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ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF THE OFFENCE OF MURDER

Dictum

In a charge of murder such as the one under discourse, the prosecution must lead credible evidence to establish the essential elements of the offence which are the following: (a) That the deceased had died. (b) That the death of the deceased was caused by the accused person and (c) That the act or omission of the accused person which caused the death of the deceased was intentional with knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was a probable consequence.

– M. Peter-Odili, JSC. Enabeli v. State (2021)

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CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE A PERSON IS DEEMED TO UNLAWFULLY KILL ANOTHER

A person who unlawfully kills another under any of the following circumstances is guilty of murder: (1) If the offender intends to cause the death of the person killed or that of some other person. Under this heading, the prosecution is bound to prove beyond reasonable doubt: (a) that the deceased died; (b) that the death of the deceased resulted from the act of the accused; (c) that the act of the accused was intentional with the knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was its probable consequence. See Section 316(1) of the Criminal Code Cap 30 Vol. II Laws of Eastern Nigeria 1963 as applicable in Imo State of Nigeria under which the appellant was charged, tried, convicted and sentenced to death. See also Offorlete v. The State (2000) 80 LRCN 26 20; Effiong v. The State (1998) 59 LRCN 39 61; Richard Igago v. The State (1999) 73 LRCN 3502 at 3535. (2) If the offender intends to do to the deceased or to some other person some grievous harm. See Section 316(2) of the Criminal Code (supra); R v. Dim (1952) 14 WACA 154; R v. Adi (1955) 15 WACA 6. (3) If death is caused by means of an act done in the prosecution of an unlawful purpose, which act is of such a nature as to be likely to endanger human life. The unlawful act need not be a felony so long as it is likely to endanger human life. See Section 316 of the Criminal Code (supra); Obayi Asa v. The State (1976) 7 SC 173; Idowu v. The State (2000) LRCN 2788; R v. Attah (1961) 1 All NLR 590. (4) If the offender intends to do grievous harm to some person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an offence which is such that the offender may be arrested without a warrant, or for purpose of facilitating the flight of an offender who has committed or attempted to commit any such offence. (5) If death is caused by administering any stupefying or overpowering things for either of the purposes in (4) above. (6) If death is caused by willfully stopping the breath of any person for either of such purpose. See Section 316(6) of the Criminal Code (supra).

— N.S. Ngwuta, JSC. Henry Nwokearu V. The State (SC.227/2011, 24 MAY 2013)

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MEDICAL EVIDENCE IS NOT A SINE QUA NON FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF MURDER

Be that as it may, however, it is now well settled that as much as medical evidence is desirable to prove the cause of death in homicide cases, it is not a sine quo non. It has been laid down in a long line of cases that cause of death can be established by sufficient evidence. other than medical evidence, showing beyond reasonable doubt that death resulted from the particular act of the accused. See Akpuenya v. The State (1976) 11 S.C. 269, 278. In Lori v. The State (1980) 8-11 S.C. 81 at 97.

— Ogundare, JSC. Azu v State (1993) – SC. 131/1992

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INGREDIENTS TO PROVE OFFENCE OF MURDER

The law is well settled that in murder cases, (as in this instant case) the prosecution, in order to obtain conviction must prove the under mentioned ingredients of the offence of murder, beyond reasonable doubt. They include the followings:- (1) That the deceased died (2) That the death of the deceased was caused by the act(s) or omission of the accused person/appellant. (3) That the act or omission of the accused/appellant was intentional or with knowledge that death or bodily harm was its probable consequence. See Okin Nsibehe Edoho vs The State (2010) 14 NWLR ( pt. 1214) 651; Audu v State (2003) 7 NWLR (pt.820) 516; R. V. Nwokocha (1949)12 WACA 453; R v Owe (1961) 2 SCNLR 354; State v Omoni (1969)2 ALL NLR 337.

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

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INGREDIENTS FOR MURDER

If the offender intends to do to the person killed or to some other person some grievous harm; If death is caused by means of an act done in the prosecution of an unlawful purpose, which all is of such a nature as to be likely to endanger human life ; If the offender intends to do grievous harm to some person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an offence which is such that the offender may be arrested without warrant, or for the purpose of facilitating the flight of an offender who has committed or attempted to commit any such offence; If death is caused by administering any stupefying or overpowering things for either the purposes last aforesaid; If death is caused by willfully stopping the breath of any person for either of such purposes, is guilty of murder. In the second case, it is immaterial that the offender did not intend to hurt the particular person who is killed. A In the third case, it is immaterial that the offender did not intend to hurt any person.

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

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INGREDIENTS FOR A CHARGE OF MURDER TO SUCCEED

For a conviction to be secured in a charge of murder as prescribed under section 319(1) of the Criminal Code, Cap. 48, Vol. II, Laws of the defunct Bendel State of Nigeria, 1976 as applicable in Edo State, the following ingredients must be proved thus: (i) That the deceased died; (ii) That the death of the deceased resulted from the act of the accused person; (iii) That the act of the accused person was intentional with knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was its probable consequences.

— M.U. Peter-Odili, JSC. Enobong v. The State (2022) – SC/CR/249/2020

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IN MURDER CASE, IT MUST BE SHOWN THAT THE DEATH OF THE DECEASED WAS CAUSED BY THE ACCUSED

In Lori v. State (1980) 8-11 SC 81 at 95-96, this court per Nnamani, JSC said: “In a charge of murder, the cause of death must be established unequivocally and the burden rests on the prosecution to establish this and if they fail the accused must be discharged. See Rex v. Samuel Abengowe 3 WACA 85; R v. Oledima 6 WACA 202. It is also settled law that the death of the victim must be caused by the act of the accused or put differently it must be shown that the deceased died as a result of the act of the accused. See Sunday Omonuju v. The State (1976) 5 SC 1, Frank Onyenankeya v. The State (1964) NMLR. 34.”

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