It is a well settled rule of Law, that anyone accused of criminal offence is deemed innocent until the prosecution has been clearly able to submit sufficiently the evidence to the court which will persuade the Court to pronounce his guilty. The provision of Section 36(5) of the 1999 CFRN guarantees the presumption of innocence of everyone accused of criminal offence(s) in Nigeria.
It is therefore,the duty of the prosecution to rebut that presumption of innocence by adducing sufficient evidence to persuade the Court of the defendant’s guilt,this is premise on Section 131(1) of the Evidence Act.
However,at the conclusion of examination in chief, cross-examination and re-examination of all witnesses for the prosecution, the prosecution announces the conclusion of its case thereafter,the floor will be opened for the defence to open its case. In this vein, the options available to the accused person at this stage are as follows:
(1)The accused person can rests his case on that of the prosecution.
(2)The accused person may also decides to enter his defence and call witnesses.
(3) The accused person may decide to make a no case submission(contending that the materials made available by the prosecution present ‘no case’ requiring him to make any defence).
CONCEPT OF NO CASE SUBMISSION
The meaning of this submission is that there is no evidence adduced by the prosecution on which the court could reasonably convict the accused person or defendant, In other words, there is no evidence upon which the accused should be reasonably called to make his defence.
A no case submission may be made in a criminal trial where there has been throughout the trial at the close of the case for the prosecution no legally admissible evidence against the defendant linking him in anyway with the commission of the offence(s) charged, or that under whatever evidence there was which might have linked the defendant with the alleged offence (s) has been so discredited, particularly under cross examination of the prosecution witnesses, that no reasonable adjudicator could act on the evidence to convict the defendant.
The principle guiding no case to answer or no case submission has received judicial blessings in plethora of cases such as the case of KALU V FRN &ORS (2019)LPELR CA/L/1061C/2018, wherein the court stated that;
“…all that is required for a court is to look at the totality of the evidence adduced by the prosecution and see if , reasonable and sufficient legally admissible evidence which shows some connection,link, relation or nexus between the accused person and the facts which constitutes the commission of the offence(s) he was charged with”
Same also reiterated by Per ABIRU JCA in the case of SUBERU V STATE (2010)1NWLR (pt 1176) 494 as follows:
” Where a no case submission is made what is to be considered by the court is not whether the evidence produced by the prosecution against the defendant is sufficient to justify conviction but whether the prosecution has made out a prima facie case requiring at least,some explanation from the defendant as regard his conduct or otherwise”
Similarly, it is clearly enshrined in Section 303(3)of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act that, in considering the submission of no case to answer by the defendant the court shall in the discretion has regard to whether;
(A) an essential elements of the offence has been proved;
(B)there is evidence linking the defendant with the commission of the offence with which he is charged;
(C)the evidence so far led is such that no reasonable court or tribunal would convict on it,and
(D) any other ground on which the court may find ,that a prima facie case has not been made out against the defendant for him to be called upon to answer.
On this note,It must however, be borned in mind that, the credibility of the witness is not in issue at this particular stage ,all that the court is required to do is to determine whether or not there is any legally admissible evidence linking the accused person with the commission of the offence with which he is charged, and if the submission happened to base on discredited evidence, such discredit must be apparent on the face of the record and where it’s otherwise the submission is bound to fail.
This position of the law was also established in the case of DABOH V STATE (1977) ALL NLR 146,and in the case of COP V AMUTA (2017)LPELR-SC /17/2012
CONDITIONS OF A SUCCESSFUL PLEA OF NO CASE SUBMISSION
It is well settled, that a submission of no case to answer may be made and upheld when ;
(1)there has been no evidence to prove an essential element in the alleged offence or
(2) the evidence adduced by the prosecution has been discredited as a result of cross examination or is so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could safely convict on it.
However, If any of these two conditions is present, the submission will be upheld and if otherwise is the case in other words, if a reasonable tribunal might convict on the evidence so far laid before it, then, there is a case to answer and the submission would be overruled.
This position of the law also stated by the Court of Appeal in the case of AJISOGUN VS. THE STATE (1999) LPELR-SC.27/1999 as follows
: “… there ought, at this stage, be some evidence, direct or indirect, against the accused which evidence, unless and until it be displaced or explained off, would be enough to support a conviction either of the offence charged or of any other alternative offence of which the accused may possibly be convicted. If there be any such evidence, then, a submission of “no case to answer” must fail. Why? Because there is a case to answer.”
Hence, It is pertinent importance to appreciate the fact that, the credibility of the prosecution witness (es) is not in issue at this stage of plea of no case submission, and the defence counsel should be prevented from addressing the court on the issue.
All the authorities agreed that what is required by the court at the stage of no case submission is not about the credibility of witnesses but whether on the surface from the evidence led there is prima facie case upon which defendant must enter his defence or give answer thereto.
The principle behind the submission of no case to answer is that an accused should be relieved of the responsibility of defending himself when there is no evidence upon which he may be convicted, and on the other hand,to save the precious time of the court.
Hence, what is of critical importance is the presence of any of the aforesaid two conditions that would judicially and judiciously warrants the upholding of the no case submission but where the reverse is the case, the submission would be over ruled in totality and the accused person or defendant would enter his defence; he has a case to answer.
About the Author
Adebowale Saheed is a Law student of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto
Contact: [email protected] / 08131195676.