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CORRUPT PRACTICES ARE TO BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

Dictum

In the instant case, the Petitioners have grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 and allegation of corrupt practices. Section 134(1) (b) refers to the ground of corrupt practices or non-compliance. If the ground pursued in any petition is simply non-compliance with the Act and there is no tincture of allegation of crime, the proof required would be on the balance of probabilities. But the standard of proof in any ground that is primarily on corrupt practices would require proof beyond reasonable doubt, that allegation being criminal in nature.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Atiku v PDP (CA/PEPC/05/2023, 6th of September, 2023)

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WHAT REASONABLE DOUBT MEANS IN CRIMINAL TRIAL

The term “Reasonable doubt” has not been defined in the definitions Section 2 of the Act, but its connotation has received many definitions from judicial authorities. For instance, the very famous and erudite Denning, J (later M.R.) in the case of MILLER V. MINISTER OF PENSIONS (1947) 2 ALL E.R. 372 said that- “It need not reach certainly, but it must carry a high degree of probability. Proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond the shadow of a doubt.” The term is therefore of common law origin and was incorporated in our law of evidence.
In the case of BAKARE V. STATE (1987) 579 @ 587, our own version of Denning, J and equally erudite and eloquent OPUTA, JSC put the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt thus:- “Proof beyond reasonable doubt stems out of the competing presumption of innocence inherent in our adversary system of criminal justice. To displace the presumption, the evidence of the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt, not beyond the shadow of doubt that the person accused is guilty of the offence charged. Absolute certainty is impossible in any human adventure including administration of criminal justice. Proof beyond reasonable doubt means what it says. It does not admit of plausible and fanciful possibilities but it does admit of a high degree of cogency consistent with an equally high degree of probabilities.”

– M.L. Garba JCA. Odogwu v. Vivian (2009) – CA/PH/345/05

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PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT DOES NOT PROOF BEYOND SHADOW OF DOUBT

However, the required proof beyond reasonable doubt which the prosecution is expected to show does not mean proof beyond all shadow of doubt and the evidence adduced by the prosecution is strong enough against a man, as to leave only a remote probability in his favour, which can be dismissed with the sentence; “of course it is possible but not in the least probable,” then the case is proved beyond reasonable doubt. See; Jimoh Michael Vs. The State (2008) 13 NWLR (Pt. 1104) 361; (2008) 10 SCM 83; (2008) 34 NSCQR (Pt.11) 700.

— O. Ariwoola, JSC. Galadima v. State (2017) – SC.70/2013

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BETTER FOR TEN GUILTY PERSONS TO GO FREE THAN ONE INNOCENT SHOULD SUFFER

As we indicated in Stephen Ukorah v. The State (1977) 4S. C. 167 there is great need for a trial court to tread cautiously in the application of circumstantial evidence for the conviction of an accused for any offence with which he is charged. The Romans we pointed out, with approval, in Ukorah (Supra at p .177) had a maxim that it is better for a guilty person to go unpunished than for an innocent one to be condemned: and Sir Edward Seymour speaking on a Bill of Attainder in 1696 laid greater emphasis on this maxim when he stated that he would rather “that ten guilty persons should escape than one innocent should suffer.” That also was our view in Ukorah (Supra).

— Idigbe, JSC. Adie v. State (1980) – SC24/1978

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PROOF BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT DEPENDS ON THE QUALITY OF WITNESSES

It is a settled principle of law that in criminal proceedings the prosecution must establish the guilt of the accused person beyond reasonable doubt. It is also well settled that proof beyond reasonable doubt does not mean proof beyond the shadow of a doubt or beyond any iota of doubt. If the prosecution has led evidence that is cogent, credible and compelling, which points irresistibly to the guilt of the accused, it would have discharged the burden. Proof beyond reasonable doubt depends not on the quantity of witnesses for the prosecution but upon the quality of the evidence given.

— K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, JSC. State v Sani Ibrahim (2019) – SC.1097/2016

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RESOLVE DOUBT IN ACCUSED FAVOUR

There is no doubt whatsoever that from the conflicting evidence adduced by the prosecution as to how the deceased was killed, strong doubt had been raised from the evidence which the law requires to be resolved in favour of the appellant.

— M. Mohammed, JSC. Udosen v State (2007) – SC.199/2005

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WHEN A CASE IS SAID TO BE PROVED BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

It must however, be emphasized that the burden of proof of the guilt of an accused person beyond reasonable doubt by the Prosecution in criminal cases should not be taken to mean that the prosecution must sustain its case beyond every shadow of doubt. Absolute certainty is impossible in any human adventure including the administration of justice. Thus, once the Prosecution has been able to prove that an offence has been committed and that no person other than the accused committed the offence, the prosecution is said to have established its case beyond reasonable doubt.

– Abdu Aboki, JSC. Chukwu v. State (2021)

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