What a “No Case Submission” Connotes and What It Calls into Question When Raised

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Preamble

Making a “No case submission” is one of the options opened to an accused person upon the close of the prosecution’s case against him. A “No case submission” simply means that there is no case for an accused person to answer and there is no credible evidence upon which an accused can be convicted. It can also be said to mean that, from the evidence placed before the Court by the prosecution, the accused should not be called upon to defend himself, as no prima facie case has been made against him.

The Supreme Court in AJIBOYE & ANOR v. STATE (1995) LPELR-300(SC) gave the circumstances under which a no case submission can be made to be:

  1. When there has been no evidence to prove an essential element in the alleged offence;
  2. When the evidence adduced by the prosecution has been so discredited as a result of cross examination or is so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could safely convict on it.

In the words of My Lord Justice YARGATA BYENCHIT NIMPAR, J.C.A. in AGABA v. FRN (2018) LPELR-44575(CA):

“It must be made clear that a no case submission should succeed where there is no evidence in support of one ingredient or element of the offence to be proved and not necessarily when all the ingredients are not made out, see the case of UBANATU V COP (2000) LPELR-3280 (SC).”

The judge before whom a “No case submission” is made is expected to clearly consider the evidence adduced by the prosecution, review same as to determine whether or not the accused person truly does not have a case to answer.

Therefore, a successful “No case submission” will lead to the discharge an accused person of the offence for which he is being tried. If the plea succeeds on some of the offences on the charge sheet, he will be discharged of those offences and be asked to enter his defence on the remaining. If however, a “No case submission” fails totally, the accused will be ordered to enter his defence and the trial continues.

FACTS

Captain Ezekiel Agaba (Appellant) was charged by the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Respondent) at the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos for the offences of Conspiracy to convert various sums belonging to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Conversion of the various sums and Inducement of the Federal Government.

The Respondent called several witnesses and tendered a host of documents in proof of the charge. Captain Ezekiel Agaba after the close of the case of the Prosecution made an application contending that no case was made out against him. He therefore, urged the learned trial judge to discharge him of all the 22 count charge against him.

The trial Court in a considered ruling dismissed the application and ordered him to enter his defence. Captain Ezekiel Agaba filed this appeal against the said ruling.

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

The appeal was determined on a lone issue viz:

Whether the lower Court was wrong in holding that the Respondent (Prosecution) has made out a prima facie case against the Appellant to warrant its being called upon to enter his defence.

DECISION/HELD

​In a unanimous decision, the appeal partially succeeded. The no case submission succeeded in respect of counts 21 and 22 which were the counts of conspiracy to induce and inducement and the appeal failed in respect of counts 1 – 20 which are counts in respect of conspiracy and conversion of various sums of the ISPS fund in the committee account under the control of Captain Ezekiel Agaba.

Captain Ezekiel Agaba was ordered to return to the trial Court for continuation of hearing in respect of counts 1 – 20 while counts 21 and 22 were struck out of the charge.

RATIO DECIDENDI

NO CASE SUBMISSION: Duty of the trial court where a no case submission has been made on behalf of an accused person

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“I agree with the Respondent that Section 357 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act is at play here and it states thus:

“Where at the close of the evidence in support of the charge, it appears to the Court that a case is not made out against the defendant sufficiently to require him to make a defence, the Court shall, as to that particular charge, discharge him being guided by the provision of Section 302 of this Act.”

Also Section 302 provides as follows:

“The Court may, on its own motion or on application by the defendant after hearing the evidence for the prosecution, where it considers, that the evidence against the defendant or any of several defendants is not sufficient to justify the continuation of the trial, record a finding of not guilty in respect of the defendant without calling on him or enter his or their defence and the Court shall then call on the remaining defendant, if any, to enter his defence.”

