The recent passing of the artiste, Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba also known as” Mohbad” on the 12th of September 2023, has brought forward a flurry of speculations and accusations regarding the circumstances of his death.Many have pointed fingers at his previous record label (Marlians Record Label), citing past altercations and his own statements as evidence.However, it is important to emphasize that suspicions and speculations cannot serve as proof of murder under the law.This article seeks to explore the legal aspects of murder, the burden of proof on the prosecution, and why suspicions alone cannot lead to a conviction as a matter of law.2.0: UNDERSTANDING HOMICIDE/MURDER UNDER THE LAWBasically section 316 of the Criminal Code Act defines murder as unlawful killing of a person, not justified by the law. In essence, it is the violation of the sanctity of human life, a grave offense that is punishable by law. Due to the nature of criminal law which requires strict punishment for the crime of murder. Section 319 of the Criminal Code Act prescribes death penalty for the offense of murder. See Okashetu v. State (2016) 15 NWLR (Pt. 1534).3.0: BURDEN OF PROOFIn criminal cases, such as murder, the burden of proof rests squarely and solely on the prosecution. What this means is that it is the duty of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. The accused is not obligated to prove their innocence. Whether through direct evidence from eyewitnesses, a confession from the accused, or circumstantial evidence, every element of the offense must be proven beyond reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. See section 135(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011, [Igabele v. State (2006) 6 NWLR (Pt. 975) 100.To secure a conviction for murder, the prosecution must establish three critical elements beyond reasonable doubt that:The deceased, a human being, is dead.
The act or omission of the accused that caused the death was unlawful.
The accused’s act or omission was intentional, with the knowledge that death or grievous bodily harm was likely to result. Aruna v. State (1990) 6 NWLR (Pt. 155) 125
Flowing from the above, it is deducible that an accused would not be deemed to have committed the offense of murder merely on grounds of suspicions, speculations or assumptions. Albeit, it is reasonable to presume that murder has occurred. However, the Law is that an accused shall be presumed to be innocent until contrary is proved. See section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. See Nwalu V State (2018) 14 NWLR (PT.1638) 441In the case of R vs Nwaoke (1939) Vol 5 WACA, the accused threatened the deceased with a charm that if he does not pay up the debt that he owed the accused, he would not be able to eat or sleep and he would subsequently die. Subsequently, the deceased was depressed and died few days later.The trial court convicted the accused. On appeal, the West African Court of Appeal allowed the appeal on the ground that there was no causal link between the threat of the accused and the subsequent death of the deceased. Thus, the accused was discharged and acquitted.As cited in the case of R v Nwaoke (Supra), the act of the accused by threatening the deceased is not sufficient enough to secure conviction. There must be a causal link between the death of the deceased and the accused.In line with the reasoning of the court in the above cited case, it is evident that in criminal matters, suspicion, however great, grave or strong, goes to no issue. In other words, suspicion, no matter how strong it is, cannot take the place of legal proof. See Idiok v State (2008) 13 NWLR (PT. 1104) 225.The court also held in the case of ONAGORUWA V STATE 1993 7 NWLR (PT.303) 49 that:It is not the law to establish a prima facie case on mere suspicion. The word suspicion, which ordinarily means an act of suspecting, state of being suspected or the imagining of something without evidence or on slender evidence, cannot be basis for criminal responsibility, even at the stage of establishing a prima facie case.In furtherance to the above, it is important to stress that circumstantial evidence which merely raises suspicion that an accused might have committed the offense of murder cannot ground any conviction. This is based on the principle of criminal justice that suspicion, however grievous, cannot be tantamount to criminal responsibility or be a ground for conviction of an accused person. Even in situations where there is a strong suspicion, the law requires concrete evidence to substantiate a claim of murder.4.0: THE WAY FORWARDIn light of the tragedy surrounding Mohbad’s death, it is important that a thorough investigation be conducted to uncover the truth of the matter. While suspicions may raise valid concerns, it is only through a diligent examination of the evidence that any criminal responsibility can be determined. Accusations made without sufficient evidence can have serious legal consequences, including potential defamation claims.5.0: CONCLUSIONNo doubt, Mohbad’s death is a painful and tragic one for his loyal friends and fans worldwide, however, it is important to be careful at this delicate time. While suspicions and allegations may arise in such circumstances considering the fact that the deceased at some point revealed that some set of people should be arrested if he dies, these facts alone cannot be substituted for the concrete proof required in a murder case. The legal system is designed to ensure that justice is served, and this entails a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation of the facts. Let us allow the legal process to unfold, the law enforcement agencies would soon, hopefully, uncover any relevant information that might have led to the deceased death.