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MOHAMMED USMAN v. THE STATE

(2019) LPELR-47396(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 12th day of April, 2019

SC.228/2016


Before Their Lordships

OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE-EKUN Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

CHIMA CENTUS NWEZE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

AMINA ADAMU AUGIE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

PAUL ADAMU GALUMJE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

MOHAMMED USMAN - Appellant(s)

AND

THE STATE - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on the offence of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed robbery.


FACTS:
At about 8.30pm on the 18th of March 2008, a band of armed robbers, who were masked, and armed with guns, sticks and cutlasses, invaded the home of one Korau Chiroma at Tal in Billiri Local Government Area, Gombe State, and robbed him of some sum of money and handsets.

The victim's neighbours and relations "traced the footsteps" of the robbers to the house of one Dauda Mohammed and the Appellant. They were both arrested around 3am that night and taken to the Billiri Police Station. They were later transferred to "State CID Office" where they made confessional Statements to the Police. Thereafter, they were arraigned before the High Court of Gombe State on a two-Count Charge of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed robbery.

They both pleaded not guilty to the Charge, and to prove its case, the Prosecution called six Witnesses, including the victim of the crime, Korau Chiroma, who testified as PW1, and D.S.P. Ahmed Abdullahi, the superior Police Officer that endorsed the confessional Statements made by the Accused Persons to the Police, and he testified as PW6.

PW6 explained that Cpl. Garba Haruna, who took down the said Statements in Hausa language was deceased, and that he directed one Sgt. Gregory Ahalite, who was not called as a Witness, to translate the Statements into English Language. He said he was conversant with the handwriting and signature of both officers, who worked with him, and he identified the Statements in Hausa and their English translations. When the Prosecution applied to tender the Statements through him, Defence Counsel objected on the ground that he is not the maker, and "the document was prepared and made in anticipation of this case".

But the trial Court overruled the Objection and admitted the said; "Hausa and English translated versions of the Confessional Statements of the 1st and 2nd Accused Persons as Exhibits D1 - D3 respectively."

The Appellant was the second Accused, and in his Statements -Exhibit D1 [Hausa Language] and Exhibit D3 [the English translation], he gave a detailed account of how the robbery operation was planned and executed, and named others, who also took part in the robbery. But in his testimony as DW2, he denied all knowledge of the robbery, and alleged that he was beaten, tortured and threatened by the Police to make the said Confessional Statements - Exhibits D1 and D3.

However, the learned trial Judge, Awak, J., held in his Judgment of 20/7/2012 that the retraction was an afterthought and he was consequently found guilty and sentenced to death. The Appellant appealed, and in its Judgment delivered on 27/5/2015, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial Court's finding that there was ample evidence outside the said Exhibits D1 & D3 to warrant his conviction. Further miffed Appellant approached the apex Court.


ISSUES:
The appeal was determined on a sole issue viz:

''Whether the Court of Appeal was right to affirm the conviction and sentence of the Appellant based on his Confessional Statements''

DECISION/HELD:
The appeal was unanimously dismissed for lack of merit.


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