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RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS STILL ADMISSIBLE

Dictum

In ASIMI V. STATE (2016) LPELR – 40436 (SC), this Court per Rhodes Vivour JSC at Pp 14-15, para E-C stated succinctly thus: 22 “Once, an extra-judicial confession has been proved as in this case to have been made voluntarily and it is positive and unequivocal, amounting to an admission of guilt (such as the appellant’s confessional statement, Exhibit P6) a Court can convict on it even if the appellant retracted or resiled from it at trial. Such an afterthought does not make the confession inadmissible. It is desirable but not mandatory that there is general corroboration of the important incidents and not that retracted confession should be corroborated in each material particular.”

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DENIAL OF CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT DOES NOT MAKE THE CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT INADMISSIBLE

Against this background, it is important to note that the Appellant, in the course of his evidence-in-chief before the lower Court, retracted from the said Exhibits A and A1, thus prompting the lower Court into deciding that the entire evidence of the Appellant was at that stage unreliable and therefore discountenanced same; but the settled position of the law is that a retraction of a confession does not ipso facto render the confession inadmissible. See the old case of R. v. JOHN AGAGARIGA ITULE (1961) 1 ANLR 402 (FSC) where the Supreme Court per BRETT, Ag CJF held thus; “A confession does not become inadmissible merely because the accused person denies having made it and in this respect a confession contained in a statement made to the Police by a person under arrest is not to be treated different from any other confession. The fact that the Appellant took the earliest opportunity to deny having made the statement may lend weight to his denial. See R v. SAPELE and ANOR (1952) 2 FSC 74 but it is not in itself a reason for ignoring the statement.” … It would be further recalled that the Appellant took the earliest opportunity when the statement was offered in evidence to deny having made it. But the position remains in law, that a mere denial without more, even at the earliest opportunity, cannot, on the bare facts of the case, lend any iota of weight to the denial. Apart from the fact that the denial is a bare statement bereft of any supporting facts, it is by and large, standing only on the ipsi dexit of the Appellant. To make matters rather worse and as revealed by the printed records in this case, the said statements were not even challenged on grounds of involuntariness and the learned trial Court in its Ruling on the objection raised by the Appellant rightly declined the invitation to conduct a trial within trial. Against this backdrop, the question of the voluntariness of the statements, not having been raised or challenged at the trial, this Court therefore holds that the prosecution proved affirmatively that Exhibits A and A1 were voluntary confessional statements of the Appellant. Regardless of this position, the usual thing in all criminal trials is that the burden of proving affirmatively beyond doubt that the confession was made voluntarily is always on the prosecution, which this prosecution succeeded in doing as expected in this case. See the cases of JOSHUA ADEKANBI v. A-G WESTERN NIGERIA (1961) All NLR 47; R v. MATON PRIESTLY (1966) 50 CR APP. R 183 at 188; ISIAKA AUTA v. THE STATE (1975) NNLR 60 at 65 SC on the issue.

— F.O. Oho, JCA. Nasiru v State (2016) – CA/S/78C/2015

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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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ADMISSIBILITY OF EVIDENCE GIVEN IN PREVIOUS JUDICIAL PROCEEDING

The intent and purpose of Section 34 of the Evidence Act is clear. Simply put, it pertains to the admissibility in the present proceeding, of evidence given by a witness in a previous proceeding. Such previous evidence though hearsay, is admissible in the present proceeding under Section 34, which provide an exception to hearsay rule once the requisite conditions are fulfilled. See IKENYE VS OFUNE (1985) 2 NWLR (PT 5) 1. For the purpose of clarity, I herein below reproduce the provisions of Section 34 (1) of the Evidence Act:- 34(1) “Evidence given by a witness in a judicial proceeding, or before any person authorized by law to take it, is relevant for the purpose of proving, in a subsequent judicial proceeding, or in a later stage of the same judicial proceeding, the truth of the facts which it states, when the witness is dead or cannot be found, or is incapable of giving evidence or is kept out of the way by the adverse Party, or when his presence cannot be obtained without an amount of delay or expense which, in the circumstances of the case, the court considers unreasonable: Provided:- (a) that the proceeding was between the same parties or their representatives in interest; (b) that the adverse party in the first proceeding had the right and opportunity to cross examine; and (c) that the questions in issue were substantially the same in the first as in the second proceeding.” I do not need to say much again. The above provision is very clear and succinct to the effect that it relates to the admissibility of evidence given in a previous judicial proceeding in a subsequent judicial proceeding or in a later stage of the same proceeding.

