The court of appeal, Gombe division has upturned the conviction and death sentence slammed on one Aminu Abdullahi for armed robbery by the state high court.
The panel of three justices comprising Ebiowei Tobi, Hannatu Sankey and Tunde Awotoye unanimously agreed with the appellant that the prosecution could not discharge the burden of proof of the offence against him.
Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Tobi held that the prosecution did not prove the ingredients of the offences of conspiracy and armed robbery beyond reasonable doubt, particularly with respect to the fact that the appellant was the one who committed the offences.
Justice B.L. Iliya of the Gombe State High Court had in suit No: GM/61C/2015 between appellant, who was 2nd accused and four others convicted and sentenced him to death by hanging for the offence of conspiracy and armed robbery.
Dissatisfied with the decision, the appellant through his counsel, Bob C. O. Ijioma filed five grounds of appeal, arguing that the lower court erred in law when it failed to resolve the issue on the identity of the persons who took part in the robbery in his favour.
He also insisted that his conviction cannot be supported having regard to the weight of evidence adduced at the trial. In his decision, Justice Tobi held that the respondent failed in the lower court to prove beyond reasonable doubt the offences of conspiracy and armed robbery against the appellant.
“At best, the case of the respondent against the appellant is based on suspicion and the law is clear that suspicion no matter how grave cannot be evidence before a court good enough to convict the accused. Suspicion must graduate to be evidence before it can be used to convict an accused.
“Suspicion remains suspicion and cannot graduate to convincing evidence no matter how grave the suspicion can be. In the circumstance, I have no difficulty in holding that this appeal has merit and therefore it is allowed. The judgment of Hon.
Justice B.L. Iliya (Mrs.) in Suit No: GM/61C/2015 The State Vs Sale Umar & Ors wherein the appellant was convicted and sentenced to death is hereby set aside,” he held.
Holding further, Justice Tobi said: “The appropriate order to make therefore is to quash the conviction of the appellant and consequently discharge and acquit him for the offences of conspiracy and armed robbery for which he was charged, convicted and sentenced.
“I hereby set aside the conviction of the appellant by the lower court. The appellant is discharged and acquitted for the offences of conspiracy and armed robbery.”
The court held that looking at the evidence before the lower court, it was difficult to find any evidence outside the confessional statement of the appellant to corroborate the confession.
The victims of the robbery, in their statement and evidence, he held, clearly showed that they could not recognize or identify the appellant as one of those who robbed them.
“The only person they could identify and recognize in court was the 1st accused because he was not wearing a mask. All others were wearing mask. From the evidence of PW1 & PW2 found on pages 223-231 of the record, there is nothing to corroborate the confession of the appellant,” the court declared, adding that there was nothing connecting the appellant to the robbery.
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