UWELE V. THE QUEEN

ESHA UWELE

V.

THE QUEEN

FEDERAL SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

8TH OCTOBER, 1959.

F.S.C.188/1959

3PLR/1959/112 (SC)

 

 

OTHER CITATIONS 

BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS

SIR ADETOKUNBO ADEMOLA. F.C.J. (Presided)

LIONEL BRETT, F.J.

LOUIS NWACHUKWU MBANEFO, F.J. (Read the Judgment of the Court)

 

REPRESENTATION:

Applicant absent and not represented.

  1. A.B. SOMIARI, Crown Counsel – for the Respondent.

 

MAIN ISSUES

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE – Murder – Customary prejudice and abhorr­ence for twins – Whether a defence

CHILDREN AND WOMEN LAW:- Children and Customary LawTwin-killing – Killing of twin babies by father – Customary abhorrence of twins – Participation of women and general community – Whether an acceptable defence to charge of murder – Attitude of court thereto

CUSTOMARY LAW: Twin killing – Attitude of court thereto

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS: Right to life and non-discrimination based on circumstances of birth – Customary abhorrence to birth of twins – Attitude of court thereto

RELIGION AND LAW:- Communal abhorrence of twin babies – Murder of twin babies arising therefrom – How treated

 

MAIN JUDGMENT

MBANEFO, F.J. (Delivering the judgment of the Court):

The applicant was convicted of the murder of a newly born baby by the Chief Justice of the High Court of the Eastern Region, and applied to this Court for leave to appeal against his conviction. His application was, on the 21st September, 1959, refused, and we now give our reasons.

The applicant and his wife were residing in the village of Ngeji Igbagu, in Abakaliki Division of the Eastern Region. It was elicited in evidence that in that area there was a general abhorrence for twins. About September 1958 applicant’s wife gave birth to a pair of twins. It was clearly established by the evidence, which the Chief Justice accepted, that the twins were born alive. Nwodu Nwakewo, who was present when the applicant’s wife delivered, testified that she saw the two babies alive. An old woman Nwofuko Edene, whom the Chief Justice described as “a shrivelled, bent, and almost blind old woman, barely capable of walking” said the applicant came and called her in her house and told her that his wife had delivered twins. She went with him to his house and saw the twins. She said that the applicant put the two babies, crying, in a pot, carried it, and asked her and one other old woman Ugbala Ago, to follow him. After they had gone a long distance the applicant went into the bush and after some time returned without the pot and the babies, and they returned home. The babies have not been seen again since. The two women could not pin point the place in the bush where the babies were disposed of and their bodies could not be, and were therefore never recovered.

After carefully considering the evidence the Judge accepted the story of these two old women as to the disposal alive of the babies by the applicant. When first charged, the applicant denied that his wife had delivered twins. He said she bore one child only, but two days later he changed his story and admitted that she had twins. The Judge found that the motive of the murder was the general abhorrence in the area for twins. Such abhorrence is not a new thing and in the past was quite a common occurrence in many parts of the country.

We could not see any grounds for interfering with the carefully considered and well thought out judgment of the trial Judge, and the application was accordingly refused.

Appeal Dismissed.

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