IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
On Thursday, the 10th day of June, 1976
Before their lordships
GEORGE SODEINDE SOWEMIMO….. Justice, Supreme Court
CHARLES OLUSOJI MADARIKAN….. Justice, Supreme Court
CHUKWUNWEIKE IDIGBE….. Justice, Supreme Court
OKAFOR UMEZE AND ORS
The Appellants were convicted for murder and sentenced to death by Ecoma J on 22nd of January 1975 at the South Eastern State (now Cross River State) High Court at Ikot Ekpene. The offence was committed on 6th January 1971 at Ikpa Nya Village, in Itu Division of Ikot Ekpene.
The deceased was an Ibibio. All the Appellants are Ibos. The Appellants live at Obinkita Village which is near Arochukwu. There had been conflicts between the two villages, Ikpa Nya and Obinkita for some time which were settled in Lagos. During the civil war, the Ibibios were evacuated from their villages and although not expressly stated, the Ibibios suspected that their rivals, the Ibos in Obinkita village must be connected with their removal. It was even suggested but the Ibibios denied it, that whilst in the refugee camp, they decided that on their return to their village they would drive away all the Ibo tenants from their land. This was the relationship between the inhabitants of the villages when this incident took place on 6th January 1971.
On the facts as found by the learned trial judge, the Appellants and others invaded the Ikpa Nya Village at about 6.30a.m of the 6th January 1971. At that time the deceased and his wife lived in an apartment in the house of 3rd Prosecution witness. The apartment was first attacked by the Appellants. The door was forced open and the deceased was attacked by the Appellants, inflicting matchet cuts on him as well as beating him with sticks. His two hands were tied together and he was dragged out from the room into the open. He was further beaten with sticks whilst on the ground. Three others were similarly attacked and brought to the same open place. By this time the other villagers had escaped.
The huts were then set on fire. The four persons were taken towards Arochukwu. There was evidence that they were dragged along tied on to ropes. One of the four persons was alleged to have had his stomach slashed and his intestines gushed out. No evidence was given as to what happened to him eventually but he did not get to Arochukwu. The three remaining Ibibios were taken to the house of the head chief at Arochukwu and there the deceased was again hit on the head. They were taken later to the General Hospital and there the deceased died.
Chief F. R. A. Williams, learned counsel for the Appellants, argued ground 14 first and this reads: –
The learned trial judge erred in law in exercising jurisdiction in the matter when the alleged murder was committed in the East Central State (Imo State).
It is not in dispute that the deceased died at Arochukwu Hospital. The evidence that the deceased was hit at the back of the head by one of the Appellants was also not challenged. On the other hand, it is not disputed that matchet cuts on the deceased as well as the beatings took place at Ikpa Nya village.
here was also evidence that the deceased received some beatings when he was being taken to Arochukwu. It was suggested, that it is possible, that the cause of death might be due to the injury sustained by the deceased when he was hit at the back of the head at Arochukwu. For a consideration of this point the evidence of the doctor becomes relevant.
The medical report Ex. 1 reads:-
A young well nourished man brought into the hospital still breathing but unconscious. Started gasping, about 10 minutes after arrival on a stretcher. Resuscitative measures failed to revive him and he died about 10 a.m.
aematoma in his left frontal area and left upper arm. A deep incised wound in the lower end of the ulnar into the wrist. Various swellings around the body but especially the left chest and upper arm. Puncture wounds in right leg, left leg and the right cheek. He was generally covered with blood stains and dust.
I certify the cause fo death in my opinion to be external and internal haemorrhage from severe man-handling with sticks, cudgels and matchet.
Date: 6th January, 1971.
The doctor was not available to give evidence at the trial but his deposition at the preliminary inquiry was tendered as Ex. 11. Relevant portion of his evidence reads: –
He died about 10a.m on 6/1/71. He was a well nourished man brought into the hospital still breathing but unconscious. He started gasping about 10 minutes after arrival on a stretcher. Resustitation measures failed to revive him and he died at about 10a.m I observed a haematoma (collection of blood in the body) in his left frontal area and left wrist, ulna aspect, through the lower end of the ulna into the wrist. Various swellings around the body but especially the left chest and upper arm. Punctured wounds in right leg, left leg and the right cheek. He was generally covered with blood stains and dust. I certify the cause of death in my opinion to be external and internal haemorrhage from severe man-handling with sticks, cudgels and matchet.
Both from the medical report and the deposition of the medical officer, the hit at the back of the head at Arochukwu, did not cause any injury traceable to the cause of death. In the circumstance therefore the basis on which learned counsel for the Appellants relied for ouster of jurisdiction lacks support. That ground therefore must be rejected and it is therefore held that the venue of trial was in the proper court.
The other grounds of appeal were argued together. Learned counsel for the Appellants quite rightly pointed out, that because of the background of this case, the evidence deserved very careful scrutiny. He referred to certain passages in the evidence of the material prosecution witnesses, who are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th prosecution witnesses who are Ibibios.
We were also referred to the denials of the Appellants of any connection with the offence charged. Our attention was also drawn to the fact that one of the Appellants raised the plea of alibi which the Police did not investigate properly. There was also the evidence of one of the Appellants that two of his fingers were cut and that he was treated by the doctor, which the latter confirmed.
Much was made of the fact that although the Appellants lodged their report at Arochukwu Police Station, then under Umuahia, and some investigations were made, none of the Police witnesses from Arochukwu was called. On the other hand only the Police witnesses from Itu Division, who took part in the investigation were called as prosecution witnesses. We were informed by the learned counsel for the Respondent that he did not consider it necessary to call any of the Police men who was connected with the investigation from Arochukwu but that he made available to the Counsel for the accused persons at the trial the names of such witnesses so that he might call any of them if he thought it necessary.
The learned trial judge reviewed the evidence of each of the prosecution witnesses individually. He also considered the defence of each accused. He carefully examined the whole evidence giving due regard to the relationship between the parties especially since the witnesses on either side belong to partisan groups.
We have examined all the portions to which our attention was drawn by learned counsel for the Appellants. We are quite satisfied that the learned trial judge had given a very careful scrutiny which the case deserved. We are satisfied with his review and evaluation of the evidence and see no justification to interfere with his findings of fact.
The appeal fails and is accordingly dismissed. The conviction for murder and sentence of death passed on the Appellants by Ecoma J on 22nd of January 1975 are hereby affirmed.
Chief F.R.A. Williams…..For Appellant
Mr. Effanga Ag. D.P.P.(Cross River State)For Respondent