IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
On Friday, the 4th day of January 1963
ELIJAH OKEZIE ................................. APPELLANT
THE QUEEN ..................................... RESPONDENT
Appeal by convicted person:
The appellant was charged on a count of false pretences which alleged that he "obtained from Israel Nwabeke the sum of £15's by falsely pretending that you were in a position to secure employment for him as a teacher in the Eastern Ngwa County Council, and that the said £15 was being demanded by the Eastern Ngwa County Council as a security against any loss or damage to the said Council's property."
The trial Judge found (1) that the accused obtained the sum of £15 by falsely pretending that the Council demanded £30 as security; and (2) that the accused lied when he told the complainant he would see him employed because the accused was not in a position to exert influence to secure him the employment. The trial Judge convicted him.
The ground of appeal on the facts alleged that the verdict was unreasonable, unwarranted, and could not be supported having regard to the weight of evidence. The words 'weight of' were deleted by leave. There was no substance in that ground.
The other two grounds of appeal in effect complained that although two false pretence were alleged in the count, the Judge's finding was that it was only pretence No. (1) which operated on the complainant's mind, and on this basis:-
The two pretences alleged were distinct and divisible; in the trial Judge's view one of them operated on the mind of the complainant; and it was competent to the Judge upon his view to convict on the count.
R. v. Lince, 12 Cox 451, followed.
R. v. Wickham, 10 A. & E. 34, distinguished.
The words "weight of" (evidence), which are appropriate to a civil appeal on facts, are not appropriate to a criminal appeal; the proper ground of appeal from conviction is that the verdict "is unreasonable or cannot be supported - having regard to the evidence", in the sense that, unless there is some evidence to support it, the verdict cannot stand, and the other test is whether a reasonable tribunal or jury, if they appreciated the evidence applied the law appropriate to the case, could have returned the verdict.
Federal Supreme Court Rules, Order VII, rule 2(4)
Federal Supreme Court Act, 1960, section 26(1)
Aladesuru v. The Queen,  A.C. 49
Other case cited:-
Regina v. Hewgill (Dears. 315)1
APPEAL from the High Court of Eastern Nigeria.
R.A. Fani-Kayode, Q.C. (Duduyemi with him) for the Appellant.
J.I. Emembolu, Senior Crown Counsel, for the Respondent.
Ademola, C.J.F. (delivering the judgment of the court).:- The appellant was in the High Court of the Eastern Region at Aba charged on an information containing two counts, namely obtaining goods by false pretences contra section 419 Criminal Code and stealing by agent contra section 390(8)(b) of the Criminal Code. He was convicted on the charge of (first count), and the learned Judge did not proceed second count in respect of which he discharged him without an acquittal. This is an appeal against the conviction on the first count, which reads as follows:-
"Statement of Offence-First Count
Obtaining goods by false pretences contra section 419 of the Criminal Code.
Particulars of Offence
Elijah Okezie, on the 27th day of February 1961, at Aba, in the province of Umuahia with intent to defraud, obtained from Israel Nwabeke the sum of £15 by falsely pretending that you were in a position to secure employment for him as a teacher in the Eastern Ngwa Council, and that the said £15 was being demanded by the Eastern Ngwa County Council as a security against any loss or damage to the said Council's property."
Five grounds of appeal were filed, and in addition leave was sought and granted to argue two additional grounds. Only the two additional grounds of appeal and one original ground were, however, argued. They read as follows:-
"(1) (additional). The learned trial Judge erred in law in convicting the appellant in respect of count one when the false representation contained in the particulars of the said count were not proved by the prosecution.
(2) (additional). The judgment of the learned trial Judge convicting the accused appellant is unreasonable, unwarranted and cannot be supported having regard to the weight of evidence.
(3) (original). The learned trial Judge erred in law to have convicted the appellant on the first count under section 419 of the Criminal Code as there was material conflict between the indictment as laid and the evidence given."
The first and third grounds were argued together.
It is, however, convenient to deal first with the second ground argued. Counsel, at the instance of the court, sought leave to delete the words "weight of" in that ground of appeal. In light of Aladesuru v. The Queen,  A.C. 49, it was pointed out that the words "weight of evidence" are not applicable in criminal appeals. This Court would like to stress the point that a criminal appeal on the facts is not quite the same as an appeal on the facts in a civil case. In a civil appeal the general ground is that the judgment is against the weight of evidence, whilst in a criminal appeal it is that the verdict is unreasonable or cannot be supported having regard to the evidence: See the Federal Supreme Court Act, 1960, section 26(1), and the Federal Supreme Court Rules, 1961, Order VII, rule 2. It is clear that unless there is some evidence to support it, the verdict in a criminal case cannot stand. The other test is whether a reasonable tribunal or jury, if they appreciated the evidence rightly and applied the law appropriate to the case, could have returned the verdict. This is the light in which a criminal appeal on the facts should be argued and approached.
Arguing this ground of appeal, Counsel submitted that the finding cannot be supported by the evidence because one Mordi from whom the complainant borrowed a sum of £15 to satisfy the demand for £30 was not called by the Crown to give evidence; also that the third witness for the Crown, Ochieze Ajaegbu, was punished by the learned Judge for perjuring himself. This is what the learned trial Judge said about this witness:-
"As regards the third prosecution witness, my impression about him is that he knew the truth but did not want to help the court. He was therefore lying when he told the court that it was the first prosecution witness who told him what to say. Even his demeanour in the court showed that he was determined to mislead the court."
