Value of the Weapon in Prosecution of Alleged Robbery: Review of Supreme Court’s Decision in Ibrahim v. COP by Moruff Balogun
IBRAHIM V. C. O. P: On whether prosecution must tender weapon of alleged robbery. An insight into the Supreme Court decision therein.
Citation: 15 NWLR PT.1746 PG. 122.
Courtsey: Moruff O. Balogun Esq.
Summary of facts:
On 23/10/2007, PWI was driving a taxi, a Toyota Starlet, red in color with Registration Number BC 425 RBC along Aya, Asokoro, Abuja where at about 7.30pm he picked four men who asked to be taken to Mpape. On reaching Mpape, close to a petrol filling station, one of them told the driver, PW1, that he wished to alight, and the driver stopped. It was in the process that PWI was dragged into the back seat after a gun was shown to him and one of the passengers who was one of the three  accused persons (one of the four initial passengers escaped) took over the car. After driving away from the petrol filling station area at the said Mpape, PWI was thrown out of the car and the accused persons sped away with the car.
PWI was able to get help to Aya, and he reported the robbery to the owner of the car, PW4, a soldier that lived at Mogadishu Cantonment in Abuja. The two men (PW1 and PW4) then went to Aya Police station to report the robbery. Thereafter, as they stepped out of the Police station to return to the Cantonment, and at a Police checkpoint, PW4 spotted the stolen starlet car and he pursued it. The appellant was said to be driving the car. PW4 held his clothes and he was eventually arrested. The other occupants of the car tried to run away, but they were also arrested in the process. The car and the arrested persons were handed over to the police at Aya, Asokoro, Abuja where a search of the car revealed a bag which appellant admitted to be his own. When the bag was opened, a Beretta pistol and a jack knife were found inside it.
The three accused persons who boarded the said Toyota Starlet car were charged to court while the 4th passenger who escaped was, in the process of being arrested in Mararaba, shot by the police and he died of gunshot wounds. The alleged receiver of stolen vehicles from the appellant was charged as the 4th accused person in this case.
The 4th accused person was discharged by the trial court. The appellant was tried along with three other persons by the trial court and they were convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to death.
Aggrieved, the appellant appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeal which upheld the conviction and sentence. Still aggrieved, the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court. At the Supreme Court, the appellant urged the court to hold that the prosecution failed to prove the vital ingredient of armed robbery by its failure to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant and his co-accused persons used arms in the course of the robbery or that they were armed when the Toyota car was snatched from the driver of the car. He also argued that the evidence before the court did not prove armed robbery and the fact that the police so termed it did not necessarily make it so. The respondent contended that the appellant and his co-convicts were on a mission for robbery, and that their possession of the gun brought it into the realm of armed robbery.
Held: (Unanimously dismissing the appeal):
On Whether prosecution must tender weapon of alleged robbery –:
There is no law requiring that the prosecution must tender the weapon of an alleged robbery before the guilt of the accused person can be established.
Whether or not the prosecution needs to tender the weapon with which an accused is alleged to have committed a robbery depends on the circumstances of a given case. This is because if the evidence indisputably supports the fact that armed robbery occurred, the absence of the weapon in court would not change the course of events. In the instant case, the appellant had sought to find an escape route by taking issue with the non-tendering of the weapon used in the commission of robbery. That posture was not anchored on any principle of the law. More so, PW1 testified to the fact that a gun was pointed at him when the car was snatched. PW3 gave evidence that when they were brought to the station the car was searched and a locally made pistol cut to size was found. They also found a dagger, a knife, a Nokia telephone handset and a wristwatch. Under cross-examination PW3 stated that when they went to search the vehicle, the 1st accused claimed he had a bag and he was travelling to Nasarawa State and the exhibits were found in the bag.
Per PETER-ODILI, JSC at page 142 paras. E-G:
“Indeed, the failure to tender the exhibits including the weapons mentioned is not fatal in this instance where the evidence already on ground leaves no room for dispute that they exist and the reasons for their not being tendered adequately explained as the officer in custody of the weapon had died and another exhibit keeper posted to the exhibits room was not in a position to trace the weapons, and tender same. The court could not be expected to wait indefinitely when the absence of those exhibits would not change the character of the evidence already proffered and the defence had applied for the prosecution’s case to be closed in spite of the exhibits not having been provided in court and the trial court obliged him so the case could move forward. Anyway, there was a surfeit of evidence to support the use of the weapons described in the establishment of the ingredients of the offence charged”.
On Ingredients of armed robbery -:
In order to prove the offence of armed robbery, the prosecution must prove the following beyond reasonable doubt:
(a) that there was robbery or a series of robberies;
(b) that each robbery was an armed robbery; and
(c) that the accused took part in the robbery or series of robberies.
Moruff O. Balogun Esq.
IJEBU ODE, OGUN STATE.