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BEFORE AN ACCUSED CAN BE CONVICTED FOR A LESSER OFFENCE

Dictum

This power cannot be exercised at large. It is subject to certain limitations. Before an accused person can be convicted of a lesser offence, the ingredients of the lesser offence must be subsumed or embedded in the original offence charged and the circumstances in which the lesser offence was committed must be similar to those contained in the offence charged. See: The Nigerian Airforce vs Kamaldeen (2007) 2 SC 113: (2007) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1032) 164: Saliu Vs The State (2018) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1627) 346; Agugua vs The State (2017) LPELR 4202 (SC).

— K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, JSC. Onukwube v. State (2020) – SC.1214C/2018

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THE COURT IS TO CONSIDER DEFENCES FOR THE ACCUSED

In criminal trial, not only must the defences of the accused be considered, the Court is bound to consider the defences available to the accused which the accused himself did not raise, especially where the accused is facing a trial in which his life is at stake. See Nwankwoala v. The State (2006) 14 NWLR (Pt. 1000) 663; Adebayo v. The Republic (1962) NWLR 391; Akpabio v. The State (1994) 7 NWLR (Pt. 359) 653; Oguntolu v. The State (1996) 2 NWLR (Pt. 432) 503; Malam Zakari Ahmed v. The State (1999) 7 NWLR (Pt. 612) 641 at 679 and 681.

— P.A. Galinje JSC. Onuwa Kalu v. The State (SC.474/2011, 13 Apr 2017)

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PRINCIPLE ON THE VALID ARRAIGNMENT OF AN ACCUSED PERSON

By the combined effect of these provisions a valid arraignment of an accused person must satisfy the following requirements: 1. The accused shall be placed before the court unfettered unless the court shall see cause to the contrary or otherwise order. 2. The charge or information shall be read over and explained to him in the language he understands to the satisfaction of the court by the Registrar or other officer. 3. He shall then be called upon to plead instantly thereto. This court has held in a number of cases that these requirements must be satisfied. Nothing should be left to speculation. The records of the trial must show that these conditions are complied with. This is so because the object of the Constitution is to safeguard the interest and fair trial of those arraigned before the court. See Kajubo v. State (supra); Erekanure v. State (supra). It must however be said that each case must be treated on its peculiar facts. The mode of compliance will differ from case to case. Let me explain. It is not every requirement that must appear on record. For example the requirement that the Judge should be satisfied that the charge has been read and explained to the accused need not appear on the record. It is however good practice to so indicate. There is nothing in section 215 of the CPL which says that the trial Judge must put on record his satisfaction. No. It is a matter of common sense really. For once the record of the court shows that the charge has been read over and explained to the accused, and the accused pleaded to it before the case proceeded to trial, it is to be presumed that everything was regularly done; that the Judge was satisfied. Secondly, the requirement that the charge must be read and explained to the accused in the language he understands, in my opinion, presupposes that the accused does not understand English which is the language of the court. If he does not, the court has a duty to put on record the language spoken by the accused. However, if the accused understands English, then it is not necessary to record this fact. See Idemudia v. State (supra). In that case this court observed as follows: “The language of the court is English. A vast majority of the people in this country are not literate in the English language. I believe and indeed I am convinced that the person the lawmaker had in mind to protect by these provisions was the illiterate Nigerian. If this were not so the phrase “in the language he understands” would become meaningless. This phrase surely presupposes that the accused person does not understand the language of the court which is English.”

— Katsina-Alu, JSC. Adeniji v. State (2001) – SC. 210/1999

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ESSENCE OF AN ACCUSED BEING PRESENT AT HIS CRIMINAL TRIAL

The trial Court having conducted the proceedings of 20/11/2015 in the absence of the Respondent jumped the guns and breached his constitutional right. The essence of the presence of an accused throughout his trial is to afford him an adequate opportunity to play his statutory role and liberty to respond at every stage of the proceedings personally or through a legal practitioner of his own choice for the purpose of ensuring fair hearing.

— U.M. Abba Aji, JSC. State v. Andrew Yanga (SC.712/2018, 15 Jan 2021)

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CO-ACCUSED CANNOT APPEAL APPLICATION REFUSED RELATING TO AN ACCUSED

My Lords, this Appellant, being tried jointly with the 1st Accused, may be a party interested in the outcome of the 1st Accused’s application. He cannot, however, appeal against the ruling in that application without leave of Court first sought and obtained. Doing otherwise, as he has done in this appeal, the Appellant in my view is a busybody meddling in the affairs of the other. See SOCIETE GENERALE BANK (NIG.) LTD. V. 13 AFEKORO (1999) 11 NWLR (pt.628) 521; (1999) 7 SC (pt. iii) 95.

— E. Eko, JSC. Kekong v State (2017) – SC.884/2014

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ACCUSED DUTY TO LET THE COURT KNOW HE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE-USED

Appellant’s counsel is vehemently holding unto the position that it was the duty of the trial Court to make available to the Appellant the services of an interpreter because he is an illiterate. It must be pointed out that where the accused does not understand the language used at his trial, it is his duty or his counsel’s duty to bring to the notice of the Court at the earliest opportunity, that he does not understand the language used at trial. I think the duty of ensuring that the right thing is done is not only on the trial Judge. It is a duty as well on a party to a case or his counsel if represented by one.

– A. Jauro JSC. Balogun v. FRN (2021)

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ONUS ON SUSPECT TO PROVE TORTURE AND OPPRESSION

An area that has to be cleared in the proof of the voluntariness of an extra-judicial statement or that it was involuntarily made, is that while the burden to establish that the statement was voluntarily made rests on the prosecution, the burden of proving any particular fact such as the allegation of torture and oppression regarding the confessional statement lies on the party so asserting which in this case is the appellant.

– M. Peter-Odili JSC. Berende v. FRN (2021)

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