ABUBAKAR V. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2017)

In The Court of Appeal of Nigeria

On Wednesday, the 12th day of July, 2017

CA/J/18C/2013

Before Their Lordships

UCHECHUKWU ONYEMENAM Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria
HABEEB ADEWALE OLUMUYIWA ABIRU Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria
ELFRIEDA OLUWAYEMISI WILLIAMS-DAWODU Justice of The Court of Appeal of Nigeria


Between

GAMBO ABUBAKAR –Appellant

AND

FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA –Respondent

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UCHECHUKWU ONYEMENAM, J.C.A. (Delivering the Leading Judgment): The appeal is against the judgment of the Federal High Court, Jos division delivered on the 14th of February, 2011 by A.L. Allagoa, J. in Charge No. FHC/J/14C/2010. The said judgment is found at pages 95-110 of the record of appeal.

The Appellant was arraigned on 29th July, 2011 along with one Dauda Abubarkar on a three count charge of offences contrary to and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code Act, Cap. C38 Laws of the Federation 2004 and Section 15(2) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004 in charge No. FHC/1/14C/2010. The Appellant who is the 2nd accused on the charge sheet pleaded not guilty and the trial commenced.

The facts of the case is that on 7th March, 2010 at a time when mayhem was being unleashed on Dogo N’ahauwa and other villages of Jos South and Barkin Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State; the accused persons were apprehended at different locations in circumstances that suggested they were criminals. They were taken to the State Criminal Investigation Department of the Nigeria Police in Jos, where they made voluntary confessional statements. They were subsequently arraigned before the Federal High Court, Jos division on a three count charge. At the end of the trial, the Appellant was found guilty in counts one and three of the charge and sentenced to 2 years and 21 years respectively.

Dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial Court, the Appellant filed a Notice and Grounds of Appeal on 23rd March, 2011 which was later amended and filed on 21st November, 2013 but deemed properly filed and served on 21st February, 2014. Parties duly filed and exchanged their briefs whereupon the appeal was heard on 1st of June, 2017 after the Court was satisfied that the Appellant was served with hearing Notice for the day through his counsel Mr. A. S. Garba. Mr. Ihua – Maduenyi identified the Appellant’s brief filed on 15th February, 2011 but deemed properly filed and served on 2nd March, 2017; and urged the Court to deem the same adopted and argued under Order 19 Rule 9 (4) of the Court of Appeal Rules 2016. Mr. Ihua Maduenyi the learned counsel for the Respondent thereafter adopted and relied on the Respondent’s brief of argument in urging the Court to dismiss the appeal.
For the purpose of this appeal, the Appellant submitted a sole issue for determination, which is:
Whether from the record of proceedings, there was a proper arraignment of the Appellant before his trial, conviction and sentence by the trial Court.”
The Respondent’s counsel in the brief prepared by Mr. Charles Ihua – Maduenyi adopted the sole issue raised by Mr. A.S. Garba the Appellant’s counsel for determination. Since the Appellant’s counsel abandoned the other Grounds of appeal he did not raise issues from, I shall determine this appeal on the sole issue distilled by the parties as I deem the same appropriate for the determination of the appeal.
ARGUMENTS ON THE SOLE ISSUE 
Mr. Garba in the Appellant’s brief submitted that, there was no proper arraignment of the Appellant at the Trial Court before his trial, conviction and sentence. He contended that, even though the Appellant appeared in Court on 1st April, 2010, 29th April, 2010 and on 10th June, 2010 to answer allegations against him, the record did not show that the charge was sufficiently read and explained to him in the language he understands to the satisfaction of

