On the 24th day of November, 2001, the Appellant was in his home town for his late Aunt’s funeral. The Appellant, who was an Armourer with the National Intelligence Agency of the rank equivalent of an Assistant Commissioner of Police, came home with his service pistol, a Beretta, which the regulations of his Agency forbade him to carry on such private journeys as attending a funeral.

That morning, a group of people had gathered to embark on a journey to a neighboring community with the Appellant who joined the waiting group, armed with his pistol. On getting to the compound, the Appellant brought out his pistol and shot twice towards the river, and turned to the deceased and shot him in the chest. The deceased was heard to have shouted – “Ye etein neyo ! Saiperemor etein neyo!” which in English language means. “You have shot me o! Saiperemor has shot me!” Thereafter, the deceased was rushed to the hospital, where he was confirmed dead by a Doctor.

At the trial court, the Appellant was charged for the murder of the deceased under Section 319 of the Criminal Code Law of Eastern Nigeria 1963, applicable in Bayelsa State. In the course of the trial, three eye witnesses gave evidence for the prosecution. A medical doctor, PW5, also gave evidence as to the cause of the death of the deceased while the Investigating Police Officer, PW6, in his evidence tendered the Appellant’s pistol used in the shooting incident and some caution statements of the Appellant. A prosecution witness, who was billed to give evidence as PW4, was withdrawn by the prosecution. The Appellant on his part gave evidence in his own defence and also called one witness who gave evidence in support of the Appellant’s defence.

The case of the prosecution was that as the people who gathered for the journey to a neighboring community where waiting to set out, the Appellant on joining the group shot twice in the direction of the river with his pistol before turning towards the deceased and fired the 3rd shot into the chest of the deceased who slumped down and later died in the hospital.

The Appellant’s case was that as he was walking towards the entrance of the compound where people were waiting, he stumbled on a stone and his service pistol fell off his waist. He bent down to pick up the pistol and as he did so, his finger touched the trigger and it exploded in quick succession twice. The Appellant then said he muzzled up the pistol and removed the magazine. That it was at that point that he heard the deceased shouting before he fell down and later died at the hospital. The Appellant later reported himself to the Police Station where he also surrendered his Berretta pistol with nine remaining rounds of ammunition before he was detained.

After hearing the evidence placed before the trial court, the learned trial judge ultimately rejected the defence of accident under Section 24 of the Criminal Code put up by the Appellant, and after having been satisfied that the Appellant had not even attempted to put up a defence of insanity, proceeded to convict the Appellant of the offence of murder and sentenced him to death.

The Appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal, which dismissed his Appeal, whereupon the Appellant further appealed his conviction and sentence to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal, holding that the Appellant indeed murdered the deceased. The decisions of the Court of Appeal and the trial High Court were thereby further affirmed.

Reported by,

Chelsea Obianwu
Pro-bono Partner

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