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PRINCIPLE ON THE VALID ARRAIGNMENT OF AN ACCUSED PERSON

Dictum

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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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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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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PERSON ACCUSED OF CRIME STILL HAS ACCESS TO ENFORCE HIS RIGHTS

The fact that a person has been accused of a crime, however serious, will not deny that person access to Court to enforce his fundamental right if these rights have been violated. See Duruaku v. Nwoke (2015) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1483) 417.

– Ngwuta JSC. Ihim v. Maduagwu (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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WHERE ACCUSED PLEADS GUILTY TO AN OFFENCE

The law is settled that if an accused person pleads guilty to an offence with which he is charged, the Court shall record his plea as nearly as possible in the words used by him and if satisfied that he intended to admit the truth of all the essentials of the offence of which he had pleaded guilty, the Court shall convict him of that offence and pass sentence against him unless there appear sufficient cause to the contrary. See Daniel v. F.R.N (2015) 13 NWLR (pt. 1475) 119; Kolo v. COP (2017) 9 NWLR (pt. 1569) 118.

– J.I. Okoro JSC. Balogun v. FRN (2021)

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INTERPRETER OF AN ACCUSED STATEMENT MUST BE CALLED

It is indeed the law that an accused person’s statement should, as much as possible, be taken down in the exact words of the accused person. Where the statement is thereafter translated into English by another person, the interpreter must be called as a witness in order for the statement in English to be admissible in evidence. Where that interpreter is not called, the statement in English will be regarded as hearsay evidence and will therefore be inadmissible

– Eyop v. State (2018) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1615) 273 (SC) per Sanusi, J.S.C.

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