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the Court. He added that the Appellant’s plea to the charge read to him on 10th June, 2010 at the Trial Court was not recorded by the Court as provided for by law. He invited the Court to page 79 of the record.
The learned counsel further submitted that the Trial Court did not follow the correct procedure in arraigning the Appellant as provided for by Section 187(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code and Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act. He noted what an arraignment must consist of to be adjudged valid.
He equally submitted on behalf of the Appellant that the requirements to read and explain charge to an accused person in the language he understands is based on the provisions of Section 36 (6) and (4) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended for the purpose of ensuring fairness to the accused person. The learned counsel contended that in a criminal trial where more than one accused person is charged as in the instant case, that the count must be read separately to each of the accused person and they must plead separately to the charge. Also that the record of proceedings must show that the count was read separately to each of the accused and that each pleads to them. See: YERIMA V. STATE (2010) 14 NWLR (PT. 1213) 25 at 41; OKOLI V. STATE (2012) 1 NWLR (PT 1281) 385 AT 400; YUSUFU V. STATE (2011) 18 NWLR (PT. 1279) 553 AT 879; BASSEY V. STATE (2012) 12 NWLR (PT. 1314) 209.
In conclusion, the learned counsel submitted that what the trial Court recorded at page 79 of the record on the plea of the Appellant, fell short of compliance with Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act and Section 36(6) (a) and (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended. He urged the Court to resolve the sole issue in favour of the Appellant.
In response, Mr. Ihua Maduenyi for the Respondent agreed with the Appellant’s counsel that there must be valid arraignment of an accused person otherwise, any ensuing trial, conviction and sentence will be null and void. He referred to: LUFADEJU V. JOHNSON (2007) ALL FWLR (PT. 371) 1532; TIMOTHY V. FRN (2012) 6 SC (pt. III) 159; MADU V. STATE (2012) 6 SC (pt. i) 80; KAJUBO V. STATE (1988) 1 NWLR (pt. 73) 721; EREKANURE v. STATE (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt. 294) 385; KALU v. STATE (1998) 13 NWLR (Pt. 5S3) 537; OKORO V. STATE (1998) 14 NWLR (pt. 584) 181 and OGUNYE V. STATE (1999) 5 NWLR (pt. 604) 548.
The learned counsel submitted that there was arraignment of the Appellant at the Court below before his trial and eventual conviction and sentence. He invited the Court to carefully scrutinize pages 75- 80 of the record where the arraignment of the Appellant was carried out on three occasions, to submit that in this case, the trial Court followed the requirement of the law. Mr. Ihua-Maduenyi recounted the proceedings of the Court on 10th June 2010 on how the Appellant took his plea to submit that the arraignment of the Appellant was in strict compliance with the provisions of Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act and Section 36 (6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.
In any case, he argued that both the Appellant and his counsel has not shown in their brief what exactly is their complaint with regard to the arraignment as contained at pages 75-90 of the record of Appeal apart from restating the basic principles of law on arraignment under Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act. He added that it is not the law that unless the Court so expressly

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records every detail of how it took the accused person’s plea, such an arraignment automatically becomes invalid and null and void. That the law, which enjoins a trial Court to be satisfied with the explanation of the charge to the accused person before he pleads thereto, is subjective and not objective. In this case he argued that there is nothing on record to suggest that the trial Court was not satisfied with the explanation of the charge to the Appellant. He relied on: OGUNYE V. STATE (1999) 5 NWLR (pt.604) 548 at 553. 
The Respondent’s counsel urged the Court to hold that Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act was substantially complied with by the learned trial Judge. That this issue is an after-thought and the same is raised in bad faith emphasizing that the learned counsel for the Appellant was present on the three occasions when the charge was read to the Appellant and when he took his plea. He did not raise any objection as to the purported non-compliance with the mandatory Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act.
He therefore prayed the Court to resolve the issue in favour of the Respondent.
RESOLUTION OF SOLE ISSUE
By the sole issue and submissions thereon, it is obvious that the Appellant is satisfied with the decision of the trial Court delivered on the 14th February, 2011. The Appellant’s only complaint is that his arraignment in the trial Court was fundamentally flawed, thereby rendering the whole trial a nullity and so entitling him to an acquittal.
It is indeed the law that once an arraignment of an accused person fails to comply with Section 187(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code; equivalent of Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act; the trial, which follows, no matter how well conducted and decided, will be a nullity. Accordingly to ensure a valid trial and decision, a trial Court must comply substantially with the provisions of Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act when an accused person is arraigned before it. Equally the judge must make accurate recordings to show there was due compliance.
The validity of the trial, conviction and sentence of an accused person stemmed on his competent arraignment is as a result of the provisions of Section 187(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code Law, (applicable in the Northern part of Nigeria); and its counterpart Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act (applicable in the Southern part of Nigeria); alongside with Section 36 (6) and (a) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria; which ensures the accused’s fundamental right to fair hearing is maintained. The referred Laws provide thus:
Section 187(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code Law;
“When the High Court is ready to commence the trial the accused shall appear or be brought before it and the charge shall be read out in Court and explained to him and he shall be asked whether he is guilty or not guilty of the offence or offences charged.”
Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act:
“The person to be tried upon any charge or information shall be placed before the Court unfettered unless the Court shall see cause otherwise to order, and the charge or information shall be read over and explained to him to the satisfaction of the Court by the registrar or other officer of the Court and such person shall be called upon to plead instantly thereto unless where the person is entitled to service of a copy of the information he objects to the want of such service and the Court finds that he has not been duly served.”
Section 36 (6) and (a) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999;
“Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to
(a) Be informed promptly in the language that he understands and in details of the nature of the offence.” 