We are unable to accept the suggestion that the fact that Ochieze is a liar should affect the result of the case; his being a liar does affect the credibility of the complainant and his wife. At best Ochieze should be disregarded. With regard to Mordi, we of the opinion that the Crown was not bound to call him. If he lent money to the complainant that fact would certainly not have helped to prove that the complainant gave the money to appellant, or why he did. The other arguments on the evidence need not be gone into; it is sufficient to say that no case was made out that the verdict was unreasonable or could not be support having regard to the evidence. This ground of appeal must therefore fail.
We now come to grounds 1 and 3, which are substantially the same and were argued together. It was submitted by Counsel that the pretences alleged by the prosecution in the first count are two, namely (1) to get the complainant employment as a teacher, and (2) that the sum of a £30 was demanded by the Eastern Ngwa County Council as a deposit against damage to the Council's property, but that the learned Judge made no finding on first false pretence. It was submitted that for the reason that of the two false pretences alleged in the first count, a finding was made on one and not on the other, the appellant should have been discharged.
The relevant part of the judgment complained against is as follows:-
"I have to say that I am satisfied from the evidence before me that the accused obtained the sum of £15 from the first prosecution witness by falsely pretending he was receiving it as a deposit for the Council; that the Council never asked for such a deposit and that the accused had converted the money to his own use. I am also satisfied that the Council did not ask the accused to make the demand for security and also that the accused was not speaking the truth when he told the first prosecution witness that if he deposited the sum of £30 he would see him employed because the accused is not in a position to influence the District Officer or the Provincial Education Officer to give approval for the first prosecution witness to be employed since the first prosecution witness could not be so employed without their approval. I have therefore no difficulty in finding the accused guilty of the charge preferred against him in the first count."
The question is, does the finding of the learned Judge amount to this: that both the false pretences alleged operated to induce the witness to give the money (£15), or does it mean that it was the false pretence that that money (£30) was demanded by the Council which operated on the mind of the witness, although the pretence about securing employment as a teacher was also made?
The court accepts the submission made by Counsel for the appellant that the finding of the learned Judge is that it was the false pretence that £30 was demanded by the Ngwa Council which induced the witness to give the money, and the appeal will be considered on that basis.
Now, as the count alleges two false pretences, but the finding covers one only, can the conviction stand? For the appellant it is argued that the two false pretences are so intertwined in the count that they stand or fall together; whilst the argument for the Crown is that the two false pretences are independent and the finding of one sustains the conviction.
Mr. Kayode, for the appellant, relies on R. v. Wickham, 10 Ad. and El. 34, referred to at 743, in paragraph 1972 of Archbold, (34th Ed.). That was a case where the prisoner pretended to another that he was a captain in the East India Company's service and that a promissory note which he produced was for a valuable security, by means of which false pretences, he fraudulently obtained money from that other; whereas the prisoner was not a captain and the promissory note he gave was not a valuable security; it was held that as it did not appear but that the note was prisoner's own promissory note, or that he knew it was worthless the falsification was not sufficient; and, as the two pretences were to be taken together, that the conviction was bad.
We have given consideration to that case and are of the view that it is not on all fours with the present one. R. v. Wickham was a case where the two pretences alleged were to be taken together but one was not proved to have been a false pretence. In the case before us, the two pretences alleged were distinct and divisible; the Judge's finding is in effect that both were proved to have been false, but one of them was the particular pretence which operated on the mind of the witness; so it was competent to the Judge to convict the appellant on the count, as appears clearly from R. v. Lince, 12 Cox 451.
The charge against Lince was that he falsely pretended to one J.H. that he then lived at and was then the landlord of a certain beerhouse, by means of which false pretences he obtained from J.H a quantity of potatoes with intent to defraud. According to the evidence of J.H., Lince told him that he was the nephew of a man then in the prosecutor's employ-which was true-and also that he lived at the beerhouse-which was false-though he did not say he was the landlord of that house; and that when he sent the potatoes to Lince his mind was influenced by the belief that Lince was his servant's nephew, and also by the statement that he lived at the beerhouse. The prisoner did not say he was the landlord of the beerhouse, but still J.H. believed him to be occupier of that house. After conviction, the Chairman of the Sessions reserved two points, which were considered by a bench of five, and which sufficiently appear from the judgment of Bovill, C.J. It is a very important judgment, and is quoted here in full:-
"There were two points contended for by the prisoners Counsel at the trial, and reserved for the consideration of this Court. The first point was, whether the charge could be sustained, the indictment stating the false pretence to be, that "the prisoner then lived at and was then the landlord of a certain beerhouse," when the prisoner had never stated that he was the landlord of the beerhouse, but only that he lived there. It is clearly sufficient to sustain an indictment to prove part only of the false pretences charged; and the question here is whether the false pretence charged, vis., that the prisoner "then lived at and was the landlord of a certain beerhouse," is a statement of two facts which are false. It seems to me that it is, and that they may be divided; and that if it is proved to be false as to one, the other need not be proved. The second point reserved was, whether a charge of obtaining goods by false pretences can be sustained when the prosecutor admits that another circumstance influenced his mind in parting with his goods, as well as the alleged false pretence. It has been long settled that it is immaterial that the prosecutor was influenced by other circumstances than the false pretence charged. If that were not so, an indictment of false pretences could scarcely ever be maintained, as a tradesman is generally more or less influenced by the profit he expects to make upon the transaction.
The case of Reg. v. Hewgill (Dears. 315) is an authority in support of this view. I therefore think this conviction ought to be affirmed."
That makes it plain that the conviction under appeal was valid and sound, and that grounds (1) and (3) must also fail.
The appeal is therefore dismissed.