— S.C. Oseji, JCA. ACB v Ajugwo (2011) – CA/E/66/2006

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DESPITE RELEVANCY, DOCUMENT MAY BE INADMISSIBLE BY OPERATION OF LAW

Section 1 of the Evidence Act is to the effect that evidence may be given of the facts in issue and relevant fact. Proviso (b) thereto is categorical that the Section shall not enable any person to give evidence of a fact which he is disentitled to prove by any provision of the law for the time being in force. There is no doubt that by virtue of Section 2 of the Evidence Act that a piece of evidence excluded either by the Act itself or any other legislation validly in force in Nigeria cannot be admissible in evidence. It is therefore, not only relevancy that governs admissibility. A piece of evidence may be relevant and yet could, by operation of law, be inadmissible.

— E. Eko, JSC. Kekong v State (2017) – SC.884/2014

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COURT CAN ONLY ACT ON ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE

There is no doubt, however, that a court is expected in all proceedings before it to admit and act only on evidence which is admissible in law (i.e. under the Evidence Act or any other law or enactment relevant in any particular case) and so if the court should inadvertently admit inadmissible evidence it has a duty generally not to act upon it. When, however, inadmissible evidence is tendered it is the duty of the opposite (or adverse) party or his counsel to object immediately to the admissibility of such evidence; although if the opposite party should fail to raise objection in such circumstances the court in civil cases may (and, in criminal case, must) reject such evidence ex proprio motu. On appeal, however, different considerations arise where a party failed to take objection to inadmissible evidence in the court of trial. It has frequently been stated (as, indeed, learned counsel for the appellant has done) that where a matter has been improperly received in evidence in the court below, even when no objection has been there raised, it is the duty of the court of appeal to reject it and to decide the case on legal evidence.

— Ogundare, JSC. Kossen v Savannah Bank (1995) – SC.209/89

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PUBLIC DOCUMENT CERTIFIED IS ADMISSIBLE THROUGH A PARTY WHO IS NOT TO THE CASE

By virtue of the provisions of Section 102(b) of the Evidence Act, 2011, public documents include public records kept in Nigeria of private documents. See: ONWUZURUIKE v EDOZIEM & ORS (2016) LPELR 26056(SC) at pages 10 – 11, paras. F-B, where the Supreme Court, per Onnoghen, JSC held that a private document sent to the Police formed part of the record of the Police and is consequently a public document within the provisions of Section 109 of the old Evidence Act, now Section 102 of the extant Evidence Act, 2011. It is also trite that a public document duly so certified, is admissible in evidence notwithstanding that it is not tendered by the maker. Indeed, a certified true copy of a public document can be tendered by person who is not a party to the case. See: MARANRO v ADEBISI (2007) LPELR-4663(CA); DAGGASH v BULAMA (2004) 14 NWLR (Pt. 892) 144 at 187; and MUSTAPHA SHETTIMA & ORS v ALHAJI BUKAR CUSTOMS (2021) LPELR-56150(CA). Exhibits RA1 and RA2, being in the public record of the 1st Respondent are public documents and are therefore admissible in evidence, having been certified by the 1st Respondent under Section 104 of the Evidence Act, 2011.

— H.S. Tsammani, JCA. Peter Obi & Anor. v INEC & Ors. (2023) – CA/PEPC/03/2023

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