For there to be a valid arraignment of an accused person: the procedure as provided for under Section 187(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code which proper import is x-rayed by the provisions of its rival Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act on pleading to a charge; must be followed, as failure amounts to breach of the accused person’s fundamental right to fair hearing, under Section 36 (6) (a) of the Constitution. The under listed have been adjudged by judicial authorities as the conditions for a valid arraignment in accordance with the above reproduced provisions of the law.
(a) The accused shall be placed before the Court unfettered unless the Court is satisfied that for safety concerns he should be fettered;
(b) The charge shall be read and explained to the accused person in the language he understands to the satisfaction of the Court by the registrar

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or any other officer of Court;
(c) The accused person shall then be called upon to plead to each charge;
(d) The plea of the accused person shall be instantly recorded.

Both parties are ad idem and rightly too, that the above-stated requirements of the law are mandatory and not directory and must be significantly complied with in all criminal trials. lt is worthy of note that these requirements have been specifically provided to guarantee the fair trial of an accused person and to safeguard his interest at such a trial. Little wonder that, failure to satisfy any of them will render the whole trial incurably defective and null and void.
The crucial question itching for an answer is whether the trial Court complied with the requirement for the valid arraignment of the Appellant before his trial, conviction and sentence subject of this appeal. I feel the good stand point to approach the answer to this all important question in this appeal is reference to the proceedings of the trial Court on arraignment of the Appellant. The Appellant’s grouse is at page 79 of the record. I shall therefore reproduce the relevant part of the proceedings.
“Court: Read the charge
Charge is read to the accused persons in English Language and interpreted from English to Hausa and the Accused persons acknowledge they understand the charge.
To Count 1, 1st and 2nd Accused persons plead not guilty as charged. To Count II, 1st and 2nd Accused persons plead not guilty as charged To Count III, 1st and 2nd Accused persons plead not guilty as charged.”
The Appellant’s counsel submitted that by the recording shown above, the trial Court did not follow the correct procedure in arraigning the Appellant. From pages 75 to 79 of the record referred to by the Respondent’s counsel, I see that the Appellant took plea three times, to wit: on 1st of April 2010 at pages 75 to 76 of the record; on 29th April, 2010 at pages 77 to 78 of the record; and then again on 10th June, 2010 at pages 79 of the record. Let me also reproduce the plea taken on 1st April, 2010:
COURT: Count 1 of the charge has been read and explained to the two accused persons.
COURT to 1st Accused: Do you understand the count of the charge? lf you do are you guilty or not guilty
1st Accused: I understand the 1st count of the charge, I am not guilty.
2nd Accused: I understand the 1st count of the charge. I am not guilty

COURT: The 2nd count of the charge has been read and explained to the two accused persons
COURT to the accused persons: Do you understand the 2nd count of the charge? If you do are you guilty or not guilty?
1st Accused: I understand the 2nd count of the charge. I am not guilty.
2nd Accused: I understand the 2nd count. I am not guilty.
COURT: The 3rd count has been read and explained to the two accused persons
COURT to the Accused person: Do you understand the 3rd count of the charge? lf you do are you guilty or not guilty?
1st Accused: I understand the 3rd count. I am not guilty.
2nd Accused: I understand the 3rd count. I am not guilty.” 

