5 July 2018

Nigeria: Reasons for 'Bloody' Fridays At Supreme Court (II)

By way of brief recap, the Supreme Court hears contentious civil appeals on Mondays and Tuesdays, sits in the chamber to determine non-contentious appeals on Wednesdays; while it hears contentious criminal appeals on Thursdays. But the apex court delivers judgements in both contentious criminal and civil appeals on Fridays.From January 12 to June 1 this year, Supreme Court delivered judgements in 116 criminal appeals, and curiously death sentences by hanging was the dominant conclusion. The underlisted are some of such judgements

SC.505/2012 FELIX OKPAKO Vs THE STATE

In this instance, Justice Kumai Bayang Aka'ahs who delivered the lead judgement on this appeal on January 12, 2018 dismissed appellant's appeal and upheld the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Benin that affirmed the judgement of the High Court of Delta state which convicted and sentenced the appellant to death by hanging.

Felix Okpako had murdered his sister, Eloho Okpako on the front of their father's house on October 11, 2002 at Oviore following a quarrel between them. In his two confessional statements, it became evident he killed her before taking to his heels to run to hide in his other sister's house in Warri. The underlisted are some of such judgements

SC.448/2014 SOLOMON ADEKUNLE Vs ATTORNEY GENERAL OF OGUN STATE

On January 12, 2018, while Justice Olukayode Ariwoola who read lead judgement unanimously agreed to by Justices Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Kumai Bayang Aka'ahs, Amina Adamu Augie and Pau Adamu Galinje dismissed appellant's appeal and upheld concurrent judgements of the Court of Appeal , Ibadan and Ogun state High Court.

Adekunle (appellant) had earlier been charged with offence of murder, tried, convicted and sentenced to death by the high court (on 13/10/2000); while his appeals to the Appeal Court and Supreme Court (on 10/6/2006) were dismissed.

After the apex court's conviction and sentencing him to death, appellant filed another case at the high court insisting that he has been on death row for six years after (after high court's decision on him 13/10/2000).

He asked the court to hold that "the punishment for murder is death and does not include prolonged period in detention before the execution of the death sentence. And that his prolonged detention under death row awaiting the execution of the death sentence with its associated trauma and anguish constitutes torture, cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment, and as such he should be freed".

The trial court on 15/6/2007 dismissed his suit; just as the appeal court on 27/2/2014 dismissed his appeal. The apex court affirmed the concurrent findings by the two lower courts and held that the delay in his execution was due to the appeals he entered to the two appellate courts against his conviction and sentencing to death.

"This appeal has therefore become academic and hypothetical. In the circumstance, the preliminary objection to the hearing of this appeal succeeds and is sustained. This court will not embark on the hearing of this appeal. Accordingly, the appeal is liable to being struck out. Appeal struck out", Justice Ariwoola held.

SC.489/2016 IBRAHIM KAMILA Vs THE STATE

SC.488/2016 LEKAN OLAOYE Vs THE STATE

Justice Amiru Sanusi who delivered lead judgements in the above two separate appeals on January 19, 2018 upheld the judgements of the Court of Appeal Lagos that affirmed the convictions and sentencing of Ibrahim Kamila and Lekan Olaoye to death by hanging. He consequently dismissed their appeals as unmeritorious.

Lekan Olaoye and Ibrahim Kamila were the 1st and 2nd accused along with two other co-accused persons charged for robbery and murder of Chief Layi Balogun in his Akoka-Lagos residence on December 9, 2000. Late Balogun and his security detail were shot at by the five-gang armed robbers after they have robbed him and his households. Balogun died while the other victim survived. The robbers were later caught and tried.

According to Justice Sanusi, the prosecution had proved its cases against the two appellants beyond reasonable doubt and that the concurrent findings of the two lower courts stand.

SC.235/2014 TERLUMEN GIKI Vs THE STATE

Here again, Justice Amiru Sanusi who delivered the lead judgement on January 19, 2018 adjudged the appeal unmeritorious and dismissed same, just as he affirmed the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Calabar that upheld the conviction and sentencing of the appellant to death on the offences of armed robbery.

The appellant and three other armed robbers who mounted road block on 15/12/2005 at the boundary of Benue and Cross River states robbed a cyclist, Victor Ogbaji Ogar of N31,000, tied his hand at his back and ordered him to lead them to Osina Wafe village. The victim shouted for help on getting to that village with his abductors/robbers. The appellant and two others were apprehended by the villagers. They were tried, convicted and sentenced by high court, decision which was affirmed by the appeal court too. Justice Sanusi held that appellant was rightly convicted and sentenced by the two lower courts.

SC.211/2013 BASSEY DAVID UDO EYOP Vs THE STATE

Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili on January 19, 2018 delivered the lead judgement in this appeal and upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal in Calabar that affirmed the conviction and sentencing of the appellant to death for killing his wife on 17/4/2003 at Mangor, Oban in Akampa LGA of Cross River state.

Bassey who first confessed to why and how he murdered his wife on the farm later retracted. His argument was that his statement in Efik language which was interpreted in English failed to give account of the meaning of his confessed statement. The trial court insisted that the statement corroborated vividly with other evidence adduced by the prosecution, hence convicted and sentenced to death. The Court of Appeal upheld it just as the apex court said there was nothing to add or subtract from the concurrent judgements.

SC.491/2011 THE STATE Vs ABDULLAHI SANI

Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour who delivered the lead judgement in this appeal dismissed the appellant's appeal, thereby affirming the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Kaduna; and consequently acquitted and discharged appellant from court.

