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Court may infer conspiracy from criminal acts – Appeal Court

The appellant’s conviction for conspiracy and armed robbery and subsequent death sentence by the High Court of Kwara State in its decision delivered on 18th April 2013 in case number KWS/13C/2012 culminates into this appeal.
The appellant was jointly charged with one Olabisi Olakunle as follows:
COUNT ONE
That you Ibrahim Adeyemi and Olabisi Olakunle together with Olaniyi and Taiye (at large) on or about the 13/10/2011 at Ojomo Estate Offa Garage llorin, Kwara State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired to commit an illegal act to wit; while armed with guns robbed one Adegbenle Olawale and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 6(B) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act. Laws of Federation of Nigeria 2004.
COUNT TWO
That you Ibrahim Adeyemi and Olabisi Olakunle together with Olaniyi and Taiye (at large) on or about the 13/10/2011 at Ojomo Estate Offa Garage llorin, Kwara State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court while armed with guns robbed one Adegbele Olawale and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1 (2) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act. Cap. R11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
 COUNT THREE
That you Ibrahim Adeyemi and Olabisi Olakunle together with Olaniyi and Taiye (at large) on or about the 13/10/2011 at Pipeline Road llorin, Kwara State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired to commit an illegal act to wit; while armed with guns robbed one Mrs. Bunmi Afolayan and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 6(B) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act. Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
 COUNT FOUR
That you Ibrahim Adeyemi and Olabisi Olakunle together with Olaniyi and Taiye (at large) on or about the 13/10/2011 at Pipeline Road llorin Kwara State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court while armed with guns robbed one Mrs. Bunmi Afolayan and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1 (2) of the Robber and Firearms (Special Provision) Act. Cap. R11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
The respondent called five witnesses at the trial while the appellant testified alone in his defence. After full trial, the learned trial Judge held that the respondent has proved the offences of conspiracy and armed robbery against the appellant beyond reasonable doubt and proceeded to sentence the later to death by hanging.
The appellant was vehemently aggrieved, with the conviction and sentence and resorted to challenge same by filing a notice of appeal predicated upon the following two grounds:
1.   The learned trial judge erred in law when he convicted the appellant of the offence of armed robbery and criminal conspiracy contrary to sections 6(b) and 1(2) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provision) Act Cap. RU Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
2. Further grounds of appeal will be adduced at the substantive hearing of this appeal.
The godforsaken second ground however is but only a spurious addition to the number of grounds from one to two. It therefore cannot be countenanced as a ground of appeal. The so called second ground simply indicates that more grounds will be filed but which were never filed. There is therefore a singular ground of appeal from which the appellant prolifers into two issues for determination as follows:
1. Whether the learned trial Judge was right to give judgment against the weight of evidence.
2. Whether the learned trial Judge was right to discountenance the statement on oath of the accused without having to discountenance the confessional statement with which it is inconsistent thereby grounding a conviction at all costs.
To put it in a more eloquent language the issue for determination in this appeal is whether the respondent has adduced sufficient credible evidence that proves the appellants’ guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The learned counsel are on common ground that all the ingredients of the offence charged must be proved beyond reasonable doubt in order to secure conviction. The learned counsel for the appellant Chief Akinola submitted that no element of the either of the two offences charged was proved by the respondent beyond reasonable doubt. He relied on Ahmadi v. State (1993) 8 NWLR (Pt. 314) at 644 and 663-664;
 It is not mandatory for the prosecution to establish that conspirators met before carrying out their nefarious activities or the crime in question.
The offence of conspiracy may be proved by circumstantial or indirect evidence from which the court can reasonably deduce an inference of certain criminal acts of the accused persons done in pursuance of an apparent common criminal intention.
Conspirators need not be in direct communication. The court may infer conspiracy from the criminal acts of the parties including evidence of complicity. See Iwuneve v. The State (2000) 5 NWLR 658 page 550 at 560-561 and Osondu v. FRN (2000) NWLR 682 page 483 at 501-502.
The evidence of Pw2 on the way and manner the two accused persons robbed her has established a compelling scenario from which the court may rightly infer a common frame of mind to commit the offence of armed robbery.
It was submitted for-the respondent that a community reading of the evidence of Pw2, Pw3 and the contents of Exhibits AA1 and AA2 ‘lead to only one conclusion that the two accused persons herein and their cohort in crime, one Olaniyi and Taiye (alias Marshal) jointly conspired to rob Pw2 on the 13th day of October 2011.
The courts over the years have developed a way to establish conspiracy by way of inference since direct evidence of agreement in most cases is almost impossible. What the court therefore looks for in a case of conspiracy is the criminal acts of the conspirators which infer a prior agreement. The Supreme Court recently in Onyeye v. The State (2012) All FWLR Pt. 643, 1810 at 1832-1833 observed thus:
“Conspiracy can be inferred from the acts of doing things towards a common end where there is no direct evidence in support of an agreement between the accused persons. The conspirators need not to know themselves and need not have agreed to commit the offence at the same time. The courts tackle the offence of conspiracy as a matter of inference to be adduced from certain criminal acts or inactions of the parties concerned”.
In the instant case, the Pw2 testified that on or about the 13/10/2011, she went to pick her daughter at Oko-Olowo and was returning home when a vehicle occupied by some persons including the appellant and the other accused person trailed her to the gate and at gun point, the appellant and other accused persons dispossessed her of her car and other personal belongings. The next day she received a telephone call through her husband that her vehicle had been recovered in Ibadan at Eleyele Police Station. As soon as she got there with detectives from llorin, the appellant and the other 2nd accused person started begging her and crying for forgiveness. The car was released back to the Pw2 including her money and the three (3) phones that were all recovered from the appellant and his cohort in the armed robbery. This evidence was neither rebutted nor denied by the appellant and the other person throughout the trial. It was therefore sufficiently credible upon which the trial court drew not only an inference of meeting of minds and a prior agreement between the appellant and the other accused to carry out that nefarious activity at that moment but it also establishes the substantive offence of armed robbery against them.
To be continued.

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