It is important to note that the Appellant’s counsel did not go beyond stating that the trial Court failed to follow the right procedure for arraignment as per Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act. He did not show in the brief their exact complaint with regard to the arraignment as contained at pages 75-79 of the record of Appeal. The Appellant’s counsel in my view should have been specific as to which of the requirements was not followed. That it is, whether: (a) the charge was not read to the Appellant and his plea not taken? or; (b) the trial judge did not state that he was satisfied that the Appellant understood the charge since he is an illiterate? or; (c) the Appellant did not have a fair hearing in view of the fact that the charge was not read or explained to him to the satisfaction of the Court? or; (d) the plea was not recorded or was recorded together? or; (e) the charge was not read separately to the Appellant since they were two accused persons at the trial Court. However, reading in between the lines of paragraph 4.5 at page 6 of the Appellant’s brief, I can garner the complaint of the Appellant to be that the trial Court failed to have the counts of the charge read separately to each of the two accused persons at the trial Court and have their individual plea recorded separately. Examining the plea(s) of the Appellant at pages 75 to 79 of the record, it is correct that the counts of the charge were not read separately to the Appellant and the other accused person. Also their plea at page 79 of the record was

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recorded for the Appellant and his co accused together. Does this procedure and recording satisfy the requirements of the arraignment law or does it amount to a breach of the right to fair hearing of the Appellant.
A careful consideration of Section 36(6) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (As amended); depicts that once a charge is read and explained to an accused person in the language he speaks and or understands before he takes his plea; his right under that section of the Constitution would be deemed complied with. ABUBAKAR MOHAMMED v. THE STATE (2015) LPELR – 24397 (SC). In my own understanding therefore the combined purport of Section 36(6) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (As amended); and Section 187 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code Law or the like Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act; is the reading of the charge and explaining each of the counts fully and carefully in the language the accused person speaks or understands and ensuring that the accused person has understood the offence he is alleged to have committed before taking his plea. Appropriately, plea should be taken on each of the counts. Where you have more than one accused person,each accused person shall separately plea to each of the several counts. Again where there are many accused persons, it is still substantial compliance of the arraignment procedure law for the counts to be read jointly for the accused persons to take their individual plea. There is no doubt that it is always more elegant to record accused persons’ plea separately; in which case the Court will record the plea thus:
“1st accused person pleads not guilty to count 1 of the charge
2nd accused person pleads not guilty to count 1 of the charge
3rd accused person pleads not guilty to count 1 of the charge
4th accused person pleads not guilty to count 1 of the charge.”
However, it will not vitiate the trial, conviction and sentence of an accused where the Court records the accused person’s individual plea jointly, for example a recording that reads thus. “1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th accused persons each plead not guilty to count 1 of the charge”.
Furthermore, where the learned trial Judge had each count read jointly to the accused persons and records the separate plea of several accused persons together; but had satisfied himself that each of the accused persons understands the offence he is charged in that count; the fact that he did not record his satisfaction will not be offensive to the arraignment procedure law so as to render an accused person’s trial, conviction and sentence a nullity. ABUBAKAR MOHAMMED V. THE STATE (2015) LPELR – 24397 (SC); UDEH v. STATE (1999) 7 NWLR (pt. 609) 1; JOSEPH DANIEL V. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (2015) LPELR 24733; EREKANURE V. THE STATE (1993) 5 NWLR (pt. 294) 385; KAJUBO V. THE STATE (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt. 73) 721, EFFIOM V. THE STATE (1995) 1. NWLR (Pt. 373) 507; TIMOTHY v. FRN (2012) 7 SCM 274. Commonsensically, when a Judge calls for the reading of a charge to an accused person and he takes his plea and the Court records his plea and thereafter proceeds to trial, the presumption of the law is that the Court is satisfied that the charge was explained to the accused to its satisfaction. See: OKORO V. THE STATE (1998) 14 NWLR (Pt.594) 181; where the Supreme Court per Wali, JSC put the matter succinctly as follows:- “The provision of the law should not be stretched to a point of absurdity by reading into it that the Judge must record that the charge was explained to the accused to his satisfaction before taking his plea. It will be impeaching the integrity of the Judge to do that, as no Judge will take the plea of an accused if he is not satisfied that the charge was read and explained to the accused to his satisfaction.”
I must emphasize though, that in all that I have laboured to state above, the accused person or persons must be placed before the Court unfettered unless the Court is satisfied that for safety reasons he (they) should be fettered.
The apex Court in ABUBAKAR MOHAMMED v. THE STATE (supra) while referring to UDEH v. STATE (1999) 7 NWLR (pt. 609) 1; explicitly stated, “where the Appellant who stood trial with another accused and was convicted of murder and complained on appeal that the block reading of the charge to joint accused persons vitiated the criminal trial, this Court by a majority of 4 to 1 dismissed the appeal. The majority view was that a block reading of the charge to joint accused persons does not vitiate a criminal trial. Ayoola, JSC who delivered the lead judgment stated at page 18 as follows:- “It is difficult to fathom the logic in the argument which, in effect is that the

