What A “No Case Submission” Connotes and What it Calls into Question when Raised

CAPTAIN EZEKIEL AGABA v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

(2018) LPELR-44575(CA)

APPLICABLE AREA: Criminal Law and Procedure

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

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE – NO CASE SUBMISSION: Duty of the trial court where a no case submission has been made on behalf of an accused person
“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).

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE – 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.

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).

 

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