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CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT CONSTITUTES EVIDENCE AGAINST THE MAKER ALONE

Dictum

In a plethora of decisions, this court has held that a confessional statement constitutes evidence against the maker alone and cannot be used as evidence against a co-accused unless the co-accused adopts it by word or conduct. The rationale for this is clear – noone can confess to a crime on behalf of another. See: Ajaegbo v. The State (2018) LPELR – 44531 (SC) @ 44 – 45 C – D; (2018) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1631) 484; Kasa v. The State (1994) 5 NWLR (Pt. 344) 269 @ 288; Jimoh v. The State (2014) 10 NWLR (Pt. 1414) 105 @ 139. It is therefore an incorrect statement of the law to state that the court can rely on the extra-judicial confession of an accused against his co-accused, to ground a conviction against him so long as it incriminates him.

— Kekere-Ekun, JSC. Enobong v. The State (2022) – SC/CR/249/2020

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CONFESSION IS RELEVANT WHEN IT PROVES FACT

The vital consideration that should engage the mind of a trial Judge is the relevancy of the confession. A confession is relevant when it proves the fact that constitutes one of, or all, the elements of the crime to be proved, and/or identifies the person who committed the offence. If the confession is relevant and is free and voluntary, it is admissible in evidence and once admitted, the weight to be attached depends on its probative value and pure truth content.

– Sankey JCA. Abdul v. State (2021)

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RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT MUST PASS THESE TESTS

In other words, the retracted confession must pass the six credibility tests forming part of our criminal jurisprudence which have been established in a long fine of cases referred to above. These are: i. Is there anything outside the confession to show that it is true? ii. Is it corroborated? iii. Are the relevant statements made in it of facts true as far as they can be tested? iv. Was the accused one who had the opportunity of committing murder? v. Is his confession possible? vi. Is it consistent with other facts which have been ascertained and have been proved?

– H.M. Ogunwumiju, JSC. State v. Ibrahim (2021) – SC.200/2016

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CONFESSIONAL STATEMENTS ARE TO BE SUBJECT TO SIX TESTS

However, in multiplicity of judicial authorities of this Court, it has been decided that before relying solely on confessional statement to convict an accused or in the process of evaluation of same, trial Courts are desired to subject the confessional statement to the following six tests; namely (a) Is there anything outside the confession to show that it is true? (b) Is it corroborated (c) Are the relevant statements made on it in fact true as they can be tested? (d) Was the accused one who had the opportunity of committing the offence? (e) Is the confession possible; and (f) Is it consistent with the other facts which have been ascertained and have been proved? Once a confessional statement is subjected to these six tests, this Court has held that same can be safely relied upon to ground a conviction. See Musa V State (2013) 2-3 SC (pt.II) 75 at 94; Nwachukwu vs The State (2007)7 SCM (pt.2) 447 at 455; Ikpo v State (1995)9 NWLR (pt.421)540 at 554.

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

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A RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS ADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE

The Appellant may have retracted his Confessional Statement but it is settled that where the Accused says that he did not make the Confession at all, the trial Court is entitled to admit it in evidence, and thereafter, decide whether or not he made the said Confession, at the conclusion of trial. So, a retracted Confession is admissible in evidence Ikpasa v. State (supra), Sule V. State (2009) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1169) 33. However, the trial Court is enjoined to look for some evidence outside the Confessional Statement, which renders it plausible or true. This entails examining his new version of events that is different from his retracted confessional Statement, then the trial Court must ask – Is there anything outside the confession, which shows it may be true? Is it corroborated in anyway?

— A.A. Augie, JSC. Usman v The State (2019) – SC.228/2016

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CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT: VOLUNTARINESS VS DISOWNING

Where it is alleged that a confessional statement was obtained under duress or as a result of threat or inducement, the Courts have developed the practice of conducting a trial within trial 18 (TWT) or mini trial to ascertain the voluntariness of the statement. The onus is on the prosecution to prove that it was freely and voluntarily made … On the other hand, where the accused outrightly disowns the confession and asserts that he did not make the statement at all, it would be admitted in evidence and considered alongside other evidence led at the trial to determine its probative value.

– Kekere-Ekun JSC. Berende v. FRN (2021)

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FREE AND VOLUNTARY CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT CAN GROUND A CONVICTION

In the case of Udo v State (2016) 12 NWLR (Pt.1525) pp.33-34, paras. H-A, this Court held that: “Free and voluntary confessional statement of an accused alone is sufficient to sustain his conviction, provided the Court is satisfied that it was made in a free atmosphere and is direct, unequivocal and positively proved. In this case, the two statements made by the appellant as Exhibits 4 and 5 were confessional. They were sufficient to convict the appellant thereon. Consequently, the defence of alibi raised by the accused during his testimony was too late in the day and only an afterthought”.

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