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trial Judge should have stated that the charge had been read to each of the accused persons, or, that only separate reading of the charge meets with the requirements of Section 333. It would be manifestly absurd to suggest that if there were twenty or more jointly accused person, the charge should be read twenty times, notwithstanding that the charge may have mentioned each of the accused as joint participant in the crime charged. The provisions of Section 333 cannot be interpreted to lead to such absurdity. When, therefore, Section 333 provides that the charge shall be read over and explained over to the person to be tried, it does not mean that it is to be read to each of them separately, so that the charge shall be read as many times as there are persons to be tried. The reasonable view to my opinion, is that when persons to be jointly tried on a charge or information are placed before the Court, the requirement of Section 333 is complied with by reading and explaining it to the group. What the law requires and what satisfies the purpose of the law is that each of them should plead separately to it” in his concurring judgment, Belgore, JSC (as he then was) said: “The fact that more accused persons than one are arraigned is not vitiated by the charge being read and explained jointly to them. The fact of joint reading and explanation of the charge to the accused persons will not vitiate a trial once it is clear the accused in the dock understood the offence he is accused of committing and has pleaded to the same (SUNDAY KAJUBO V. THE STATE (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt. 73) 721, EREKANURE v. THE STATE (1993) 5 NWLR (pt. 254) 385; ONUOHA KALU v. THE STATE (1998) 13 NWLR (pt. 583) 53). By parity of reasoning since the charge contains 6 counts, it is not necessary to read out and explain each count to the accused before taking his plea. It will be sufficient if all the counts in the charge are read and explained to the accused and he is asked to plead to the charge as was done in this case. There is no complaint by the Appellant that he did not understand the charge against him; but rather that he should have been asked to plead to each count. The intention and purpose of Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Ogun State as well as Section 36 (6) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (As amended) were fully complied with in the arraignment of the Appellant and the taking of his plea. This issue is resolved against the Appellant.” per AKA’AHS, JSC. (pp. 37 – 39, paras. A – G).
It is important to note at this point that the object of the requirement in Section 187 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code Law or Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act is to ensure that justice is not only claimed to have been done but must be seen to have been done to the accused by ensuring that he understands the charge against him and so as to be able to make his defence to the charge. See: SOLOLA & ANOR. V. THE STATE (2005) 6 SCM 137; ADENIJI v. THE STATE (2001) 13 NWLR (pt. 730) 375; (2001) 7 SCM 1; JOSEPH DANIEL v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (supra). 
InJOSEPH DANIEL v. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA (supra), the apex Court noted that as in the case of ADENIJI v. THE STATE (2001) 13 NWLR (PT. 730) 375; (2001) 7 SCM 1, on the plea of the Appellant, the Court recorded the pleas as follows:- “Accused pleads not guilty to the charge” Counsel contended that the plea was not properly recorded in the trial Court. The Supreme Court held that since the accused person understood the English language, which is the language of the Court, there was no need to record that the charge was read to the accused in the language that he understands. Also in OKEKE V. THE STATE (2003) 5 SCM 131; on the plea of the accused, the trial Court recorded it as follows: “The charge is read to the accused who pleads not guilty to the charge.” The Court opined that two events took place in the above sentence. The first one is that the charge was read to the Appellant. The second one is that the Appellant pleaded not guilty. The apex Court held thus “I do not think the recording of a charge can be defeated merely because the trial Judge did not record that the charge was read in a particular language which is understood by the accused person, particularly in a situation such as this, where the Appellant was represented by counsel… taking a plea by an accused person presupposes that he understands the charge.”
So the absence of the details of how the charge was read and explained to the accused person, does not under the arraignment procedure law vitiate a trial. OKEKE v. THE STATE (supra). Once an accused person pleads to a charge before the Court without any