Appellant as second accused was arraigned before a Katsina state High Court for breaking into the houses of one Salisu Lawal and another Hadiza Salisu with dangerous weapon at Tsame quarters in Daura, Daura LGA in Katsina state on 22/7/2004.The accused were tried, convicted and sentenced to death by the high court on 7/5/2007 which the appellant appealed against. But the Court of Appeal upturned that judgement on 22/12/2010 and quashed the conviction and sentencing of the accused persons to death; and consequently acquitted and discharged the appellants. The appeal court said the trial court failed to support its judgement with evidence. Besides, the process and procedure adopted by the trial judge compromised the accused persons' right of fair hearing.

Justice Rhodes-Vivour also faulted the trial court's judgement, saying, "lumping the trial within trial with the main trial clearly compromised the respondent's right to a fair hearing as he was denied the opportunity after the ruling to decide how to go about his defence before judgement was delivered".

SC.321/2013 ENDURANCE MATTEW Vs THE STATE

On January 24, 2007, the appellant was arraigned before the High Court of Delta state sitting in Ughelli for the offence of murder punishable under Section 319 (1) of the Criminal Code Law. Endurance had allegedly on January 26, 2006 at Ekrenhawe village thrown her one-month old baby into a well where she drowned. She confessed to her act when apprehended by some villagers by the well, scene of her act. Appellant said then that she decided to throw her one-month old daughter into the well because the father of the child rejected child. She then pleaded for forgiveness. At the trial, she challenged the voluntariness of the confession. The trial judge nevertheless convicted and sentenced her to death by hanging, Dissatisfied, she appealed the judgement at the appeal court which it dismissed.

In like manner, Justice Chima Centus Nweze who delivered the lead judgement of the Supreme Court on January 26, 2018 entered an order dismissing her appeal and upheld the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Benin which affirmed the conviction and sentencing her to death by hanging.

SC.505/2014 HAYATU UMAR Vs THE STATE

Appellant who appealed against the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Sokoto was tried for the offence of culpable homicide punishable with death, and on 25/2012 the high court convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. The appellant had on 22/11/2009 been Sunday and Illela market day gone four times to deceased's house before he met him and they went out together on the deceased's camel. The deceased never returned home until his corpse was found by search team the following day.

After due investigations, the appellant and other accused were convicted and sentenced to death based on their confessional statements for which corroboration was found in the evidence of the prosecution witnesses.

On January 26, 2018, Justice Kumai Bayang Aka'ahs who delivered the Supreme Court's lead judgement in the appellant's appeal did not just dismissed it and upheld judgement of the Court of Appeal that affirmed the conviction and sentencing appellant to death.

Justice Aka'ahs revered the decisions of the Court of Appeal in respect of two other accused, saying they are also culpable, but did not make an order. "The premise under which the lower court allowed the appeals in Bello Ibrahim Vs State in Appeal No. CA/S/21c/2013 and Ibrahim Dan Auta Vs State, Appeal No. CA/S/22c/2013 which were decided on June [30, 2014 was that the corroboration needed to find Bello Ibrahim and Ibrahim Dan Auta guilty on their retracted confessions was lacking.

"If the evidence of PW5 and PW6 is properly analyzed it provides the required corroboration. The injury which PW5 saw on the deceased neck makes retracted confessional statement of Bello Ibrahim true; so also does the disappearance of the deceased's camel corroborate the statement of Ibrahim Dan Auta. It is therefore not correct as the court below made the finding that evidence was lacking which would corroborate the retracted Exhibits A, A1 and Exhibits B, B1 thereby leading to the acquittal and discharge of the two people", Justice Aka'ahs held.

SC.773/2014 ISA BELLO Vs FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

On May 11, 2018, the Supreme Court sentenced the appellant and by extension 14 other herdsmen to various terms of imprisonment ranging from ten years to life imprisonment for their roles in the communal crisis which erupted in January 2010 culminating in attack and counter attacks around Kadunu village in Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau state.

The herdsmen are Mohammed Auwal, Ibrhim Yusuf, Salihu Jibrin, Abdulkarim Mohammed, Suliman Jibrin, Muhammed Jibri, Suleiman Jibrin, Musa Abdulmumuni, Isah Bello, Abdulhamid Bello, Isa Dauda and Ibrahim Jibrin.

The herdsmen escaped death sentence because the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 which prescribes death penalty for anyone on conviction for commission of acts of terrorism has not been enacted then, hence they were arraigned under Section 518 (5) of the Criminal Code Act, Sections 5(1) and 27(1) of the Firearms Act and Section 15 (2) of the EFCC Act, 2004.

Justice A.L. Allagoa on December 16, 2010 first found them guilty under these laws, convicted and sentenced them to various term of imprisonment allowed by the law under which they were charged to court. Dissatisfied with the decision, each of the herdsmen appealed to the Court of Appeal which consequently upheld the judgement of the high court.

However, Justice Ibrahim Shata Bidlya-led panel of the Court of Appeal in Jos on March 27, 2013 held that the prosecution had proved the allegation of illegal possession of firearms against the appellants who were so convicted. Just as Justices Peter Olabisi Ige and Raphael Chikwe Agbo concurred with his lead judgement

Justice Sidi Dauda Bage of the Supreme Court who delivered the lead judgement on May 11, 2018 held that the two lower courts are concurrent in their decisions and that the apex court does not have reasons to interfere in their findings of facts arrived at. "The appeal lacks merit and it is dismissed, and I affirm the judgement of the Court below upholding the trial court's decision."

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