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Appeal court discharges, acquits armed robbery convict

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Justice Ebiowei Tobi of the Court of Appeal, Gombe has discharged and acquitted Jeremiah Stephen (appellant) for the offences of conspiracy and armed robbery.
 
Justices Tunde Awotoye and Hannatu Sankey concurred with the judgment. In the lead judgment, Justice Tobi said the appeal has merit and therefore is allowed.

“The judgment of Hon. Justice B.L. Iliya (Mrs.) of the Gombe High Court in Suit No: GM/61C/2015 The State Vs Sale Umar & Ors., wherein the appellant was convicted for conspiracy and armed robbery and consequently sentenced to death is hereby set aside,” the court held. 

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Stephen, the third accused in the lower court was found guilty for conspiracy and armed robbery punishable under Sections 5(b) & 1(2)(b) of the robbery and firearms (Special Provision) Act 1990 as amended. 
 
Along with the other accused persons, he was sentenced to death by hanging, following their conviction. The lower court had held in its judgment that from the available evidence before it, there was stronger and credible evidence that all the five accused persons participated in the commission of the crime, so the defence of alibi does not avail them.
 
“On the whole, I am satisfied that the prosecution has discharged the burden of proof placed on him in this case as required by law.

“I hereby find the first, second, third, fourth and fifth accused persons guilty of the offence of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and each of them is convicted as charged in count one.

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“I also find one, second, third and fifth accused persons guilty of the offence of armed robbery and each of them is hereby convicted as charged in count three,” the lower court held.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the appellant (third accused in the lower court) filed a notice of appeal dated April 30, 2019 containing five grounds of appeal.
 
Justice Tobi in his judgment held that the prosecution did not proved the ingredients of the offences of conspiracy and armed robbery beyond reasonable doubt.

“At best, the case of the respondent (the state) against the appellant (Stephen) is based on suspicion and the law is clear that suspicion no matter how grave cannot be evidence before a court, good enough to convict the accused.

“Suspicion must graduate so that evidence before it can be used to convict an accused. Suspicion remains suspicion and cannot graduate to convincing evidence no matter how grave the suspicion can be,” he held.

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