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objection, it presupposes that he understands the charge preferred against him. OKEWU V. FRN (supra). This is moreso, where as in the case the accused person is represented by a counsel.
With the referred decisions of the Supreme Court, the position of the law is unequivocally clear. In the present appeal where the Appellant was represented by counsel at the trial Court where he took his plea of “Not Guilty” and; there is nothing on record to impugn the fact that he perfectly understood the charge read and explained to him in Hausa language which he speaks and understands. Although the counts of the charge were read in block to Appellant and his co accused; their individual pleas on 10th June, 2010 recorded jointly; and the learned trial Judge did not categorically record that he was satisfied that the Appellant understood the nature of his plea; the arraignment procedure did not in anywhere contravene the requirements of Section 187 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code Law nor Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Act. Rather I hold the view that the manner in which the learned trial Judge recorded his plea though could have been more elegantly recorded, yet substantially complied with the law. Accordingly, I hold that there was a competent arraignment of the Appellant and his trial, conviction and sentence valid.
The sole issue is therefore resolved in favour of the Respondent. Appeal therefore lacks merit and fails. The same is dismissed. I affirm the decision of the Federal High Court in suit No: FHC/J/14C/2010 delivered on 14th February 2011 as the same is valid.
HABEEB ADEWALE OLUMUYIWA ABIRU, J.C.A.: I have had the privilege of reading the lead judgment delivered by my learned brother, Uchechukwu Onyemenam, JCA. His Lordship considered and resolved the issues in contention in this appeal. I agree with the reasoning and abide the conclusions. I wish to make some comments for emphasis.The sole complaint of the Appellant in this appeal is that the lower Court failed to comply with the provisions ofSection 187(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code. The section provides:
“When the High Court is ready to commence trial, the accused shall appear or brought before it and the charges shall be read out in Court and explained to him and he shall be asked whether he is guilty of the offence charged or offences charged.”
This complaint of the Appellant questioned whether or not there was a valid arraignment before he was tried by the lower Court. An arraignment involves the taking of the plea of an accused defendant. The plea is an accused defendant’s formal response of guilty or not guilty or no contest to a criminal charge. It is the means by which an Accused defendant joins issues with the State on a criminal charge. It is trite that one of the fundamental requirements of a valid trial in a criminal matter is a valid arraignment. In Idemudia vs State (1999) 7 NWLR (pt 610) 202 at 219 B-C, Karibi-Whvte, JSC stated that:
“A valid trial is posited on the fact of a valid arraignment. An arraignment as rationem ponere, that is calling on the accused to reckoning for the allegations of the offences against him. The laws of this country have made adequate provisions for the protection of the interest of the accused and the citizens in the proper administration of justice. Accordingly, the Court before whom an accused person is required to appear for reckoning in respect of allegations of offences, is required to observe certain constitutional requirements in Section 36(6)(a) and the provisions of Section 215 of the Criminal Procedure Law.”
Section 36(6)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that ‘every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to be informed promptly in the language that he understands and in detail of the nature of the offence.’ The Courts have, in the interpretation of the laws of criminal prosecution, laid down some essential requirements that must be satisfied for there to be a valid arraignment and these are (a) the defendant must be placed before the Court unfettered unless the Court shall see cause otherwise to order; (b) the charge or information must be read over and explained to the accused to the satisfaction of the Court by the registrar or other officer of the Court; (c) it must be read and explained to him in the language he understands; (d) the accused must be called upon to plead thereto unless there exists any valid reason to do otherwise such as objection to want of service where the defendant is entitled by law to service of a copy of the information the Court is

