that the statements of the 1st to 6th, 9th to 10th respondents disclosed that they acted pursuant to a claim of right to the land on which the damaged building is situate. He relied upon the case of Adegoju vs. Lamono & 2 Ors. (1959)  WNLR 138 at 140 and held that the application of section 23 of the Criminal Code at the stage of a no case submission is not out of place, provided there is primary evidence on which the court can act.

On the case against the 7th, 8th and 11th respondents, the learned Judge held that their alibis were left unrebutted, and the evidence of their identification by PW2 was weak. Based on the above, the learned Judge held that the trial magistrate wrongly overruled the submission of no case to answer as no reasonable tribunal can convict on the evidence so far adduced by the prosecution.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the High Court, the appellant has appealed to the Court of Appeal.