What is Confessional Statement?
To understand the meaning of the duo words: “Confessional Statement” in Nigeria, we have to dissect the twin words.
The Evidence Act 2011(Section 28), defined the word “Confession” to be an admission made by any person charged with a crime, stating or suggesting the inference that he committed the crime.
In furtherance of this statutory definition, the court in the case of Akibu v State(2019) 11 NWLR (Pt.1684). p. 439 stated:
“A confession is a criminal suspect’s oral or written acknowledgement of guilt, which often includes details about the crime alleged..it is an acknowledgement in express words by the accused person in criminal case, of the truth of the main fact charged”
It follows by inference thus, that Confessional Statement is a statement, oral or written, made by an accused person at any material time, admitting or suggesting the inference that he committed the crime alleged.
In simple terms, Confessional Statement is a voluntary statement of an accused person which state emphatically ‘‘ I truly committed this crime, or I did it with other persons”.
In confessional statement, an accused person assume full or partial responsibility for the crime committed.
Nature of Confessional Statement
For academic reasons, we have classified confessional statement in Nigeria into two: Extra- judicial Statement and Judicial Statement.
This type of confessional Statement, refers to extra judicial Statement of an accused person(whether oral or written), made by the accused person outside the court, which admit or suggest the inference that he committed the crime alleged.
In simple terms, where the Confessional Statement was made outside the court environment, it is extra judicial Statement.
This type of statement are usually made by the accused person at the point of arrest or at police Station.
A Confessional Statement can as well be judicial in nature; where the confession was made by the accused person orally in court or in writing before the court.
Is Confessional Statement admissible in Law?
Yes, confessional statement is admissible. Usually, the prosecution will tender the confessional statement during evidence, the accused person can object to the Statement or allow it to be admitted.
Where there are objections to its admissibility, the court will ascertain the reason for the objections.
Where the reasons is that the confessional Statement was not voluntarily made, the court will not admit the statement, until it has conducted Trial within Trial within trial to ascertain the voluntariness or otherwise of the statement.
But where the Confessional Statement is denied or retracted, the court will still admit it. Also, where the confessional statement is tendered and not objected to, the confessional statement will equally be admitted, and court will not border to ascertain it’s voluntarilness or otherwise. See Osung v State(2012) 18 NWLR. (PT. 1332) P. 256.
Can a Person be Convicted base on His Confessional Statement?
Confessional Statement makes the work of court and police easier, as it reduces the burden of investigation and evaluation of evidence. Utto v State.(2022) 2 NWLR (Pt. 1814) at p.376
However, the law does not command anybody to make a Confessional Statement. For no one should confess and admit the guilt of what he didn’t do.
Still, where a person elects to do so, it is allowed in law and the confessional statement can be used against him. See Akibu v State supra.
This is because Confessional statement made by an accused person, is the best pointer to the truth of his involvement in the commission of the crime.It is appropriate to convict the accused person base on confessional statement alone. See Adebayo v A-G, Ogun State(2008) 7 NWLR(pt.1085) 201. Ojegele v State(1988) 1 NWLR(Pt. 71) 414.
The Court in the case of Utto v State.(2022) 2 NWLR (Pt. 1814) p.375 held that Confessional Statement is even stronger than evidence of an eye witness because it comes from the accused person who committed the offence charged.
A court can convict on the confessional Statement alone without corroboration once it is satisfied of the truth of the confession. Once the court is satisfied that the statement is true, free and voluntarily made, unambiguous, direct and positive with reference to the offence charged, it can ground conviction. See FRN V Iweka (2013) 3 NWLR. PT. 285
However, for court to convict an accused person base on his confessional statement, the police officer who recorded it and the Interpreter who translated it, when the said statement was obtained must testify, if not, the Statement amount to hearsay. See Sokoto v INEC (2022) 3 NWLR(PT.1818) P.585
Can someone challenge a Confessional Statement?
Yes, a person can challenge a Confessional Statement, if the statement was obtained by threat, force, inducement or promise of any kind.
In other words, where you didn’t volunteer to make the statement, or you were coerced into signing the statement, you can challenge the statement in court(through your counsel).
When and How does a person Challenge a Confessional Statement?
A person can challenge a Confessional Statement in Nigeria, by simply objecting to its admissibility when it is tendered and citing the reason that the person was forced to make it or admit the facts therein.
In other words, an accused person who wishes to challenge a Confessional Statement in Nigeria, must do that at the time when it is tendered.
The most appropriate time to object to admissibility of Confessional Statement is at the point the prosecution seeks to tender same. Objections afterwards is deemed afterthought. See Akinkunmi v State (2022) 9 NWLR(Pt.1836) P.559
What happens where confessional statement is retracted?
By retraction, an accused person denies making the statement attributed to him. In other words, the accused person alleges innocent of the allegation made against him and could not have admitted the guilt in form of “confessional statement”.
Where the accused person denies making the statement, the court will still admit it. Retraction goes to weight to be attached to the statement and not it’s Admissibility.
The law is that retraction of confessional statement in Nigeria does not ipso facto, render the confession inadmissible. See Bature v State(1994) 1 NWLR(PT. 320) P.267
Where a Confessional Statement is retracted, it will still be admitted but the law requires corroboration no matter how slight or the conviction will be set aside. See Nalado v State (2019) 13 NWLR(Pt.1688) P.9. See also Oseni v State (2012) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1293) 351
Test for determining the Veracity of Confessional Statement.
Before Court will convict an accused person base on his confessional statement, the court has to satisfy itself by asking the following cardinal questions:
a. Is there anything outside the confession to show that it is true?
b. Is it corroborated?
c. Are the relevant statement made ón it of facts, true as far as they can be tested?
d. Was the prisoner one who has the opportunity of committing the crime?
e. Is his confession possible?
f. Is it consistent with other facts which have be ascertained and have been proved? See Akpan v State(1992) 6 NWLR(PT.248) P. 439. Nwebonyi v State(1994) 5 NWLR(PT. 343) P.138
When the court has answered the above questions, the court can go ahead and convict an accused person on his confessional Statement.
Even where there is no evidence to corroborate same, although it is always desirable to have some evidence outside the confession in further proof of the crime.