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satisfied that he has in fact not been duly served – Kajubo Vs State (1988) 1 NWLR (Pt 73) 721, Olabode Vs State (2009) 11 NWLR (pt 1152) 254, Temitope Vs State (2011) 6 NWLR (Pt 1 243) 289 and Olowoyo Vs State (2012) 17 NWLR (Pt 1329) 346.
These requirements are to ensure that an accused person gets a fair trial and he is not railroaded into jail. They are not merely cosmetic or mere semantics. They are provisions considered necessary to ensure that the accused defendant understands and appreciates what is being alleged against him, to which he is required to make a plea. The requirements cannot be waived, ignored or presumed. They are very important and mandatory and there must be clear evidence on the records that they were fully or substantially complied with. Arraignment is not a matter of technicality and it is a very important initial step in the trial of a person on a criminal charge. It is very critical and foundational to the successful prosecution and possible conviction of an accused defendant. A criminal trial anchored on a faulty arraignment process is tantamount to erecting a house on a faulty and sandy foundation and it will invariably collapse no matter how well the trial was conducted. Thus, the Courts have held that failure to comply with the conditions for a valid arraignment renders the whole trial a nullity- Kajubo vs State supra, Yahaya vs State (2002) 3 NWLR (pt 754) 289, Okeke vs State (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt 842) 25. Amala Vs State (2004) 12 NWLR (pt 888) 30, Solola Vs State (2005) 11 NWLR (Pt 937) 460, Lufadeju Vs Johnson (2007) 8 NWLR (Pt 1037) 535 and Dada vs State(2013) 2 NWLR (pt 1337) 59.
It was not the case of the Appellant that he was not arraigned before the lower Court. The records of appeal show that the plea of the appellant was taken on three different dates. The grouse of the Appellant is that the lower Court did not record that the charge was sufficiently read and explained to the Appellant in the language he understands to the satisfaction of the Court and that the charge was not read to the Appellant and his co-accused separately, but together. It is correct that it is good practice for trial Courts to specifically record that “the charge was read and fully, explained to the accused defendant to the satisfaction of the Court” before then recording his plea thereto – Kajubo Vs State supra. However, the law is that where there is no such recording but there is evidence on the record of the trial Court that the charge was read over to the accused person in the language he understands and he makes his plea and the Court records the plea and thereafter proceeds to trial, the presumption of the law is that the Court was satisfied that the charge was explained to the accused and the fact that the record of the trial Court does not include details of how the charge was read and explained to the accused and that it was done to its satisfaction will not vitiate or nullity the arraignment- Okoro Vs The State (1998) 14 NWLR (Pt 584) 181, Adeniji Vs The State (2001) 13 NWLR (Pt 730) 375, Okeke Vs The State (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt 842) 25, Daniel Vs Federal Republic of Nigeria (2015) 13 NWLR (Pt 1475) 119.
Similarly, it is desirable that where there are more than one accused defendant, they should be arraigned separately as there is no provision for block pleas under the law-Dike Vs State (1996) 5 NWLR (Pt 450) 553. The law, however, is that the fact that more accused persons than one are arraigned is not vitiated by the charge being read and explained to them jointly. The fact of joint reading and explanation of the charge to the accused persons will not vitiate a trial once it is clear that the accused person in the block understood the offence he is accused of committing and has pleaded to the same – Kalu Vs The State (1998) 13 NWLR (Pt 583) 53, Udeh Vs State (1999) 7 NWLR (Pt 609) 1 and Mohammed Vs State (2015) 10 NWLR (Pt 1468) 496. 
The records of the Court show that on each of the dates that the plea of the Appellant was taken, he was represented by Counsel and on none of those dates did the Appellant complain that he did not understand the offence or the language it was being read to him. The records show that the offences in the charge were read over to the Appellant and he pleaded to each one. The records show that neither the Appellant nor his Counsel made any complaint about any lapse or flaw in the procedure adopted in his arraignment before the lower Court either before or after he gave his plea. The arraignment was proper and the complaints of the Appellant in this appeal are baseless.
It is for these reasons and the fuller exposition of the law in the lead

…………………….I…………………….

judgment that I agree that there is no merit in the appeal. I too hereby dismiss the appeal and affirm the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Jos Judicial Division in Charge No FHC/J/14C/2010 delivered by Honorable Justice A. L. Allagoa on the 14th of February, 2011 convicting the Appellant and sentencing him accordingly.
ELFRIEDA OLUWAYEMISI WILLIAMS-DAWODU, J.C.A.: I have had the privilege and opportunity to preview the lead judgment delivered by my learned brother, UCHECHUKWU ONYEMENAM, JCA and I agree with the reasoning and conclusions therein.
The appeal lacks merit and it is hereby disallowed. I therefore affirm the judgment of the Court below. I make no order as to costs.

Appearances

Absent –For Appellant

AND

Charles Ihua-Maduenyi Esq. –For Respondent.

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