There are three classes of accomplice (a) participles criminis in respect of the actual crime charged, (b) Receivers vis-a-vis the thieves from whom they receive the goods on a trial of the latter for stealing, (c) Witneses for the prosecution who, on previous occasions, were parties to crimes identical to that committed by an accused on trial, but evidence of which crimes is being offered, in the course of the trial of the accused, to prove a system and intent and to negative accident on the part of the accused. Although this third category of witnesses are not accomplices stricto senso their evidence should not be left to the jury (before whom the accused is being tried) without a warning that it is dangerous and/or unsafe to accept it without corroboration – see Enahoro v. The Queen (1965) 1 All NLR 125 at 142 (adopting Lord Simonds, LC., in Michael John Davies v. Director of Public Prosecutions (1954) AC 378 at 400). These persons (i.e. associates or participants in the crime or offence) fall within the category of offenders set out in Section 7 and Section 10 of the Criminal Code. According to Section 7:- “(a) every person who actually does the act or makes the omission which constitutes the offence; (b) every person who does or omits to do any act for the purpose of enabling or aiding another person to commit the offence; (c) every person who aids another person in committing the offence; (d) every person who counsels or procures any other person to commit the offence is guilty of the offence. Everyone, therefore, who falls within any of the categories (a) – (d) is a participant in the actual offence, that is, an accomplice. The party who falls within (a) is the perpetrator of the offence; the one who falls within (b) prepares the way for, or facilitates the crime; the one who falls within (c) assists in the preparation of the crime and, the one who falls within (d) foments or incites its commission.

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

Was this dictum helpful?



This court also decided in Enahoro v. The Queen (supra) at p.144 that a spectator is not an accomplice and in doing so it rejected the minority judgment [Mbanefo, Ag. JSC.,(as he then was) in Michael Adedapo Omisade & Ors. v. The Queen (1964) 1 All NLR 233 at 293 – 294. The question in Omisade (supra) was whether Dr. Onabamiro, a witness for the prosecution was, a participes criminis and as such, an accomplice. According to the evidence, he was present with three other persons when one of them put up the proposal of capturing by force or seizing power from the Federal Government of Nigeria and assigned tasks to that effect; remaining silent he neither affirmed nor rejected the proposal. Later he bought and studied books on revolution; but on the evidence he certainly did nothing towards carrying out the task assigned to him. Later he stumbled into a meeting of the others present when the proposal for seizure of government and assignment of tasks therefore was made, and he advised them that their plan was not feasible although on that occasion he offered to take an oath of secrecy. The majority of the court ( a court of five Judges) thought he was certainly not an accomplice; the fifth (Mbanefo Ag. JSC. as he then was) held the view that he was or, at least, a “tainted witness” in the light of Section 40 of the Criminal Code.

Was this dictum helpful?