CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE – DEFENCE(S) OF ACCUSED PERSON(S) – Statutory provisions with respect to the defences of accident, self-defence and provocation; when the defences of accident, self-defence and provocation will not avail an accused person


“…The Appellant’s statements in exhibit 8, 9 and 12 and other circumstantial evidences are close to the evidence of the prosecution’s witnesses. This means that the evidence of the Appellant upon which his defences of provocation, self-defence and accident is anchored is in my opinion an afterthought. The defences of self-defence, provocation and accident put up by the Appellant are provided for in Section 24, 286 and 287 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap 38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. I shall reproduce the three sections for ease of reference:- Section 24:- Intentions Motive Subject to the express provisions of this Code relating to negligent acts and omissions, a person is not criminally responsible for an act or omission which occurs independently of the exercise of his will or for an event which occurs by accident, unless the intention to cause a particular result is expressly declared to be an element of the offence constituted, in whole or part, by an act or omission, the result intended to be caused by an act or omission is immaterial. Unless otherwise expressly declared, the motive by which a person is induced to do or omit to do an act, or to form an intention is immaterial so far as regards criminal responsibility. Section 286 self-defence against unprovoked assault provides:- When a person is unlawfully assaulted and has not provoked the assault it is lawful for him to use such force to the assailant as is reasonably necessary to make effectual defence against the assault: Provided that the force used is not intended, and is not such as is likely, to cause death or grievous harm. If the nature of the assault is such as to cause reasonable apprehension of death or grievous harm, and to induce him to believe, on reasonable grounds, that is necessary for his preservation from death or grievous harm to use force in self-defence, he is not criminally responsible for using any such force as is reasonable, necessary for such preservation, although, such force may cause death or grievous harm. This protection does not extend to a case in which the person using force, which causes death or grievous harm, first begin the assault with intent to kill or to do grievous harm to some person; not for a case in which the person using force which causes death or grievous harm endeavoured to kill or to do grievous harm to some person before the necessity of so preserving himself arose; nor, in either case, unless, before such necessity arose, the person using such force declined further conflict, and quitted it or retreated from it as far as was practicable. From the facts on record, it is clear that neither of the defences of accident, self-defence and provocation set up by the Appellant would avail the appellant vis-a-vis the above provisions of the law. In the case of Uwagboe v State (2008) 12 NWLR (pt 1102) 621 at 639 – 640, this Court held that:- “An accident is an unpleasant event that happens unexpectedly and not planned in advance. Its negative intention to cause what happened. An accident is the result of an unwilled act, an event which occurs without the fault of the person alleged to have caused it. A wished deliberate act therefore negatives the defence of accident.” In the instant case, the Appellant issued threats before he deviously stabbed the deceased. His action was therefore a deliberate act with a clear intention of either killing the deceased or causing him grievous bodily harm. With respect to self-defence, the onus was on the Appellant to show that the force he used to preserve his life was proportionate to the force used by the deceased or threatened against him and reasonable in the circumstance which it was used. See The State v Fatal Baiye Wunmi (1980) 1 NCR 183; Edoko v State (2015) 9 NWLR (pt 1465) 454. Again, to successfully raise the defence of provocation, he must show clearly the fact of the provocation to enable the Court determine how much he was provoked. Secondly, he must show that he acted in the heat of passion and that the provocation was enough to deprive him of self-control and thirdly, he must show a relation which is proportionate to the provocation by the deceased. See Edoko v State (supra); Stephen v State (1998) 12 SC 450 at 498, Alo Chukwu v The State (1992) 1 NWLR (pt 217) 255 at 270. In this case, the Appellant has failed to show how being slapped with bare hand, if anything like that was proportionate to him stabbing the deceased with a knife. The Appellant has failed to successfully raise the defences of accident, self-defence and provocation. I agree with the finding of the Court below that the Appellant intended to and did kill the deceased when he stabbed him in the stomach.” Per JOHN INYANG OKORO, JSC in WOWEM v. STATE (2021-LCER-40502-SC) (Pp 30 – 34; Paras A – A)

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