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BURDEN OF PROOF IS ON PROSECUTION TO ESTABLISH MURDER

Dictum

It is however settled law that it is the duty of the prosecution to establish or prove the charge/case against an accused person. In other words, it is the prosecution that bears the burden of proving the guilt of the accused person. For the court to come to the conclusion that the prosecution has discharged the burden placed on it by law, it must be satisfied that the conclusion is beyond reasonable doubt as it is settled law that any doubt existing in such a case must be resolved in favour of the accused person. In other words, the standard of proof in criminal trials is that of prove beyond reasonable doubt.

— Onnoghen, JSC. Njoku v. The State (2012)

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WHEN PLAINTIFF’S BURDEN IS MINIMAL

It is settled law that where the party offers no evidence in defence of the case of the plaintiff, the burden placed on the plaintiff is minimal, since there is no evidence to challenge the case of the plaintiff and the plaintiff can use the unchallenged evidence to establish his case. – Onnoghen JSC. Chami v. UBA (2010)

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STANDARD OF PROOF IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

It was not for the appellant to prove that the stick he held did not and could not cause the injuries. It is for the prosecution to prove that its use caused the injuries. The burden does not shift. The standard of proof required is very high. On this point, Lord Diplock says – In criminal proceedings, by an exception to the general rule founded upon considerations of public policy. If the consequence of a finding that a particular fact is proved will be the conviction of the defendant the degree of probability must be so high as to exclude any reasonable doubt that that fact exists. Generally speaking, no onus lies upon a defendant in criminal proceedings to prove or disprove any fact; it is sufficient for his acquittal if any of the acts, which, if they existed, would constitute the offence with which he is charged are ‘not proved’ Per Lord Diplock in Public Prosecutor v. Yuvavaj (1970) A.C. 913 at 921.

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

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BURDEN OF PROOF ALWAYS ON THE PROSECUTION; BURDEN FOR INSANITY ON THE ACCUSED

The law is trite, that in all criminal cases in common law countries like Nigeria which operates from time immemorial, common law jurisprudence, the burden of proof is always on the prosecution. This notion is entrenched in Section 135 of the Evidence Act which further put the standard of such proof to be beyond reasonable doubt. SeeOgundiyan Vs The State (1991) 3 NWLR (pt.181)519 or (1991)4 SCNJ 44 or (1991)3 SC 100. It needs to be emphasized however, that the burden of proof always remains on the prosecution, except of course, in few limited circumstances such as in the defence of insanity in which the law presumes an accused person to be sane and therefore it casts the burden of establishing the contrary on the accused.

— A. Sanusi, JSC. Bassey v State (2019) – SC.900/2016

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PERSON WHO ASSERTS HAS ONUS TO PROVE – (ECOWAS Court)

In FEMI FALANA & ANOR V REPUBLIC OF BENIN & 2 ORS (2012) ECW/CCJ/JUD/02/12 PG. 34, the court held that: “As always, the onus of proof is on a party who asserts a fact and who will fail if that fact fails to attain that standard of proof that will persuade the court to believe the statement of the claim”. Vide SIKIRU ALADE VS FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2012) ECW/CCJ/JUD/10/12. PARA 48.

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WHERE ACCUSED PLEADS GUILTY PROSECUTION BURDEN BECOMES LIGHT

OMOJU v. FRN (2008) LPELR – 2647 (SC), Tobi JSC (of blessed memory), considered the effect of an accused person’s plea of guilt on the burden placed on the prosecution where my noble Lord held thus: “The law is elementary that if an accused person pleads guilty, the burden of proof placed on the prosecution becomes light, like a feather of an ostrich. It no longer remains the superlative and compelling burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt. After all, the guilty plea has considerably shortened the distance and brought in some proximity the offence and mens rea or actus reus of the accused as the case may be. That makes it easier to locate causation or causa sine qua non.”

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BURDEN OF PROOF IN A CIVIL CASE – EVIDENTIAL BURDEN

Section 137 of the Evidence Act, 2004 provides for the burden of proof in civil cases. The burden of first proving the existence of a fact lies on the party against whom the judgment of the court could be given if no evidence were produced on either side, regard being had to any presumption that may arise on the pleadings. If such party adduces evidence which might reasonably satisfy a court that the fact sought to be proved is established, the burden lies on the party against whom judgment would be given if no more evidence were adduced; and so on successively until all the issues in the pleadings have been dealt with. Where there are conflicting presumptions, the case is the same as if there were evidence. By section 137, the burden of proof is not static. It fluctuates between the parties. Subsection (1) places the first burden on the party against whom the court will give judgment if no evidence is adduced on either side. In other words, the onus probandi is on the party who would fail if no evidence is given in the case. Thereafter, the second burden goes to the adverse party by virtue of subsection (2). And so the burdens change places almost like the colour of a chameleon until all the issues in the pleadings have been dealt with. By section 137(2), the burden of proof shifts between the parties in the course of giving evidence in the proceedings. From the language of the subsection, there is some amount of versatility in the shifting process of the burden. The shifting process, in the language of the subsection, will be so on successively until all the issues in the pleadings have been dealt with. Section 139 of the Evidence Act provides for the proof of a particular fact. By the section, the burden of proof as to any particular fact lies on the person who wishes the court to believe in its existence, unless it is provided by any law that the proof of that fact shall lie on any particular person, but the burden may in course of a case be shifted from one side to the other. In considering the amount of evidence necessary to shift the burden of proof, regard shall be had by the court to the opportunity of knowledge with respect to the fact to be proved which may be possessed by the parties, respectively. (See Abdul-Raham v Commissioner of Police (1971) NMLR 87; Arase v Arase (1981) 5 SC 33; Savannah Bank of Nigeria Ltd v Pan Atlantic Shipping and Transport Agencies Ltd (1987) 1 NWLR (Part 49) 212 and Fadlattah v Arewa Textile Ltd (1997) 8 NWLR (Part 518) 546).

— Niki Tobi, JSC. Buhari v. INEC (2008) – SC 51/2008

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