Element constituting murder offence does not necessarily include weapon used

supremeThe Supreme Court of Nigeria (SCN) has held that elements which constitute offence of murder do not necessarily include the weapons used in the operation.

This was the high point in the decision reached by the apex court on Friday February 26, 2016 when it affirmed the death sentence handed down to Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, (Allias Rev. King) by two courts below, a Lagos High Court, Ikeja, delivered on January 11, 2007 and the Court of Appeal, sitting at Lagos Division which confirmed the trial court’s decision on February 1, 2013.
The unanimous judgment, in the appeal brought by Rev. King, against the State, in suit number SC/200/2013, was decided by a panel of five Justices of the court who included their Lordships: Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, Nwali Sylvester Ngwuta, Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, Olukayode Ariwoola and Musa Dattijo Muhammad.

Facts: The appellant, Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, alias Dr. Rev. King, was the General Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly with headquarters at Ajao Estate, Ikeja, Lagos. A father/sons/daughters relationship existed between the appellant and some of his congregation, particularly the surviving five victims of the July 22nd, 2006 incident and the deceased (victim).
The appellant accused the surviving victims and the deceased of immoral behaviour. He summoned them and beat them with various objects. At the peak of his fury, he caused them to kneel down huddled together in an open space on his premises. It was alleged that while they were kneeling down he caused them to be doused with fuel and a burning match to be thrown on them. Five of the six victims managed to escape with various injuries inflicted on them by the appellant during the beating and burns from the burning fuel. The deceased, Ann Uzoh King was not as lucky as her colleagues. She was alleged to have suffered 65% degree burns from which she later died.
The Appellant was subsequently charged to Court for attempted murder and murder.
He was found guilty as charged and was sentenced to various terms of imprisonment for the attempted murders and to death for the murder.

His appeal to the Court of Appeal failed hence this appeal to the apex court.

Issues for determination:

Appellant distilled 12 issues for determination which the Court adopted thus:

. Whether the trial of the Appellant on the amended information in this case is competent when the original information is undated, uninitiated and unfiled and whether failure of the lower Court to consider and decide on this issue as raised in Appellant’s Brief of argument is proper.

. Whether the lower Court is obliged to invite parties to address it on the issue it raised suo motu before expunging some from its record when delivering it (sic) judgment, any evidence that was admitted without objection. Was the lower Court right in raising the issue of inadmissibility of Exhibits P1, P4 and P9 as well as part of the oral evidence if PW2, PW5 and PW1 suo motu from the record when delivering its judgment without hearing the Appellant, and was the lower Court right when it upheld the conviction of the Appellant despite the fact that the evidence adduced by investigating Police Officer (PW2) lack credibility.

. Whether the lower Court was right to have dismissed the defence of alibi put up by the Appellant, and was the lower Court right when it upheld the conviction of the appellant by the trial Court despite the fact that the trial Court place (sic) the burden on the appellant to prove his innocence by not giving effect to the written statements of the deceased, in which she unequivocally stated that what happened to her was caused by generator accident.

. Whether PW1 is a tainted witness whose evidence required corroboration and in the absence of which her evidence should be treated as unreliable.

. Whether the lower Court was right when it held that the evidence of PW3 and PW4 were (sic) corroborated by the evidence of PW1, PW8, PW9 and PW10 as well as other real evidence before the Court; was the lower Court right when it relied on the uncorroborated evidence of PW1, PW3, PW4, PW9, PW10 and PW11 adduced by the prosecution at the trial Court to uphold the appellant (sic) conviction for attempted murder and murder, and was the lower Court right when it upheld the conviction of the appellant despite the fact that the trial Court was saddled with the responsibility of conducting investigation with respect to the genuity of Exhibit (sic) PW10, P11 and P12 as the prosecution had failed to prove the said Exhibits against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt.

. Whether the lower Court properly evaluated the evidence of the parties before arriving at the decision to convict the appellant, and was the lower Court right when it upheld the conviction of the appellant despite the fact that the trial Court in evaluating the evidence adduced by the prosecution has not established by credible evidence and beyond reasonable doubt it was the appellant that caused the burnt (sic) injuries, consequently resulting to the death of the deceased, Ann King is dead.

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