On Saturday the 10th Day of June, 2017, the airways were serenaded with the news of the arrest and capture of one Chukwudi Dumeme Onuamadike (aka EVANS), who is reputed to be the most notorious, richest and sophisticated kidnap kingpin in Nigeria’s crime history.
He was said to have evaded the Nigerian Police for over 7 years. Evans, a native of Anambra State in Nigeria is said to be responsible for the kidnap of prominent Nigerians in Lagos and many other states in Nigeria.
His ransom demands were said to be paid in dollars, with some of his victims kept for upwards of six months until the last penny was paid.
It is thus quite understandable why there is a frenzy following his arrest by the police authorities and the populace at large. This is further boldened by the fact that Evans has been singing songs of confessions of his criminal activities ever since his arrest.
His songs are all over the media space, including a nauseating picture that had since gone viral showing ACP Abba Kyari and his team which had ensured the arrest of Evans in a picture with him in a celebrity-fans pose.
As soothing as his seeming easy singing is in a Lawrence Anini manner, we need to be sure that these confessional statements are admissible in a Court of Law whenever he is put to trial.
This fear of mine is accentuated by the well known antecedents of Nigerian Police Officers who have a knack for obtaining confessional statements from suspects in their custody in ways that leave much to be desired.
His lordship, Olabode Rhodes-Viviour JSC, in Tunde Ashimi v. The State (SC/331/2012) defined a Confession ‘as an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime, stating or suggesting the inference that he committed the crime’.
He went further to say that ‘a confessional statement is thus the best evidence that the accused person committed the offence for which he is charged. A direct acknowledgment of guilt should be regarded as a confession’.
The Evidence Act, 2011 at Section 28, defines a confession as an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime.
In light of the above, it can rightly be said that the songs being sang by Evans are ipso facto confessional statements admissible under the law upon which he can be convicted without the need for any further corroboration.
However, one major hurdle to be crossed before these confessions can be admissible by any Court of law is VOLUNTARINESS.
The Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (ACJA) provides the procedure under which the confession statement of an accused should be obtained. Section 17 (1) of ACJA provides that ‘where a suspect is arrested on allegation of having committed an offence, his statement shall be taken, IF HE SO wishes to make a statement. (Emphasis mine).
The import therefore is that a suspect cannot and shall not be forced to make a confessional statement. Where he makes one, such a statement must have been made by him willingly, out of free will and without any form of compulsion.
Section 29(2) (a) Evidence Act, 2011 provides:
If in any proceeding where the prosecution proposes to give in evidence a confession made by a defendant, it is represented to the court that the confession was or may have been
(a) by oppression of the person who made it, or......
The court shall not allow the confession to be given in evidence against him except in so far as the prosecution proves to the court beyond reasonable doubt that the confession (notwithstanding that it may be true) was not obtained in a manner contrary to the provisions of this section.
Section 29(5) now goes further to define what ‘oppression’ in the above subsections means. It provides;
(5) In this section "oppression" includes torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and the use or threat of violence whether or not amounting to torture.
Flowing from the above, if for any reason whatsoever during trial, Evans denies the voluntariness and it is so proved that these songs being sang by him were sang under an atmosphere of coercion and or torture by Police operatives as we serially know them to do or even shown to be done in our movies, they shall be thrown out by the court and made inadmissible.
In the final analysis, it is my prayer that our Police that have expended huge resources in arresting Evans do the rightful by complying with relevant laws, and not to in a bid to feature prominently in media circuses or showmanship lose focus of the purpose of Policing; qua ridding the society of criminals, criminal elements and maintenance of law and order.
Failing which I shudder at the thought of having Evans back on our streets rather than where he belongs because of a lapse in judgement of officers and men of the Nigerian Police Force.
Akinsehinwa is a legal practitioner