AN IDENTIFICATION PARADE (ITS’ PROCESSES AND CONSIDERATIONS) UNDER THE NIGERIAN LAW.
When a crime has been committed, some suspects may be rounded up by the Police. If at the time of the commission of such crime, the victim had no proper opportunity to witness properly the committer(s) of such crime, for the sake of not prosecuting a wrong person, the law requires that an identification parade be conducted. This identification parade is done to diminish doubts and dismantle, to an extent, the presumption of innocence accorded by section 36(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
Here is an example of where and when an identification parade may be apt:
i. Rashid was traveling in his Volkswagen Passat at night at about 10pm.
ii. Rashid was stopped and robbed by a person(s).
iii. A report was made by Rashid to the nearest Police station as to the occured robbery.
iv. Two days later, the Police reportedly arrested some set of men within that same vicinity where Rashid was robbed.
v. Rashid is called upon to identify the man who robbed him. Whether he is accurate or not is immaterial. There will be a criminal trial thereafter, and the criminal trial will show whether the identified person is the robber or not.
The above illustrates a vivid example of how an identification parade may be done.
An identification parade is done, usually, by the Police, or where necessary a body having similar powers, usually in investigating, to the Police may conduct the parade.
Without further intro, this write-up shall look at:
i. The definition of an identification parade.
ii. Purpose of an identification parade.
iii. Forms of an identification parade.
iv. Other notable points about an identification parade.
B. DEFINITION AND MEANING OF IDENTIFICATION PARADE.
Simpliciter, an identification parade is a process whereby the victim of a crime may identify the culprit or committer of the crime. Several definitions may exist for the definition of an identification parade; however, apt is a definition given in the case of ARCHIBONG V. STATE (2004) 1 NWLR (Pt. 855) page 488 at pages 509–510: “An identification parade is one tending to show that the person charged with an offence is the same person who committed the offence. When an identification evidence is poor, the trial court should return a verdict of not guilty unless there is other evidence which goes to support the correctness of the identification.” Vide: AGBOOLA v. STATE
(2013) LPELR-20652(SC); ADEBAYO v. STATE (2014) LPELR-22988(SC); FAMUYIWA V. STATE (2018) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1613) 515; OGUNDIRAN v. STATE (2019) LPELR-47394(CA).
The above definition should and by all legal reasonability be taken to mean a part of a process by which the supposed committer of an offence is identified. The use of the word “tending” is explanatory of the last stated point. For the purpose of an identification parade, the word “tending” shall bear “possibly”, “probably”, “likely”. Whether an identification parade is done or not, a trial is held. If an identification parade purpose, is to identify the committer of an offence, then what is the use of a trial? So it must be put in mind that an identification parade is not foolproof. It is only a process in the prosecution of an offence.
An identification parade is also known as, in Police circle, “line-up”, which is an identification procedure in which a criminal suspect and other physically similar persons are shown to the victim or a witness to determine whether the accused can be identified as the perpetrator of the crime. See ALUFOHAI v. STATE (2014) LPELR-24215(SC); MOSES EDE OGBONNA v. INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE (2020) JELR 91607 (CA).
C. PURPOSE OF AN IDENTIFICATION PARADE.
The sole purpose of an identification parade is to ascertain if the accused as charged is the same person who committed the offence. This has to be beyond reasonable doubt so that the wrong person is not tried before the Court. See AGBI V. OGBEH (2005) 8 NWLR (Pt. 926) p.40; MUSTAPHA V. STATE (2008) WRN (Vol . 2) 76 at 83; NDUKWE V. STATE (2009) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1139) p.43; NWATURUOCHA V. STATE (2011) 6 NWLR (Pt. 1242) p.170.
If the victim is able to point to one of the persons lined up for identification as the committer of the offence, then such person is proceeded to trial.
It must be noted again that an identification parade is not foolproof as to the identified person being responsible for the commission of the offence. See: per Oputa JSC in IKEMSON V. STATE (1989) LPELR-1473 (SC); EYISI & ORS V. THE STATE (2000) LPELR-1186(SC);
D. WHEN AN IDENTIFICATION PARADE WILL AND WILL NOT BE NECESSARY.
An identification parade has its’ purposefulness. There are instances where an identification parade is necessary and also instances where it may not be necessary. The following instances shall be treated hereinbelow.
