No Case Submission in Nigeria

No Case Submission in Nigeria

What is No Case Submission?

A submission of no case means that there is no evidence on which the court could convict even if Court believed the evidence given.

In I. G. P. vs. Sonoma (2021) NWLR (Pt. 1791), 489 at 511 per Odili, JSC thus: “It needs be reiterated that in a criminal matter, a successful submission no case to answer means no prima facie has been made out against an accused person because the prosecution has failed to prove the essential ingredients of the offence charged against the accused person. In other words, there is no admissible evidence linking the accused person in anyway with the commission of the offence with which he had been charged with.

At the stage of considering a No Case Submission, the trial Court is simply to ascertain if the prosecution has made a prima facie case requiring the accused to offer some explanation and NOT whether the evidence led against him is sufficient to justify conviction. See EKWUNUGO VS FRN (2008) 7 SC NJ 241 at 242.

Again, in writing a ruling in No Case Submission, it is advisable that a trial Court should try as much as possible to be brief and should refrain from making any remarks or observations on the facts. Similarly, it is not the duty of the trial judge to at that stages, weigh and evaluate evidence or to decide who is telling the truth or not. It also should not conclude that what the prosecution adduced was unreliable. See EMEDO v STATE (2002) 7 SCNJ 226.

It is well settled that after a successful submission of no case to answer has been made, an accused is no longer to be regarded as charged with that offence of which he was charged and must be discharged on the merits.

Purpose of No Case Submission

In AGBO & OTHERS VS. STATE (2013) 11 NWLR PART 1365 PAGE 377. It was held among others that the purport of a No case submission is that the Court is not called upon at that stage to express any opinion on the evidence before it. The Court is only called upon to take note and rule accordingly that there is before the Court no legally admissible evidence linking the accused with the commission of the offence charged. But if there is legally admissible evidence, however slight, the matter should proceed as there is something to look at.

At the stage of No case submission, credibility of Prosecution witnesses should not be considered. It is not a stage where a Court can believe or disbelieve Prosecution witnesses as the defence is yet to present its own witnesses. The Court is enjoined to avoid the temptation of being lured to pronounce on the merits or otherwise of the available evidence.

I am of the view that a No case submission is raised by an accused person at the close of prosecution’s case in the substantive trial i.e. main trial. And if it is upheld, the accused person is discharged and acquitted. But on the contrary, if a No case submission is made by the Respondent (defence) at the close of prosecution’s case in trial within trial, it is inappropriate.

Circumstances in which a no case submission can be made and upheld

No case submission may be upheld where: (a) There was no evidence to prove an essential element of the alleged offence (b)The evidence adduced has been so discredited as a result of cross-examination. (c) The evidence is so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal can safely convict on it and further if however a reasonable tribunal can convict on evidence so far led, there is a case for the accused to answer.

The Locus Classicus on no case submission is found in the case of AJIDAGBA & ORS v. I.G.P (1958) 3 FSC 5 where it was held that – A decision to discharge an accused person on the ground that a prima facie case has not been made against him must be a decision which, upon a clam view of the whole evidence offered by the prosecution, a rational understanding will suggest; the conscientious hesitation of a mind that is not influenced by party, preoccupied by prejudice or subdued by fear.

In F.R.N. v. EKWENUGO (2007) 3 NWLR Pt 1021 at pages 209-218 this Court held that it is only if there is no sufficient evidence linking the accused with the statutory elements of the offence with which he is charged that a Court of trial must as a matter of law discharge him. Before coming into a conclusion that an accused has a case to answer, the trial Court must be satisfied that there is in law, a nexus behind the criminal conduct and the offence the accused is charged with and this must be apparent on the face of the evidence led by the prosecution. The prosecution must be at this stage prove the essential element in the alleged offence.

In MOHAMMED v. THE STATE (2007) NWLR Pt 1032 pages 152-163 the Supreme Court held that a submission of no case may be properly upheld when – “(a) There has been no evidence to prove an essential element of the alleged Offence. (b) The evidence adduced by the prosecution has been so manifestly discredited as a result of cross-examination or manifestly unreliable that no reasonable Tribunal could safely convict on it.

Where a no case submission is made particularly when Counsel indicates intention not to rely on same what is to be considered by the Court is not whether the evidence produced by the prosecution against the accused is sufficient to justify conviction but whether the prosecution has made out a prima facie case requiring at least, some explanation from the accused person as regards his conduct or otherwise.

Position of the law on a no case submission

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.

The term prima facie was also considered in the case of UBANATU V. C.O.P (2001) 2 ALL CLR 312 AT 317 thus: “The evidence establishing a prima facie case is not to be such as would justify a conviction. It only means that the evidence has covered the essential elements of the alleged offence and if it remains uncontradicted (and is not thoroughly discredited in cross examination) a reasonable tribunal may justifiably convict on it; and therefore some explanation is required from the accused person.

A prima facie case is therefore an allegation supported by evidence which has taken it outside the realm of suspicion. The quality of evidence required at this level is not necessarily the type that is strong enough to convict. It is that evidence slight enough to support the charge. What it presupposes is that there is evidence to support not necessarily to prove beyond reasonable doubt the ingredients of the offence.

The Court at this stage is not expected to consider the credibility of the witnesses nor analyse or evaluate the evidence. The Court is expected to look at the evidence as a single flowing story. The Court cannot consider the evidence in bits and pieces in order to ascribe probative value because at this stage, the Court is not to find the accused guilty or not guilty. See the case of EMEDO v. THE STATE (2002) 7 SCNJ 221.

Thus, what the Court should look out for is the necessary minimum evidence establishing the ingredients of the offence not evidence to convict. In other words, at the point a no case submission is raised, the Court cannot go into the strength of the evidence adduced to determine whether there are verifiable allegations against the accused. What is to be considered by the Court is not whether the evidence produced by the prosecution against the accused is sufficient to justify conviction but whether the prosecution has made a point requiring, at least, some explanation from the accused person as regard his conduct or otherwise.

Whether no case submission is a defence in law

It should be understood from the onset that a plea of No Case Submission is not a defence as is generally erroneously conceived. It is a law long settled in our legal jurisprudence. This distinction is often lost particularly in the evocation of the plea in the line of a defence sometimes by both the accused and the prosecution.

This confusion is demonstrated by inordinate appraisal, evaluation and ascription of probative value to each or most of the evidences placed before a Court. Indeed, unless there appears sufficient reasons to uphold a No Case Submission, the Court itself should have no liberty to indulge in deep evaluation of the evidences at the stage of a No Case submission.-TOWER ASSETS MGT LTD v. FRN & ORS (2022) LPELR-56781(CA)

 

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