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WHERE THERE IS RETRACTION OF CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT, COURT SHOULD CONVICT ONLY WHEN THERE IS CORROBORATION

Dictum

Where a confessional statement is denied or retracted by an accused as in the instant case. it is desirable to have corroborative evidence no matter how slight before convicting on it. The Courts are enjoined as a matter of duty to test the veracity or otherwise of such statement by comparing it with other facts and circumstances outside the statement, to see whether they support, confirm or correspond with it. In other words, the Court must scrutinize the statement to test its truthfulness or otherwise in line with other available evidence. See: KAZEEM VS STATE (2009) All FWLR (Pt.465) page 1749; EDHIGERE VS STATE (1996) 8 NWLR (Pt.464) page 1; ONOCHIE & 7 ORS. VS THE REPUBLIC (1966) 1 SCNLR 204; and QUEEN VS ITULE (1961) 2 SCNLR 183.

— S.D. Bage, JSC. State v Masiga (2017) – SC

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A RETRACTED CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT IS ADMISSIBLE IN EVIDENCE

The Appellant may have retracted his Confessional Statement but it is settled that where the Accused says that he did not make the Confession at all, the trial Court is entitled to admit it in evidence, and thereafter, decide whether or not he made the said Confession, at the conclusion of trial. So, a retracted Confession is admissible in evidence Ikpasa v. State (supra), Sule V. State (2009) 17 NWLR (Pt. 1169) 33. However, the trial Court is enjoined to look for some evidence outside the Confessional Statement, which renders it plausible or true. This entails examining his new version of events that is different from his retracted confessional Statement, then the trial Court must ask – Is there anything outside the confession, which shows it may be true? Is it corroborated in anyway?

— A.A. Augie, JSC. Usman v The State (2019) – SC.228/2016

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TEST TO PROVE CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT

The tests for determining the voluntariness of a confessional statement have been consistently applied by this Court in a plethora of cases as follows: (1) Whether there is anything outside the confession to show that it is true. (2) Whether the statement is corroborated, no matter how slight (3) Whether the facts contained therein, so far as can be tested, are true. (4) Whether the accused person had the opportunity of committing the offence. (5) Whether the confession of the accused person was possible. (6) Whether the confession was consistent with other facts which have been ascertained and proved in the matter.

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

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ACCUSED CAN BE CONVICTED ON HIS CONFESSION

The law is trite that an accused person can be convicted solely on his confession if the confession is positive and direct in the admission of the offence charged. In other words, voluntary confession of guilt whether judicial or extra judicial, if it is direct and positive is sufficient proof of the guilt and is enough to sustain a conviction, so long as the Court is satisfied with the truth of such a confession.

– Abdu Aboki, JSC. Chukwu v. State (2021)

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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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CONFESSIONAL STATEMENTS ARE TO BE SUBJECT TO SIX TESTS

However, in multiplicity of judicial authorities of this Court, it has been decided that before relying solely on confessional statement to convict an accused or in the process of evaluation of same, trial Courts are desired to subject the confessional statement to the following six tests; namely (a) Is there anything outside the confession to show that it is true? (b) Is it corroborated (c) Are the relevant statements made on it in fact true as they can be tested? (d) Was the accused one who had the opportunity of committing the offence? (e) Is the confession possible; and (f) Is it consistent with the other facts which have been ascertained and have been proved? Once a confessional statement is subjected to these six tests, this Court has held that same can be safely relied upon to ground a conviction. See Musa V State (2013) 2-3 SC (pt.II) 75 at 94; Nwachukwu vs The State (2007)7 SCM (pt.2) 447 at 455; Ikpo v State (1995)9 NWLR (pt.421)540 at 554.

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

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HAVING CONFESSIONAL STATEMENT ENDORSED BY SUPERIOR OFFICERS IS COMMENDABLE

I must however emphasise the commendable practice of having confessional statements being endorsed by a superior police officer on having been satisfied on its voluntariness. These procedural safeguards are the most effective means to enable a trial court discover the truth of the matter as to the voluntariness or otherwise of an accused’s confession.

– Chukwuma-Eneh JSC. Ibeme v. State (2013)

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