JOHN OKOYE v. THE STATE (1972) LPELR-2510(SC)
FACTS:
The appellant John Okoye was charged for the murder of his sister-in-law
Mgbankwo Nwuzo. on the day in question the appellant resented the action of
Mgbankwo Nwuzo in placing sticks on the ground for the erection of a shed and
pulled them down, and she repeatedly gathered her sticks and tried to put them up
again after he had pulled them down, the appellant then kicked her with his foot on
the waist and the stomach and then hit her on the head with a bamboo stick.
Mgbankwo Nwuzo fell down on the spot and died within a few moments
thereafter. The only eye witness to the murder was his niece Agnes Okoye, who at
the time of trial was 13 years. At trial her testimony was accepted by the court and
the appellant was subsequently convicted and sentenced. Dissatisfied he appealed.
ISSUE: Whether the competency of age is a matter for a child to understand the
nature of an oath
JUDGEMENT:
The court ruled adopting the position in Reg. v. Perkins (1840) 9 C. and R. v.
Michael Moscovitch (1924) 18 Cr. App. R. 37 in stating that competency is not a
matter of age but of understanding and that if a child understands the nature of an
oath, the provisions in question are completely out of place.
ISSUE: Meaning of a Child
JUDGEMENT:
The court ruled that a child is a young person in the formative period of life and
that while it is easy for a person of 6 or 7 not to understand the nature of an oath
same cannot be said of a child of 13 years or more.
The court further ruled that where the child is incapable of understanding the
nature of an oath the provisions of Section 182(1) of the Evidence Act must be
adopted to justify the necessary departure from the provisions of S.179 of the
Evidence Act but where the child is incapable of understanding the nature of an
oath, he must comply with the provisions of S.179.

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