D.1. AN IDENTIFICATION PARADE WILL NOT BE NECESSARY WHEN AND WHERE:
i. The accused is caught red-handed in the crime commission.
ii. When the accused confesses to the commission of the crime.
iii. The nature of the crime does not demand an identification parade being necessary, e.g. bribery by a public servant.
For the above propositions, see the case of ADISA V. STATE (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt. 168) p.490 at 505 per Tobi JCA;
D.2. AN IDENTIFICATION PARADE WILL BE NECESSARY WHEN AND WHERE:
Quoting Ariwoola, JSC, in AGBOOLA V. STATE (2013) 11 NWLR (Pt. 1366) 619:
“(a) the victim did not know the accused person before and his first acquaintance with him is during the commission of the offence;
(b) where the victim was confronted by the offender for a very short time; and (c) where the victim, due to time and circumstances, might not have had the full opportunity of observing the features of the accused. See R. v. Turnbul (1976) 3 All ER 549 or (1977) QB 224 at 228–231.”
The above instances revolve around where the victim prior has not had the opportunity to know the culprit well enough, or just had little opportunity to see the culprit. Whether the above instances assures the identification of the culprit is no issue as such is not the end; a trial will have to be conducted.
In another case, the case of OSUAGWU V. THE STATE (2013) 5 NWLR (Pt. 1347) 360, Rhodes-Vivour, JSC, concluded that: “An identification parade should be conducted:
1. When the offence was committed in the dark and the victim only had a fleeting encounter with the robber.
2. When it is clear that the victim was traumatised when the offence was committed.
3. Where the eyewitnesses/victim fail of the earliest opportunity to name the person known to him who he claims committed the offence.
4. When the robber was not arrested of (sic) the scene of the robbery, but was arrested after the robbery. The above is not exhaustive. Where on the other hand the victim of the crime or a witness promptly identifies the suspect there would be no need for an identification parade.”
Identification parade is not only the means of identifying a culprit. Evidence extant, before prosecution, could point to the accused as the committer of a crime. In UGWU v. STATE (2020) LPELR-49375(SC), Ariwoola JSC stated, regarding identification parade: “It is trite law that an identification parade is not a sine qua non for identification in all cases where there have been a fleeting encounter with the victim of a crime, if there is yet other pieces of evidence leading conclusively to the identity of the perpetrator of the offence. Therefore, an identification parade will only become necessary where the victim of the crime did not know the accused before his acquaintance with him during the commission of the offence.”
E. FORMS OF IDENTIFICATION PARADE.
Identification parade could take different forms. This simply means the means by which the victim may identify the culprit. It could be via the voice of the culprit; the facial appearance, physique, or demeanour of the culprit. In EHIMIYEIN v. STATE (2013) LPELR-20764(CA) it was stated ‘’Identification parade may take various forms such as visual identification, voice identification, etc. If there is no dispute about the identity and identification of an accused person by a witness, there will be no reason why his evidence alone if believed cannot ground or sustain a conviction.’’ Per BAGE, J.C.A (P. 29, paras. B-C).
F. NOTABLE POINTS ABOUT IDENTIFICATION PARADE.
i. The accused must be paraded in a group of other persons. That being so, an identification parade with only the accused person(s) on parade is certainly not an identification parade known to the law. See AKIBU v. STATE (2016) JELR 48853 (CA)
ii. The identifier/victim must be untutored in the parade. The victim must not be told whom to identify. In ALABI v. THE STATE (1993) LPELR-397(SC) it was stated “Identification parade means a group of persons of identical size and common physical features assembled by the police from whom a witness identifies a suspect or suspects unaided and untutored”. PER ONU, J.S.C.
Where the victim is tutored as to whom to identify such will affect the weight to be placed on such identification.
iii. There are several considerations which may affect an identification parade, this was stated in the case of ISIBOR V. THE STATE (2001) LPELR-6978(CA), “The consideration governing proper identification parade include inter alia as laid down in Alabi v. State (1993) 7 NWLR (Pt.307) 511 are as under —
(a) the description of the accused given to the police shortly after the commission of the offence;
(b) the opportunity the victim had for observing the accused and;
© what features of the accused noted by the victim and communicated to the police which mark him out from other persons.” Per ONALAJA, J.C.A.(P. 49, paras. A-C).
An identification parade is not foolproof for the identification of a culprit. An identification parade is just a process. Until the trial is completed, the accused is deemed innocent. This is in line with section 36(5) of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). Only a Court of Law established by the Nigerian constitution can declare a person guilty; not the Police or a process.