The Appellant herein and one Mr. Adekanye Komolafe were provost and bursar respectively of Federal Cooperative College! lbadan. They were arraigned before the Oyo State High Court, lbadan charged with offences bordering on contravention of Section 17(1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Relate Offences Act, 2000. During the trial the prosecution called the witnesses and tendered several documents in evidence. The Appellant and her co-accused testified in their defence and called additional four witnesses.
At the end of the trial and in a reserved and considered judgment, the Appellant and her co-accused were each convicted under counts 5,6,7 and 8 and sentenced to one year imprisonment on each count. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.
The Appellant was dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial court. Being aggrieved, she appealed to the Court of Appeal, lbadan, where her appeal was dismissed. She has now brought this appeal.
ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION
1. Whether the High Court of Oyo State had the jurisdiction to try the Appellant for the offences charged particular regard being had to the combined effects of the provisions of Sections 251(1)(p) and 251(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended)?
2. Whether in the absence of proof of a corrupt intent in the preparation of the budget proposals, the prosecution successfully discharged the burden of proof required for the conviction of the Appellant under the provisions of Section 17(1)(c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
Appellant filed a reply brief on 30th October, 2017. Before l delve into the submissions of learned counsel, I wish to set out in brief the facts that gave rise to this appeal, which are in my view simple and straight forward.
The Appellant herein was the provost of Federal Cooperative College Ibadan. Mr Adekanye Komolafe was the bursar of the same college. The two of them prepared and submitted nominal rolls and Budget proposals for the staff of the college for 2006, wherewith they presented 41 casual staff as permanent staff. As a result of such presentation to the Federal Government, the sum of N7,041,861.15 was released every year as salaries and emoluments for the 41 casual staff, whereas the actual amount that was paid to the causal staff was N3,690,000.00 only.
In arguing the second issue, which is now the first issue, by virtue of the withdrawal of the first issue, learned counsel for the Appellant submitted that Section 251 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria confers criminal jurisdiction on the Federal High Court in respect of matters over which it has exclusive jurisdiction under Section 251 (1) of the same constitution. According to the learned counsel, one of the areas over which the Federal High Court has exclusive jurisdiction are matters involving the administration, management and control of the Federal Government and its agencies. it is the view of the learned counsel that the conduct forming the basis of the charge against the Appellant was in the performance of her duty as the provost of the Federal Cooperative College, lbadan, an agency of the Federal Government, as such only the Federal High Court could validly try the offences alleged to have been committed as reflected on the charge. Section 251 (1)(a) and (p) of the 1999 Constitution.
By the Appellant’s defence as reproduced above, the Appellant admitted that the 41 casual staff which she represented in the budget were yet to be converted to permanent staff as at the time the budget proposals were submitted to the Federal Government. She also admitted that she was aware that Exhibit 83, the handover note did not disclose the true status of the 41 casual workers, and that is why they were subjected to interview with a view to converting them to permanent staff. Finally she admitted that the difference between the actual money paid to the 41 casual staff and the money received from the Federal Government was used to offset outstanding salaries of other staff, which is not the purpose for which the money was requested for in the budget. All these admissions were not disclosed to the Federal Government when the budget proposals were submitted.
The facts admitted by the Appellant represent the allegation against her for which she was arraigned before the trial court. The law is settled beyond any argument that admitted facts require no further proof. See NNPC vs Klifco (Nig) Ltd 2011 10 NWLR (Pt. 1255) 209; lkare Community Bank vs Ademuwagun (2005) 7 NWLR (Pt 924) 275; Ogolo vs Fubara (2003) 11 NWLR (Pt 831) 231; Adeleke vs Asarifa (1986) 3 NWLR (Pt 30) 575; Nonye vs Anyichie (1989) 2 NLWR (Pt 101) 110.
Learned counsel for the Appellant argued forcefully that the learned trial Judge failed to advert to the fact that the defences so enumerated negated any corrupt intention on the part of the appellant. According to the learned counsel, the Court of Appeal incorrectly held that the prosecution established the required mens rea for a conviction on the offence charged. In a further argument, learned counsel submitted that the lower court was wrong to have affirmed the conviction of the Appellant when the evidence led before the trial court negated any corrupt intention. Section 17 (1) (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 provides as follows:” 17(1) any person who corruptly —(c) knowingly gives to any agent, or being an agent knowingly uses with intent to deceive his principal, any receipt, account other document in respect of which the principal is interested and which contains any statement which is false or erroneous or defective in any material particular, and which to his knowledge is intended to mislead his principal or any other person, is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to five years imprisonment.”
From the provision of Section 17 (i) (c) which I have reproduced hereinabove, for the prosecution to succeed, it must prove that the accused knowingly deceived his principal or intended to deceive his principal by presenting a document in which the principal is interested in and that the document contains false material. A man’s intention can only be established by circumstances and facts leading to the commission of the crime for which he is charged. It is very difficult to know what a man intends without resorting to chains of events that culminated into the acts complained of. It is only God and perhaps the devil whose powers are beyond human comprehension that will know a man’s intention. Intent is defined in Wager vs Pro CA 603 F, 2d 1005 as a mental attitude which can seldom be proved by direct evidence, but must ordinarily be proved by circumstances from which it may be inferred. Also in State vs Gantt 26 NC, App. 554 intent is defined as a state of mind existing at the time a person commits an offence and may be shown by act, circumstances and inferences deducible therefrom. See State vs Evans 219 Kan 548 P. 2d 772, 777. From the facts of this case the Appellant and the Bursar of the college knew that the 41 casual staff were not permanent staff. This is clearly admitted by the Appellant who said because of that knowledge, they interviewed the 41 casual staff with a view to converting them to permanent staff.
I therefore do not see the rationale behind learned counsel’s argument that the prosecution failed to prove that the Appellant had the necessary intention to commit the Offence for which she was charged. The Court of Appeal was right when it affirmed the decision of the trial court. Section 17 (1)(c) does not suggest that money lost as a result of the receipt or misrepresentation must be recovered from an accused before she could be found guilty of the offence. Mere deception and presentation of false and erroneous or defective material by a person with intent to mislead his principal or any other person is enough. The omission of the word corruptly from the reproduction and consideration of the provision of Section 17 (1)(c) by the Court of Appeal has not affected the quality of its judgment. I have also read through the reply brief and l have found that it contains argument canvassed in the Appellant’s brief of argument. The essence of a reply brief is not to reopen argument already canvassed. It is to reply to new issues that have arisen in the Respondent’s brief of argument. Learned counsel for the Appellant has not convinced me to overturn the decision of the lower court on this issue, which l resolve against the Appellant.
Having resolved the two issues submitted for the determination of this appeal against the Appellant, this appeal shall be and it is hereby dismissed.
The decision of the lower court is accordingly affirmed.
Paul Adamu Galinje, JSC
Mr. 0.0 Ogungbade Esq with Toyese Owoade; O. A. Adenipekun for the Appellant.
Mr. George Lawal Esq with him is K. K Anabraba for the Respondent.
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