YESUFU V. THE STATE

JIMOH YESUFU

V.

THE STATE

SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA

4TH JUNE, 1976

SUIT NO. SC 445/1975.

CWLR (1976) 10

OTHER CITATIONS

(1976) 6 S.C. 109

LN-e-LR/1976/69 (SC)

 

BEFORE THEIR LORDSHIPS:

SOWEMIMO, J.S.C.

BELLO, J.S.C.

OBASEKI, J.S.C.

 

REPRESENTATION

  1. O. Akinrele, ESQ. – for Appellant

Miss S. A. Oyeteso, (D.D.P.P., Ogun State) – for Respondent

 

MAIN ISSUES

CRIMINAL LAW:– Murder – Proof of – Where there is no eye-witness and prosecution depends on confessional statement – Duty of court and prosecution thereto

CRIMINAL LAW:– Murder – Defence of Insanity – Killing motivated by delusion or belief in witchcraft – Whether proof of legal Insanity

CHILDREN AND WOMEN LAW: Women and Security/Murder – Witchcraft cases – Elderly woman killed because of belief that she was responsible for negative misfortunes which befell her accuser – How treated

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURELAW OF EVIDENCE:– Confessional statement – Where retracted or repudiated by accused person – Duty of court thereto

ELDERS  LAW:-  Elderly rural women and accusation of witchcraft – Implication for justice administration

 

MAIN JUDGEMENT

OBASEKI, Ag. J.S.C. (Delivering the Judgment of the Court):

We now give our reasons for dismissing this appeal (against his conviction for murder by Coker J.) on the 20th day of May, 1976 after hearing from learned Counsel for the appellant and the learned Deputy Director of Public Prosecution for Ogun State appearing for the Respondent that they had nothing useful to urge on this court in favour of the appellant.

The appellant was tried and convicted by Coker J., (sitting in High Court at Ijebu Ode) for the murder of one Bale Kokoro (f) at Imosan Village contrary to section 257 (1) of the Criminal Code Cap 28 Vol 1 Laws of Western Nigeria 1959 and sentenced to death on 3rd of July 1975.

The appellant and the deceased belonged to Imosan Village and at the time of the incident were opposite neighbours. The deceased was an elderly woman whom an Ife herbalist made the appellant suspect as the person responsible for his reverses in his barber’s business. The appellant, who was trained as a barber, after his training, started off well in the barber’s business at Ife. Shortly after this initial success, he noticed a substantial fall in clientage and patronage. These reverses led him to an herbalist at Ife and on being consulted the herbalist told him that “a certain woman in his town by name Bale Kokoro caused it”. Apparently steps were taken to halt the trend but without success. The appellant had to move and did move to Imosan village to continue his business. He experienced no improvement but rather matters worsened to such an extent that he sold the properties he brought from Ife.

On the morning of 1st November, 1973 Adeitan Gbesan P.W.3 as he left his house on his way to his farm saw Bale Kokoro the deceased lying dead, face downwards, on the ground by her gate with the appellant armed with a club Exhibit ‘C’ standing beside her. He ran away and went to the farm to narrate what he saw to Lasisl Bakare P.W.4 the son of the deceased. P.W.4 returned immediately to meet his mother, the deceased lying dead on the ground in front of their house and the accused appellant arrested and detained at the scene. A report was made to the Police by Surakatu Tade P.W.5 who had been attracted to the scene by the loud noise of people at whom appellant was brandishing a cutlass. The Police removed the corpse to Ijebu Ode Public Mortuary accompanied by P.W.4 and others.

The appellant on being charged made a confessional statement exhibit A to the Police admitting killing the deceased by hitting her head with an axe handle that morning but gave as his reason the fact that she was abusing him. He also complained in exhibit A that “on the previous day 31st October, 1973 when he was going to buy eba he wanted to eat, Bale Kokoro sent her son Lasisi to fight him but on seeing this he returned to his house. This set him thinking on the morning of 1/11/73. Although there was post mortern examination performed the doctor was not available at the time of trial and the trial was concluded without his evidence. The appellant’s statement (exhibit A) to the Police admitted as part of the evidence for the prosecution sufficiently established that the deceased died from the blow inflicted on her with the axe handle and in this regard we may refer to the relevant portion of the English translation exhibit A which reads:-

…This morning 1/11/73 Bale Kokoro started abusing me again. I went to her and as she wanted to enter her house, I hit her on the head with an axe handle. She fell on the ground and died. After Bale Kokoro fell and died, I then entered my house. I was inside my house when the compound people came and brought me outside, tied my hands and my neck and placed me in front of Bale Kokoro’s house… The past evil done to me by Bale Kokoro made me hit her with an axe-handle on the head today 1/11/73 and she died as a result”.