The simple act of calling on the Appellant to enter his defence to a criminal charge is only when a prima facie case has been made out and not otherwise. When either of the two conditions on which a No case submission application succeeds is made out then the application succeeds and not otherwise. The contention of the Appellant from the onset of its brief is that the burden is on the prosecution to prove elements of the offence and referred to the Ruling of the trial Court where it said: “To this Court the charge is before the Court, the ingredients of the offences alleged are not difficult to discern. The Court cannot see the woods from the trees in the arguments that the evidence has not established a prima facie case.” This the Appellant submitted is uncertain and a mere conjecture. I also find it unsettling that a trial Court will resolve a No case submission application without placing the evidence against the elements of the offence. In fact, the Court merely said the elements of the offence are not difficult to discern without identifying what they are and whose evidence established the elements of the offence to ground a prima facie case. I am not saying the Court below should evaluate the evidence, it has a duty to state the basis of its decision. The Court in the case of TOM ISEGHOHI V FRN(unreported) judgment in appeal No: CA/A/742C/2014 delivered on the 16th day of May 2017 held that at the stage of considering a No case submission, the Court below is only to consider whether there is evidence before the Court legally admissible evidence linking the accused with the commission of the offence with which he is charged. Even though a trial Court is not expected to write a lengthy ruling on a no case submission and it is not expected to make findings on the credibility of the witnesses that testified for the prosecution. It is my strong view that the Court ought to clearly consider the evidence adduced by the prosecution, review same as to determine whether or not proved the essential ingredients of the offences charged. This exercise does not amount to evaluation of evidence. Rather, it is tantamount to consideration of evidence. The Court failed to show how it arrived at its conclusion that the Appellant had a case to answer.” Per NIMPAR, J.C.A. (Pp. 22-25, Paras. C-B). 

NO CASE SUBMISSION: Meaning of no case submission; circumstances under which a no case submission can be made

“What is a no case submission under our criminal jurisprudence? The phrase “No case submission” was defined by the Supreme Court in several cases. One of such cases is AJIBOYE V THE STATE (1995) 9 SCNJ 242 also reported in (1998) 1 All Criminal Law Reports 355 at 363.

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The apex Court defined it as follows:-

“The meaning of No case submission is that there is no case for an accused person to answer is that there is no evidence on which, even if the Court believes it, it could convict. The question whether or not the Court does believe the evidence does not arise, nor is the credibility for the witnesses in issue at this stage.”

The Court went further to set the circumstances under which a no case submission can be made. The Court gave 2 circumstances and they are:-

  1. When there has been no evidence to prove an essential element in the alleged offence;
  2. When the evidence adduced by the prosecution has been so discredited as a result of cross examination or is so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could safely convict on it.

The Court of Appeal in the old case of ONAGORUWA VS THE STATE (1988) 1 ALL CRIMINAL LAW REPORTS 435 at 441 described what the term connotes and what it also calls into question or determination. It held thus:

“No case submission means what it says but it is that from the evidence adduced by the prosecution, the accused has no case to answer and should not therefore be called to defend himself. By a no case submission the accused submits that the prosecution has not made a prima facie case against him that he should not be made to face the ordeal of defending himself.” Per NIMPAR, J.C.A. (Pp. 10-12, Paras. E-A). 

OFFENCE OF CONSPIRACY: Ingredients the prosecution must prove to succeed in a charge of conspiracy

“To prove conspiracy, the prosecution must present evidence in respect of every essential element needed to establish the offence. The apex court pronounced on the ingredient of conspiracy in the case of OKOH V STATE (2014) LPELR-22589 thus:

“It is also well settled that the essential ingredient of the offence of conspiracy lies in the bare agreement and association to do an unlawful thing, which is contrary to or forbidden by law, whether that thing be criminal or not and whether or not the accused persons had knowledge of its unlawfulness. Evidence of conspiracy is usually a matter of inference from surrounding facts and circumstances. The trial Court may infer conspiracy from the fact of doing things towards a common purpose. See: Clark V. The State (1986) 4 NWLR (Pt. 35) 381; Gbadamosi V. The State (1991) 6 NWLR (Pt. 196) 182; Aje V. The State (2006) 8 NWLR (Pt. 982) 345 at 363 A – C; Kaza v. The State (2008) 7 NWLR (pt. 1085) 125 @ 175 – 176 F – B.” Per KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C.

