How a man who tried to bring electricity to his village was killed.

The Story

Somewhere in Akwa Ibom State, one John Tom Umoh (now deceased), who was the Sanitation Chairman in his community was desirous of seeing to the success of an electrification project in his village. To this end, he indicated that certain trees needed to be felled for this purpose. He also identified one coconut tree as due to be cut down. One Mr. Ukpong was not happy with the proposed falling of trees and scolded the deceased for so doing. Notwithstanding this, the coconut and other economic trees which obstructed the power line were felled. The aim again was to facilitate the electrification project which the community was embarking on.

Displeased, Mr. Ukpong accosted the deceased and beat him to stupor to the extent that the deceased could not walk and could not hear anything. The deceased was hospitalized. Two days later, he died.

The Charge & Holding

Ukpong v. State [2019] 6 NWLR (Pt. 1667) 1.

Mr. Ukpong was charged to Court for the offence of murder. He was convicted and sentenced to death. The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal. On a further appeal to the Supreme Court, Mr. Ukpong contended that he did not have the specific intent to kill the deceased when he fought him, arguing that the charge of murder was not proved. The Supreme Court disagreed, upholding the trite principle which states that a man intends the natural consequences of his act. Nweze, JSC stated the position thus:

“Pray, what else was the Prosecution supposed to prove?  In the context of the grievous bodily harm which the appellant inflicted on the deceased person grievous bodily harm which was such that the deceased person, according to the PW3, was first “unable to walk…” on the first day [that is, December 13, 2006] and, on the following day, December 14, 2006, was “unable to hear anything” In the apt findings of the trial Court, findings duly affirmed by the lower Court: There is no doubt that the injuries inflicted on the deceased (person) were occasioned by the act of the accused (person). The deceased (person) was so battered by the accused (person) that in a couple of days after the attack, the deceased (person) died, in spite of prompt medical attention. In such circumstance, I have no doubt that the death of the deceased (person) had resulted from the act of the accused [person] [page 116 of the record; italics supplied] Against this background, I entirely, endorse the submission of the Honourable Attorney General for the respondent that the appellant must be presumed to intend the natural consequences of his dastardly act his act of inflicting grievous bodily harm which resulted in the death of John Tom Umoh. True, indeed, this Court has long settled the point that the law presumes that a man intends the natural, probable consequences of his acts, Njoku v State [2013] All FWLR (Pt. 689) 1083; Ibikunle v State (supra); Nwokearu v State (supra).”

The Appellant’s further defences of provocation and self-defence also failed. Onnoghen CJN (as he then was) also stated:

“Thus, in totality, the evidence led by the witnesses paint a clear and better tapestry of the facts than that of the Appellant, who raised his defences of provocation and self-defence later in the proceedings. His violent attack on the deceased was no doubt the consequence of the destruction of economic trees belonging to the Appellant, thus giving him the motive for his assault on the deceased victim. This beating resulted in grievous harm which no doubt had the unfortunate, though foreseen consequence of causing injuries to the deceased, ultimately resulting in his subsequent death.”

It is saddening that a man would meet his untimely death because of his support for an electrification project which will certainly not serve only his interest but the interest of the entire community, including the Appellant. What is more? This case stands as a further sign of warning to all persons who take to fighting as the only solution to solving problems.

Stephen Azubuike
Author: Stephen Azubuike
Stephen is a lawyer with expertise in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Technology Law practice. He is a Partner at Infusion Lawyers. He has successfully argued cases from the High Courts of various jurisdictions to the Appellate Courts on behalf of financial institutions, other corporate bodies and multinationals. He has worked with a number of startup tech companies. He tweets @siazubuike.


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