In his evidence before the court the appellant retracted this confession. He alleged that the deceased and her son Lasisi came to his house that morning and cut down and damaged his door and windows with matchet and stick. On return to their house which was opposite his residence he heard Lasisi raise alarm that his mother had died and saw him drag the dead body of his mother outside. He claimed that he was quite prosperous in his trade (barber’s) business) at Ife but was not quite prosperous at Imosan and that he did not cast suspicion on anyone for his reverses. He denied being taken before the D.S.P. Mr. Agunloye P.W.1 to verify his statement exhibit A before him.

The learned trial judge in a considered judgment rejected the evidence of the appellant and accepted the evidence of the prosecution witnesses. He considered the defence of Insanity and held that whatever mental delusion the appellant may have had about the cause of the reverses in his business did not excuse his action and did not entitle him to the defence of insanity. He found that the confessional statement exhibit A was made by the appellant freely and voluntarily and that the confession by the appellant that he killed the deceased was true and in this regard the learned trial judge said in his judgment:

“I have carefully considered the evidence before me. I am satisfied that the accused person volunteered exhibit A to the police and that he was later taken before 1st P.W. D.S.P. Agunloye who read exhibit ‘A’ to him. I accept the evidence of 1st P.W. that the accused admitted before him that he made it. In the said statement which I accepted as true, he confessed he killed the deceased by hitting her with the handle of an axe… I do not accept the evidence of the accused person that Bale Kokoro and her son came to his house and began to smash the windows and doors… I accepted the evidence of the P.Ws who said they saw the accused person standing near the deceased as she lay on the ground soon after with exhibit ‘C.…. Although the defence has not pleaded insanity, it is my duty to examine that defence in the light of the above finding of facts. I am satisfied that the accused knew what he did, and deliberately conceived of it before he executed the plan to kill Bale Kokoro’.

In the light of the evidence before him the learned trial judge came to the conclusion, correctly in our view when he said:

I have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the accused person intentionally killed Bale Kokoro in the belief caused by the delusion that SHE WAS THE CAUSE OF HIS FINANCIAL WOES AND THAT and that by killing her these financial difficulties would come to an end..:’

Aggrieved by these findings and conviction the accused lodged his appeal to Western State Court of Appeal.

But at the hearing counsel had nothing useful to urge in favour of the appellant and in a considered judgment that court dismissed the appeal and affirmed the conviction and sentence.

Still aggrieved the appellant appealed to this Court. Again, Counsel for him conceded that he had nothing useful to urge in favour of the appellant. The learned Deputy Director of Public Prosecution who appeared for the respondent likewise informed the court that she had nothing useful to urge in favour of the appellant. She however drew the court’s attention to the fact that there was no eye witness to the killing and that in convicting the appellant on the evidence of his confessional statement exhibit ‘A’ the learned trial judge followed strictly the test laid down in R. Vs. Kanu (1952) 14 W.A.C.A 30.

We observe that the confessional statement exhibit A made to police constable Omotosho Salawu P.W.2 was taken along with appellant to the D.S.P. Lawrence Oluwafemi Agunboye, P.W.1, for confirmation. Testifying on what happened in his office, p.w.1 said (according to the record):

“ I read it (meaning exhibit A) over to him in Yoruba language and he admitted making it voluntarily and that it was correctly recorded. I endorsed it accordingly’.

Although this practice has no judicial sanction, it has received many judicial commendations.

In the case of The Queen v. Omerewere Sapele (1957) 2 FSC 24 Abbot F. J. (delivering the judgment of the Federal Supreme Court) said at page 25:

“We have observed that it is now the usual (and admirable) practice in the case of an accused making a self incriminating statement for him to be taken before a Senior Police Officer or other senior official, and his statement read over to him in accordance with the procedure adopted by P.W.7. We consider that this course is eminently fair to such an accused – it gives him an early opportunity of alleging, if he wishes to, before a responsible person that his statement has been improperly obtained, and we do not think it necessary for any fresh caution to be administered over it if corrections are made.”

There is a long line of judicial authorities (on the effect of confessions and we agree with the statement which establish that in Nigeria, a free and voluntary confession of guilt by a prisoner, whether under examination before a magistrate or otherwise, if it is direct and positive and is duly made and satisfactorily proved, is sufficient to warrant convictions without any corroborative evidence so long as the court is satisfied of the truth of the confession (Edet Obese v. The State (1965) N.M.L.R 119) But it is desirable to have outside a defendant’s confession to the police, some evidence, be it light of the circumstances which make it probable that the confession was true. (Paul Onochis & 7 Others v. The Republic (1966) N.M.L.R 307 R. v. Kanu 14 WACA 30) We find on record evidence outside exhibit A which make it probable that the confession was true. Having accepted the truth of the confession in exhibit A, the learned trial judge was perfectly justified in convicting the appellant, and we hold that the Western State Court of Appeal was justified in dismissing the appeal against the conviction and accordingly dismissed the appeal.

Appeal dismissed.

 

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