AMEH v. STATE (2018) LPELR-44463(SC)

INTRODUCTION

Section 211(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the FRN (as amended) empowers the Attorney General of a State to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any Court of law. And by Subsection 2 thereof, the power conferred on the Attorney General of a State under Subsection one (1) may be exercised by him in person or through officers of his department.

Where for certain reason(s) the officer that prepares a charge is not the same as the one who signs the charge, will the charge be rendered invalid? This was one of the issues that the Apex Court had to consider in this present appeal; and according to OKORO, J.S.C. in holding such charge valid said, while delivering the leading judgment, as follows:

“Where one counsel in the office of the Attorney General has drafted an application for leave to proffer a charge against an accused person but before the charge is filed, the said counsel is either indisposed or has gone on leave or some other unforeseen incidents occur, will it be reasonable to put the process in the cooler pending when that officer will resume duties whereas there are other competent officers in the Ministry? I do not think that is the way to go. There is nothing legally wrong with the signing of the charge by G. P. Olorunnuhe, Esq., though it was drafted by his colleague Mrs. Deborah Ajayi, the two of them being law officers in the chambers of the Attorney-General Kogi State”

BRIEF FACTS OF THE CASE

The appellant alongside some other persons were charged with criminal conspiracy, voluntarily causing hurt to extort property and Armed Robbery under Sections 97(1), 298 (c) 250 (2) of the Penal Code respectively before the Kogi State High Court sitting at Ankpa.

At the trial, it was the case of the prosecution that the accused person and others broke into the apartment of PW1 on 3rd August, 2012 at about 2.00 a.m and inflicted injuries on her head, neck, arm and leg and robbed her of the sum of Thirty Thousand Naira. PW1 identified the appellant as her nephew and the other accused person as his friend.

The prosecution’s second witness- PW2 was the Police Officer at Ankpa where the case of armed robbery was lodged. He testified that he took pictures of the victim while she was at the hospital and later arrested the accused persons including the appellant on a tip off. The case was later transferred to the State C.I.D at Lokoja where PW3 received the case from Ankpa and also obtained the confessional statement of the accused person.

 

The case of the Appellant (then accused person) on the other hand while testifying as DW1, was that before his detention, he was living at Inye and that he was both an applicant and a farmer and that he did not know the other accused person until after his arrest on the 11th of August, 2012, when he was informed that he and others robbed Mrs. Elizabeth Wada on the 3rd of August 2012. According to him, on the date of the said robbery, he was away at Mubi in Adamawa State and only returned to Inye on the 6th of August, 2012. Under cross-examination, the Appellant said that while at the State C.I.D. Lokoja, a document was brought to him which he was asked to sign; that although he did not get to read the document, he signed same as directed. He confirmed that he knew the victim.

 

At the close of evidence, counsel for both parties filed and exchanged written addresses and in a considered judgment delivered on the 18th of September, 2013, the learned trial judge convicted the accused persons to 5 years imprisonment for the offence of conspiracy, 7 years imprisonment for the offence of voluntarily causing hurt to extort property and 15 years imprisonment for Armed Robbery earlier entered by the Trial High Court.

Aggrieved by the decision of the trial Court, the Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal, Abuja and on the 26th day of June, 2015, the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment dismissing the appellant’s appeal and affirming the judgment of the trial Court.

Further dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the appellant has appealed to this Court.

ISSUE(S) FOR DETERMINATION

The issues adopted by the Court for the just determination of this appeal are:

  1. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were legally right in holding that no miscarriage of justice was occasioned by the charge drafted and signed by two different officers of the chambers of the Attorney General of Kogi State.
  2. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were legally right to hold that Exhibit P2 satisfied the necessary legal requirement for ascription of probative value.
  3. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were legally right in holding that the prosecution had proved its case against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.
  4. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were legally right in holding that the non tendering of the weapons of offence and medical evidence was not prejudicial to the case of the prosecution.

HELD

All the issues in this appeal were resolved against the appellant. Imperatively, the Supreme Court held that there was no merit in this appeal and same was accordingly dismissed. As a result, the concurrent judgments of the Court of Appeal and the trial High Court on the Appellant’s conviction and sentence were affirmed. Appeal was dismissed.

RATIO DECIDENDI

APPEAL – INTERFERENCE WITH CONCURRENT FINDING(S) OF FACT(S): Attitude of the Supreme Court to interference with concurrent finding(s) of fact(s) of Lower Courts

“The learned trial judge considering the statement of appellant, Exhibit P2 and the evidence of PW1 from which he found the corroboration and also the evidence of DW3, the mother of the second accused who stated that PW1 and herself worshiped in the same church i.e. Quo Iboe Church, Inye.

The above findings of the trial Court tallied with those of the Court of Appeal and therefore brings into operation the attitude of the Supreme Court followed in a long time of cases, not to interfere or disturb such concurrent findings well made without a miscarriage of justice in view. See Adekunle v State (2006) 5 LRCNCC 1; Jinadu v Esu Rombi-Aro (2009) 4 KLR (Pt. 265) 883.”Per PETER-ODILI, J.S.C. (Pp. 43-44, Paras. F-C)

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE – CHARGE(S): Who can sign a charge

“The main grouse of the appellant in this issue is that whereas Mrs. Deborah Ajayi drafted the application to proffer charge against the appellant, the charge which was eventually drafted was signed by G.P. Olorunde, Esq., both law officers in the chambers of the Hon. Attorney General of Kogi State. This complaint or objection by the learned counsel for the appellant was not taken at the stage when plea was taken. It was however taken in the address of counsel after plea had been taken and evidence obtained from both parties. By Section 211(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the FRN (as amended), the Attorney General of a State is empowered to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any Court of law, amongst other duties. And by Subsection 2 thereof, the power conferred on the Attorney General of a State under Subsection one (1) may be exercised “by him in person or through officers of his department”.

 

Both counsel agree that the two law officers are officers in the chambers of the Attorney General of Kogi State. I have no doubt whatsoever that either of them was legally qualified to initiate the proceedings or sign the charge. See FRN v. Adewunmi (2007) 10 NWLR (pt. 1042) 399. Also relying on this authority, the Court below held on page 136 of the record as follows:

 

“It is not in doubt that in the instant case, the application for leave was brought by one Deborah Ajayi (Mrs.) and signed by one G.P. Olorunnuhe Esq., both Legal Officers in the office of the Attorney General of Kogi State.

On the strength of the above cited Supreme Court authority, I hold the view that the charge in the instant case, is properly laid before the Trial Court to vest it with the jurisdiction to entertain the case. What is more, the Appellant has not cited any legal authority challenging the validity of the charge because it was proffered and signed by different persons in the office of the Attorney General.”

I agree entirely with the position taken by the Court below in this matter. My reason is not farfetched. Where one counsel in the office of the Attorney General has drafted an application for leave to proffer a charge against an accused person but before the charge is filed, the said counsel is either indisposed or has gone on leave or some other unforeseen incidents occur, will it be reasonable to put the process in the cooler pending when that officer will resume duties whereas there are other competent officers in the Ministry? I do not think that is the way to go. There is nothing legally wrong with the signing of the charge by G. P. Olorunnuhe, Esq., though it was drafted by his colleague Mrs. Deborah Ajayi, the two of them being law officers in the chambers of the Attorney-General Kogi State.”Per OKORO, J.S.C. (Pp. 10-13, Paras. F-B)

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