NIKI TOBI, J.S.C (of blessed memory) also talked about conspiracy in the case of KAZA V STATE (2008) LPELR- 1683(SC) thus:

“From the above, I sift the following ingredients of the offence of conspiracy: (i) There must be an agreement of two or more persons. In other words, there must be a meeting of two or more minds. (ii) The persons must plan to carry out an unlawful or illegal act, which is an offence. (iii) Bare agreement to commit an offence is sufficient. (iv) An agreement to commit a civil wrong does not give rise to the offence, as Section 97(1) of the Penal Code provides only for criminal conspiracy. (v) One person cannot commit the offence of conspiracy because he cannot be convicted as a conspirator. (vi) A conspiracy is complete if there are acts on the part of an accused person which lead the trial Court to the conclusion that he and others were engaged in accomplishing a common object or objective.” Per TOBI, J.S.C.

Conspiracy is therefore grounded in agreement of the accused persons and an agreement is the state of being in accord or unanimity of opinion or an arrangement that is accepted by all parties. So the prosecution must present evidence of agreement, which may not be direct but can be by inference.” Per NIMPAR, J.C.A. (Pp. 15-17, Paras. G-F).

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OFFENCE OF OBTAINING BY FALSE PRETENCES: How to prove the ingredients of the offence of obtaining by false pretences

“To prove obtaining by false pretense, my learned brother OGAKWU, JCA in the case of REV VICTOR MUKORO V FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2015) LPELR-24439 (CA) said:

“Now, for the offence of obtaining by false pretences to be committed it must be proved that the accused person had an intention to defraud and that the thing is capable of being stolen. An inducement on the part of the accused person to make his victim part with the thing capable of being stolen or make his victim deliver a thing capable of being stolen will expose the accused person to imprisonment for the offence.”

In the same vein, JUSTICE ADEJUMO, JCA in the case of ADOHA UGO-NGADI V FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2015) LPELR- 24824(CA) on the ingredients said as follows:

“In AGUBA V FRN (2014) LPELR-23211, this Court held that the offence of obtaining property by false pretences could be committed in writing or even by mere oral communication of the accused person. See AMADI V FRN (2008) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1119) 259; ONWUDIWE V FRN (2006) 10 NWLR (Pt.988) 382; OSHIN V IGP (1961) I SCNLR 40 where the Court listed the ingredients of obtaining by false pretence thus: (a) that there was a pretence; (b) that the pretence emanated from the Defendants (c) that it was false; (d) that the Defendants knew of the falsity or did not believe in its truth; (e) that there was an intention to defraud; (f) that the thing is capable of being stolen and (g) that the Defendants induced the owner to transfer the property.” Per NIMPAR, J.C.A. (Pp. 19-20, Paras. E-G). 

OFFENCE OF INDUCEMENT: Meaning and nature of the offence of inducement

“Inducement has been defined in Blacks Law Dictionary 8th Edition at page 790, as follows: “The act or process of enticing or persuading another person to take a course of action.” See also NGORKA V A.G IMO STATE (2014) LPELR- 2253(CA). For this class of offences, a person accused must have intentionally enticed or persuaded another to take the course of action which he would not have taken but for the process of persuasion by the accused. I will also add that the inducement must be by way of falsehood or deceit. It can be likened to undue influence which the apex Court described it in the case of BUA V DAUDA (2003) 13 NWLR (Pt. 838) 657 following words:

“Undue influence is no doubt elusive of satisfactory definition but it may be regarded as a state of mind of a person who has been subdued to any improper persuasion or machination in such a way that he is overpowered and consequently induced to do or forbear an act which he would otherwise do or not do of his free will. It is a product of the abuse or misuse of the confidence reposed in someone who is able to put some pressure on or take unfair advantage of another: or who takes an oppressive and unfair advantage of another necessities or distress.” Per PATS-ACHOLONU, J.S.C.” Per NIMPAR, J.C.A. (Pp. 27-28, Paras. F-F).

CAPTAIN EZEKIEL AGABA v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA   (2018) LPELR-44575(CA)

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