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ONLY EXCEPTION FOR WHEN AN ACCUSED MAY BE ABSENT FROM HIS TRIAL

Dictum

In any case, the very fact that the 1st appellant and the 3rd appellant were absent in their joint trial in court on 14 June 1999 when the inferior court was addressed and 18 April 2000 when the inferior court delivered its judgment, this exercise of allowing the trial to proceed in the absence of some of the accused persons being jointly tried had rendered the entire proceedings of that court including the judgment a complete nullity for not only denial of fair hearing under section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 but also for failure of that court to give the affected appellants even a hearing that may not be called a fair hearing: Godpower Asakitikpi v. The State (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt. 296) 641 at 657.

— M. Mohammed JSC. The State v. Monsurat Lawal (SC. 80/2004, 15 Feb 2013)

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TAKING A SUSPECT BEFORE A SUPERIOR OFFICER IS NOT A LEGAL REQUIREMENT

The procedure of taking a suspect who has made a confessional statement before a superior officer for confirmation is not a legal requirement. It is an administrative practice that has gained judicial approval, as an additional means of ensuring that a confessional statement is voluntary.

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

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RIGHTS EXPLAINED TO THE ACCUSED MUST BE RECORDED

In my view, a bald statement, as in this case, that – “the rights of the accused are explained to him” is certainly not enough. Not only should the court record show clearly what the trial court has done, whatever rights have been explained to the accused must be fully recorded see Ama Ema v. The State (1964) 1 All N.L.R. 416, for, indeed, this is the essence of having a court of record.

— Eso, JSC. G. Josiah v. The State (1985) – SC.59/1984

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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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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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ACCUSED WHO PLEADS GUILTY CAN BE CONVICTED SUMMARILY

In the case of F.R.N. v. KAYODE (2019) 6 SC (Pt.1) 165 at 188, this Court, per Galumje, JSC held as follows: “The law is settled that an Accused person who pleads guilty to a criminal charge can be convicted summarily if the Court is satisfied that he intended to admit the truth of all the essentials of the offence.”

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PRIOR CONDUCT OF THE ACCUSED IS ADMISSIBLE TO EXPLAIN ACCUSED’S CONDUCT

Surely, the general rule in criminal as well as in civil cases that the evidence must be confined to the point in issue cannot be applied where the facts which constitute distinct offences are at the same time part of the transaction which is the subject of the charge. Evidence is necessarily admissible as to acts which are so closely and inextricably mixed up with the history of the criminal act itself as to form part of one chain of relevant circumstances, and so could not be excluded in the presentment of the case without the evidence being thereby rendered unintelligible. Thus, in cases of murder, evidence is admissible to show prior assaults by the accused upon the murdered person or menaces uttered to him by the accused, or to show conversely the irritable behaviour by the deceased to the accused. Again, the relations of the murdered man to his assailant, so far as they may reasonably be treated as explanatory of the conduct of the person charged with the crime, can be admitted to prove as integral parts of the history of the alleged crime for which the accused is on his trial. (See R. v. Bond (1906) 2 KB 389 as per Kennedy, J., at pp. 400 and 401).

— Idigbe, JSC. Ishola v State (1978) – SC.8/1977

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