Criminal conspiracy involves an agreement to do an illegal act and in addition, the doing of the act in pursuance thereof.

By virtue of section 96(1) of the penal code, when two or more persons agree to do or cause to be done an illegal act or by illegal means an act that is not illegal, such an agreement is called a Criminal conspiracy.

The Court of Appeal in the case Damuna v. State (2021) 4 NWLR (Pt. 1767) 419 AT 429, paras F-G, held;

“By virtue of section 97 of the penal code, to succeed in a charge of Criminal conspiracy, the prosecution needs to prove that by the conduct of the accused persons, there was an agreement between them to commit an unlawful act or lawful act by unlawful means.”

One way of proving the existence of a conspiracy is by showing that the accused was seen acting in concert or putting in “a community effort aimed at committing a crime.

In cases where the main offence has been shown to have been committed the court would easily rely on that fact as establishing the existence of a conspiracy between the defendants to commit the offence. See; Islam Rafiqul v. FRN (2018) LPELR-44520 (CA) at 32B.

It is generally recognized in law that in a charge of conspiracy, proof of the actual agreement which is an essential ingredient of the crime is not always easy to come by. Thus, the fact that there was no positive evidence of any agreement between the accused persons to commit the offence is not enough to hold that the prosecution cannot establish the charge of conspiracy.

Since in most charges of conspiracy, nobody except the conspirators themselves can give direct and positive evidence of the agreement, the proof of conspiracy has become a matter of inference from the evidence adduced and the courts can infer a conspiracy and convict if it is satisfied from the evidence that the accused persons pursued by their acts the same object, performing one part of the act and the other performing the other part of the same act to complete their unlawful design. See; Ofordike v. State (2019) 5 NWLR (PT. 1666) 395 at 414. paras B-C, and E-G.

In Orisa v. State (2018) 11 NWLR (Pt 1631) 453 at 467 para F-G, the court held;
“A charge of conspiracy is a separate offence from the completed offence and it can be proved either by leading direct evidence in proof of the common criminal design or it can be proved by inference derived from the commission of the substantive offence. The evidence required to prove criminal conspiracy is of such quality that irresistibly compels the court to draw such inference as to the guilt of the accused person. The court in pronouncing sentence, must separately do so in the respect of conspiracy and the completed offence. State v. Salawu (2011) 8 NWLR (Pt. 1279) 580.”

LEGAL TIPS is anchored by Ms CIA Ofoegbunam, an Abuja-based lawyer who is passionate about legal practice.LEGAL TIPS offers quick hints on substantive law, as well as rules of practice and procedure, and serves as a handy reference guide to lawyers, especially in court.Published on a weekly basis, the LEGAL TIPS Series is CIA’s modest contribution to legal development in Nigeria.


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