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ALBAN AJAEGBO v. THE STATE

(2018) LPELR-44531(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 18th day of May, 2018

SC.533/2012


Before Their Lordships

MUSA DATTIJO MUHAMMAD 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

EJEMBI EKO Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

PAUL ADAMU GALINJE Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria


Between

ALBAN AJAEGBO - Appellant(s)

AND

THE STATE - Respondent(s)


Other Citations

; ;


Summary

INTRODUCTION:
This appeal borders on the offence of Murder.
FACTS:
This is an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal sitting in Port-Harcourt.
The facts of the case are that on the 20th day of September, 1996 one Innocent Ekeanyanwu was arrested with the severed head of the deceased, a young boy of 11 years, named Anthony Ikechukwu Okoronkwo in a black nylon bag. Upon interrogation, it was discovered that he was a gardener at the Otokoto Hotel where he also resided. Otokoto Hotel was owned by Vincent Duru (alias Otokoto) the 7th accused. He initially led the Police on a weird goose chase saying that he murdered the boy and dumped him in Mba River. A search did not yield anything. On the 22nd of September, 1996 the investigating team returned to the hotel. There they found a shallow grave in a cassava farm belonging to wife of the 7th accused, behind Ekeanyanwu's room. A decomposing headless corpse was exhumed from the grave. It was found that the tip of the penis had been cut off .The headless body was clothed in a short sleeved shirt and a pair of shorts. There were some coins in the pocket. The corpse was identified to be that of the deceased. As a result of the discovery, some arrests were made. It was discovered that the appellant and the 2nd accused, Sampson Nnamito shared a room with Ekeanyanwu at the hotel. A sharp matchet was recovered from the room. The 3rd and 5th accused persons also resided in the hotel. It was the prosecution's case that the deceased was hawking groundnuts around the premises of the hotel on the fateful day when he was lured inside the hotel by Ekeanyanwu under the pretext of buying groundnuts from him and was subsequently killed by the said Ekeanyanwu with the assistance of the appellant and the 2nd accused, Sampson Nnamito. Ekeanyanwu was said to have confessed to the crime by informing the Police in written statements (Exhibits 21 and 36) that at the time of his arrest, he was in the process of delivering the severed head of the deceased to the 6th accused, Chief Leonard Unogu, who was his uncle on the instructions of Vincent Duru, the owner of the hotel. He stated that he did not meet Chief Unogu and was on his way back to Owerri when he was arrested. The accused persons were arrested as a result of the information contained in Exhibits 21 and 36. It is pertinent to note that Ekeanyanwu never stood trial, as he died in prison custody before the conclusion of the investigation.
Six of the accused persons, excluding Chief Leonard Unogu (6th accused) were dissatisfied with their conviction and sentence by the High Court and filed separate appeals. The appeals were consolidated but each appeal was considered on its individual merit. In a well considered judgment delivered on 5/4/2013, the appeals of Rufus Anyanwu, Ebenezer Egwuekwe and Lawrence Eboh were allowed. They were acquitted and discharged. The appeals of the appellant at the Supreme Court Sampson Nnamito and Vincent Duru were dismissed. Their convictions and sentences were affirmed. The appellant was wholly dissatisfied with the judgment and further appealed to the Supreme Court.

ISSUES:
The Court determined the appeal on the issues raised by the Appellant and couched as follows:
1. Whether admission and reliance on Exhibits 21 and 36 by the trial Court and affirmed by the Court of Appeal in convicting and sentencing the appellant to death is right.
2. Whether the circumstantial evidence relied upon by the trial High Court and affirmed by the Court of Appeal in convicting and sentencing the appellant to death is cogent, irresistible and compelling.

DECISION/HELD:
On the whole, the Court found merit in the appeal and accordingly allowed same. The judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on 5/4/2012 affirming the appellant's conviction and sentence by the High Court was set aside. Accordingly the appellant was acquitted and discharged.


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