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Nwokearu v. State

HENRY NWOKEARU

    V

       THE STATE

   SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN  JSC  (Presided)

MUHAMMAD SAIFULLAH MUNTAKA-COOMASSIE JSC

NWALI SYLVESTER NGWUTA JSC (Read the Lead Judgment)

OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA JSC

MUSA DATTIJO MUHAMMAD JSC

SC.227/2011

FRIDAY, 24 MAY 2013

APPEAL - Concurrent findings by lower courts - Attitude of courts thereto

APPEAL - Determination of - Appellate court - Attitude of thereto

APPEAL - Issue - Formulation of  from combination of grounds of appeal - Propriety of - Proliferation of - Impropriety of

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Criminal responsibility - What depends on

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Self-defence - Right of person to defend himself with justifiable force - Plea of - When arises

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Murder - When a person is guilty of - Prosecution - What must prove to establish - Criminal Code, section 316(1) & (2) considered

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Presumption raised by a man’s actions

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Self defence - Nature of - Defence of - Irrelevance of for an act done by an angry person

EVIDENCE - Admitted facts - Proof of - Needlessness of

EVIDENCE - Presumption raised by a man’s actions

JURISPRUDENCE - Criminal responsibility - What depends on

STATUTE - Criminal Code, section 316(1) & (2) - Murder - When a person is guilty of - Prosecution - What must prove to establish

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Annoyance’ - Meaning of

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Intention’ - Meaning of - When an act is intentional

WORDS AND PHRASES- ‘Uniform’ - Meaning of

Issues:

  1. Whether the court below was not  wrong in failing to set aside the judgment of the trial court in the absence of proof of specific intention to commit the offence of  murder for which he was charged and convicted.
  2. Whether the defence granted by section 24 of the Criminal Code was not improperly denied the  appellant by the way the court below held that the defence of accident can only be credible and thus acceptable if there had been a physical fight between the parties prior to the emergency of the appellant to the scene.

Facts:

The appellant a millitary officer,  as accused in the High Court of Imo State was alleged to have used a dagger to stab the deceased in the abdomen as a result of which he died. He was arraigned on a one count charge of murder. He raised the defence of accident and self defence. The trial court found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Aggrieved, he appealed to the Court of Appeal where the appeal was dismissed. Yet aggrieved, he filed a further appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the lower court which affirmed his conviction on grounds that the prosecution failed to prove his intention to commit the offence and that the trial court erroneously denied him the defence of accident which he relied on.

In determining the appeal, the Supreme Court considered the Criminal Code, section 24, which provides:

“Subject to the express provisions of this code relating to negligent acts and omissions, a person is not criminally responsible for an act or omission which occurs independently of the exercise of his will, or for an event which occurs by accident.”