CRIMINAL LAW 2.9 ROBBERY AND ARMED ROBBERY
The mental and physical trauma caused by the use or threat of violence in effecting a theft is repugnant in the eyes of the law. To this extent, the offences of robbery and armed robbery have been criminalised.
:: As has been noted in FRN V Musa Iyaro, the offence of robbery and armed robbery comprise of the same elements… the only difference is the presence or absence of a firearm or other offensive weapon.
:: In robbery, there is no use of firearms or offensive weapon while in armed robbery, there is such use. Although in both, there is use of (or threat to use) violence.
Section 401 of the Criminal Code provides; any person who steals anything and at (or) immediately before or immediately after the time of stealing it, uses or threatens to use actual violence against the person or his property in order to obtain or retain the thing being stolen or retained is said to be guilty of robbery.
The elements of Robbery include; (note that there must also be an intention)
1, There should be Stealing: all the elements of stealing must be present-R V Martins. Stealing is a property offence, therefore the defence of bona fide claim of right may avail the accused-R V Hemmings.
2, There should be use of Violence or threat of violence: It is irrelevant whether the accused had the power to effect the violence or not. The question is whether a reasonable man in the shoes of the victim would fear. In Babalola V The State, the court held that it is irrelevant that the gun used was unloaded so long as a reasonable man would fear. In Nwachukwu V the State the accused used a toy gun and the court held that it amounted to robbery. The violence must be in actuality rather than an imagination. The violence used can cause damage to the person or to his property.
3, the use of violence must be “At” or “immediately before” or “immediately after” the time of stealing: The statutes did not define the phrase “immediately” which creates a problematic construction. The cases of Hale V R; R V Lockley; Njuguna V The State show that the courts shall construe based on the facts and circumstances of the each case. In R V Bekum; the deceased went to keep valuables at his friend’s house and as he proceeded to go and get something the accused attacked and killed him and took the valuables. Held that this is robbery.
In Babalola V The State, the complainants went to deposit some money at a bank with a briefcase. A man dressed in police uniform met them and told them that his “oga” wants to see them. They followed him. The “oga” then asked them if they had money in the briefcase and they replied in the affirmative. They were taken to a house and the accused threatened them with a gun and took their money. The court held that it does not matter that the gun might have been unloaded. What matters is that a reasonable man would have been frightened by the presence of the gun.
The offence is not committed where the complainant is not present so that there is no violence or threat of it.
In R V Fallon, the court held that where an accomplice is not aware that the partner(s) is (are) going to use violence, he may be excused and charged only for stealing.
Section 402(2) provides that any person who commits the offence of robbery and is armed with any firearm(s) or offensive weapon or obnoxious material or is in the company of a person so armed, shall be liable to life imprisonment. OR at, immediately before or immediately after wounds the person shall be liable to death. A similar provision can be found Section 1 of the Robbery and Firearms Act.
Section 11 of the Robbery and Firearms Act provides that: Firearms Include: Canon, gun, rifle, machine gun… Offensive weapon: Is any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person… Includes: Air gun, pistol, bow and arrow, spear, cutlass, machete, dagger, or any piece of metal, glass or stone and other material capable of being used as an offensive weapon.
Section 403 B of the Criminal Code provides that; “firearms” includes any canon, gun, flint-lock gun, revolver, pistol explosive or ammunition or other firearm…
“offensive weapon” means any article (apart from a firearm) made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person or intended by the person having it for such use by him and it includes an air gun, air pistol, bow and arrow, spear, cutlass, machete, dagger, cudgel, or any piece of wood, metal, glass or stone capable of being used as an offensive weapon.
People have regarded all robbery with any material (like handbag, pencil, belt, and so on) as armed robbery… so long as the material in question facilitated the theft and threatened the victim. That is they looked at how the weapon was used (i.e. its facilitative effect) as opposed to the nature of the weapon/offence. However, following the Ejusdem generis rule of interpretation they might not be correct. As a literal interpretation of Section 11 RFA and Section 403 of the Criminal Code, a pencil/ pen used in effecting a theft is arguably not an offensive weapon. In Emmanuel Eke V The State; the Supreme Court held that for armed robbery, the prosecution must prove that the accused went to rob with an armed weapon namely; knives, cutlasses… which were used to disposes the victim of the property. Aminu Tanko V The state, the accused persons were convicted for armed robbery where they robbed the complainant with an “offensive weapon” and caused him serious bodily injuries.
Remember that the law does not recognise juju. In R V Nwaoke, the accused pointed an object at the deceased and said that since he refused to pay up his debt, he shall not be able to sleep. The accused later committed suicide. Held there was no link between the act of the accused and the deceased.
Note also that proof in criminal law should be beyond reasonable doubt. As the court may require cogent evidence (in support of allegation) to convict a person for armed robbery. In Aruna V The State, it was alleged that at about 11:30 pm, the complainant was accosted by the accused and three others while returning from work. They then asked him to find money for them. He pleaded that he did not have anything and he ran to a hotel. They followed and in the hotel, the manager also joined in begging. One of the accused injured him on his eyebrow with a dagger and the other used a broken bottle on his neck and they made away with N 45 and his raincoat. At the trial court and appeal they were convicted for armed robbery and sentenced to death. At the Supreme Court, their conviction was quashed per Nnaemeka JSC because the evidence was contradictory as to the time and the kind of weapons used. There was no medical report on the manner and kind of injury caused.