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(2018) LPELR-44392(SC)

In The Supreme Court of Nigeria

On Friday, the 27th day of April, 2018


Before Their Lordships

WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN Justice of The Supreme Court of Nigeria

MUSA DATTIJO MUHAMMAD 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


CHUKWUMA EZEKWE - Appellant(s)


THE STATE - Respondent(s)

Other Citations

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This appeal borders on Criminal Law and Procedure.
This is an appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal sitting in Owerri. The Appellant and two others were tried and convicted for the offence of murder punishable under Section 319(1) of the Criminal Code Law applicable in Imo State. The person allegedly murdered was one Mrs. Cecilia Ogbonna.  

The facts of the case are that in the early hours of 30th November, 2005 some persons broke into the apartment of the said Cecilia Ogbonna. She was attacked and injured on her head and other parts of her body. She did not die immediately. The PW.1, Mrs. Grace Igwe, who had come to the house of the deceased around 5.00a.m for a prayer session heard the said deceased groaning in pains. The door was stapled from outside without padlock. The PW.1 forced the door open. The deceased was bleeding. There was blood all over the place.   The PW.1, noticing she had stepped on the blood on the floor, raised the lantern she came with. She saw that the deceased bleeding, had multiple injuries on the head and all over her bare body. On inquiry, the deceased named the three accused persons, including the Appellant, as her assailants. The PW.1 then raised alarm. The PW.1 had, earlier in her narration, given all the account of the lingering acrimonious relationship between the deceased, on one hand, and the 1st and 2nd accused persons and their mother, on the other hand. The Appellant was a tenant in the premises occupied by the 1st and 2nd accused persons and their mother, Ifeoma Okereke (Mrs.). The Appellant, who lived on the adjoining compound as a tenant also had his own portion of the acrimony with the deceased. He, in his statement, Exhibit E, alluded to the fact that deceased had earlier in November, 2005, accused him publicly of defecating at her backyard. Prior to this attack the deceased, according to the 1st accused (as DW.4) had accused, before the village elders, the Appellant and the 1st accused "of cutting her electric wires." 

???The PW.1 was not the only person the deceased, after the vicious attack on her, had informed that it was the Appellant  and the 1st and 2nd accused persons were the persons who forcibly entered her room, attacked her and inflicted the injuries on her head and body. The PW.2, a Police officer, was one of such other persons. The PW.2 recorded the deceased's extra-judicial statement, Exhibit A, on 30th November, 2005, wherein she named the Appellant - "who is a tenant in our area," as one of three men who forcing her door open, entered her room and started beating her and inflecting injuries on her head, shoulder and chest with sticks and machetes. The PW2 also a Police Officer, was present when the deceased made Exhibit A and told the Police Officers that it was the three accused persons, including the Appellant, who in the early hours of 30th November, 2005 attacked and inflicted injuries on her with sticks and machetes. The PW.3 also testified that early in the morning of 30th November, 2005, before the arrival of the Police Officers, the deceased had told him and other neighbours that it was the named three accused persons who inflicted the injuries on her. PW.3 also testified, in corroboration of the Police Officers, that at the Federal Medical Centre, the deceased at her sick bed, while in pains, had told the Police Officers that the three named accused persons, including the Appellant, caused the injuries on her. The PW.2 is one of the tenants of the deceased. The deceased never recovered from the injuries. She died. The PW.4, Dr. A. O. Egejuru, a Pathologist, who issued the Medical Report, Exhibit B, was quite categorical in Exhibit B that the cause of the death of the deceased in his opinion, was: "Traumatic and haemorrhogic shock due to soft tissue injuries and subdural haemorrhoge with associated coming (sic) associated upon blunt injury to the head." He observed on the corpse of the deceased that; There are two separate cuts (lacerations) on the right side of the scalp (head) measuring 7.0 cm and 6.0 cm long respectively with associated bleeding under the head.  

The defence of the Appellant was alibi. He called no other evidence, other than his own ipsit dixit to establish his defence of alibi that - On 19th November, 2005 (he) travelled to (his) village to see (his) sick brother and - came back on 4th December, 2005, being Sunday and heard that thieves came to the madam's house and beat her up that led (sic) to her being admitted in the hospital. (He) also told that the woman said that (he) was among the people that came to her house in the mid night of 29th November, 2005 and beat her up that caused her harm. (He) did not go back to the village where (he) was living as Pa tenant - after hearing that the madam mentioned (his) name as one of the people that beat her up. (He) was afraid that is why (he had) not gone back to village. (He) also heard that Policemen were looking for (him) and (he) did not go to answer the Police because of fear. (He) was at I.T.C. Park on 5th December, 2005 when Police came and arrested (him). The only defence put up by the Appellant was alibi. The learned Judge, not impressed, dismissed the defence convicted the Appellant. The Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the High Court hence a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Court determined the appeal on the issues raised by the Appellant and couched as follows:

i. Whether the two Courts below properly evaluated the evidence of the of the prosecution in view of the plea of alibi raised by the Appellant; and

ii. Whether the learned trial Court was right to have picked and chosen which of the prosecution witnesses to believe and those not to believe, and in proceeding to convict the Appellant upon contradictory pieces of evidence adduced by the prosecution, which conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeal.

On the whole, the Court found no merit in the appeal and accordingly dismissed same.

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