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(2017) LPELR-43475(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 15th day of December, 2017


Before Their Lordships

OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

JOHN INYANG OKORO Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

AMINA ADAMU AUGIE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

EJEMBI EKO Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

PAUL ADAMU GALINJE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


UMARU SANI - Appellant(s)


THE STATE - Respondent(s)

Other Citations

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This appeal borders on the Offence of Culpable Homicide Punishable with Death.

This is an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal wherein the conviction and sentence of the appellant at the High Court of Kaduna State was affirmed.

The Appellant was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by the High Court of Kaduna State for the offence of culpable homicide punishable with death under Section 221(b) of the Penal Code Law of Kaduna State.

The appellant was previously married to Amina Shuaibu, PW.4. He divorced her formally in Court. The Court ordered the PW.4 to observe the 3 month idda period before re-marrying, which observatory period is to ensure that she did not carry a pregnancy from one marriage to another. The deceased had shown interest in marrying the PW.4. The latter informed the former to wait until after the idda period had elapsed. On the fateful night, the deceased came to PW.4 to inquire if the idda period has elapsed. While the PW.4 and the deceased were discussing in the room, the Appellant surfaced. He heard the PW.4 and the deceased discussing. He forced himself into the room and threw out the PW.4. In Exhibits 2 and 3, his extra-judicial statements, the Appellant averred that the deceased and the PW.4 were not willing to open the door for him to enter, that they pushed the door against him, that when he forced himself in, the fight started and that the duo of the deceased and the PW.4 fought him. And further that, he consequently pulled a dagger and stabbed the deceased on the neck and the man died. He had also stated therein that before the incident, he was making moves to reconcile with the PW.4.

The Prosecution called four witnesses including the Appellant's former wife, Amina Shuaibu, as PW4, and it tendered four Exhibits, including two confessional statements he had made to the police. At the close of the Prosecution's case, the defence counsel made a no-case submission that was overruled by the trial Court on 7/12/2007, and the Appellant was "called upon to enter his defence". ???On that same 7/12/2007, the trial Court granted the defence counsel's application to recall PW2, Cpl. Joseph Abu and PW3, Idris Shuaibu, who is the PW4's brother for "further cross-examination". The matter was adjourned three times because the witnesses were not in Court when they turned up, defence counsel was not in Court and the learned trial Judge, accordingly, discharged the witnesses and the case was adjourned to 3/11/08 for defence. On 3/11/08, the Appellant testified as the DW1 and closed his case and the learned trial Judge in his Judgment delivered on 24/2/2009, held that the Prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt. He found the Appellant guilty and convicted and then sentenced him to death.

The Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal and one of his complaints was that he was not accorded a fair trial at the trial Court in that when his counsel "was absent without excuse" the trial Court "did not ask [him] either to employ another counsel or to personally cross-examine PW1 and PW2 before [it] discharged the witnesses"; and he was not given opportunity to present his case through them.

The Court of Appeal held that the trial Court was not in error when it convicted the Appellant and found no merit in the Appeal. It therefore dismissed the Appeal and affirmed the conviction and sentence imposed by the trial Court. Further dissatisfied, the Appellant appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Court determined the appeal on the following issues for determination:
"1. Whether the learned justices of the Court of Appeal were right when they held that on the state of the evidence adduced, the trial Court was not in error when it convicted the Appellant for the offence charged.
2. Whether the learned Justices of the Court of Appeal were right when they held that the Fundamental Right of the Appellant was not infringed by the trial Court."
In the final analysis, the Supreme Court held that the appeal lacked merit and it was dismissed.

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