THE DEFENCE OF ALIBI

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The Emergence and Proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra

 

It is not possible for anyone to be in more than one place at a time. Sometimes when a crime is committed, the police go after the usual suspects who are subjected to interrogations to find out their whereabouts at the material time of the commission of the crime. Thus Mr. X may make a statement to the police that he was not at the scene of the crime in Akwakuma Owerri but was rather in Orlu all day through. The police under such circumstance are bound to investigate the claim by X as to his whereabouts.

A failure to investigate the statement by the accused person that he was somewhere else rather than the scene of the crime at the relevant material time is fatal to the case of the prosecution.

Thus where an accused person is charged to court for any act or omission which constitutes a crime, the Onus of proof lies on the prosecution to proof the guilt of the accused person beyond reasonable doubt. These following cases speak with one voice on the need for this requirement see Ume V state, (1973 )25 SC9 Saidu V state (1982 )4SC41 and DrOduneyeVs State (2001)5NSCOR 1 AT 46

However the proof beyond reasonable doubt is not proof to a mathematical certainty or exactitude. It is not proof beyond every shadow of doubt. If the evidence against the accused is so strong as to leave only a remote probability in his favour  which can be dismissed as though possible but not in the least probable, then proof beyond reasonable doubt has been attained.

What therefore is Alibi?

According to ARIWOOLA JSC

IN OLATINWO VS STATE (2013) VOL 222 LRCN PT1

Alibi simply means ‘elsewhere.’

That is a defence based on the physical impossibility of a defendant’s guilt by placing the defendant in a location other than the scene of the crime at the relevant time.

According to BLACK’s LAW DICTIONARY 9TH EDITION AT PAGE 84.ALIBI means when a person charged with an offence says:

“I was not at the scene at the time the alleged offence was committed. I was somewhere else; therefore I was not the one who committed the offence.”

According to ARIWOOLA JSC stated:

“Generally if an accused person raises unequivocally a defence of Alibi, that he was somewhere else other than the locus deliciti at the time of the commission of the offense with which he is charged and gives some facts and circumstances of his whereabouts, the prosecution is duty bound to investigate the Alibi set Up to verify its truthfulness or otherwise.”

However it is not every failure by the police to investigate the plea of Alibi that would be fatal to the case of the prosecution .There is an exception

 

In Patrick Njovens V The State 1973 5SC 12 AT 47, the court held:

“There is nothing extraordinary or esoteric in a plea of Alibi. Such a plea postulates that the accused person could not have been at the scene of crime and only inferentially, that he was not there. Even if it is duty of the prosecution to check a statement of Alibi by an accused person and disprove the Alibi or attempt to do so, there is a flexible and variable way of doing this. If the prosecution adduces sufficient evidence to fix the person at the scene of the crime at the material time, surely his alibi is thereby logically and physically demolished.”

The defences of Alibi are often raised in cases of robberies, stealing or armed robbery which often requires the physical presence of the accused at the scene of crime.

The seriousness of such crimes and sanctions imposed by the courts often requires that the prosecution disproves the Alibi set up by the accused person.

However in Nigeria, the Police are often indifferent to such Alibi set up by the accused person and apply the use of torture in obtaining confessional statements to disprove such claims by suspects. In spite of such illegally obtained confessions which negate the real oral testimonies of many accused persons, to the police; the courts in Nigeria have often exercised lesser caution in admitting confessional statements and relying on same when the accused denies having made them.

It is a sad evidence of our legal process that lawyers are often excluded in the process of the accused person interrogations and are often treated with contempt and disregard by investigating police officers.

Often, attorneys in Nigeria are warned by crooked police men at a police station::

“This place is not a court .Go away and wait for us at the Courts Mr. Charge and Bail Lawyer.”

The process of taking the accused statement is a critical period when the accused person admits or denies guilt and his access to wise counsel is of grave importance in the administration of Justice. This is a critical period when the requirement of a solicitor is invaluable.

Such accused persons may raise the defence of Alibi which is ignored whilst they are teleguided by the investigating police officer to make confessional statements in the backdrop of the alarming illiteracy in our country.

The facts and circumstances raised by the accused person in their Alibi are supposed to be investigated by the police which they often disregard. It is therefore the duty of the Lawyer to ensure that at the earliest opportunity, the accused person raises the defence of Alibi where applicable and ensure that the facts and circumstances are investigated.

Indeed it is doubtful if the accused can raise the defence of Alibi at the trial without first raising SAME at the period of making his oral and written statements to the police. This means that the solicitor must have unfettered access to his client

It is therefore of utmost importance for the courts to be aware of the illegalities committed by the police in obtaining the statements of the accused in the absence of their counsel which may undermine his defences and presumptions of innocence.

The Nigerian Police are undoubtedly corrupt and are often influenced by interests, biases and or outright incompetence in taking the statements of the accused persons; and often collude with complainants to undermine the defences of the Accused person.

The Nigerian Bar Association must register this development of not allowing the presence of solicitors at Police Stations when their client’s statements are taken as a protest and ensure that a legislative safeguard is put in place to effectuate the legal and constitutional guarantees in favour of the accused.

One of such ways to protect the rights of the accused under police investigations or custody is to make it an act that may cause the dismissal of such officers from the Police Service, subject however, to damages in favour of the accused.

 

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