What is Conspiracy?
This simply means a secret plan by a group of people to do something harmful or illegal. For there to be conspiracy, there must be an agreement between two or more persons to prosecute an unlawful purpose through an unlawful means.
According to the provision of S.516 of the Criminal Code, anyone who conspires to commit a felony would, except another punishment is provided, be liable to imprisonment of seven years. If the felony to be committed is one that has a punishment that is less than seven years, that would be the punishment for the conspiracy.
If the conspiracy is done regarding an act which is not a felony, S.517 CC provides that such persons would be liable for a misdemeanour and would be imprisoned for two years. It should be noted that an offender for the offence of conspiracy cannot be arrested without a warrant.
This was the position in the case of Sule vs The State 2009 Vol 17 NWLR pt 1169 wherein Ogbuagu JSC had this to say on conspiracy:
“… An offence of conspiracy can be committed where persons have acted either by an agreement or in concert. A bare agreement to commit an offence is sufficient. The actual commission of the offence is not necessary.
Thus, conspiracy to commit an offence is a separate and distinct offence and it is independent of the actual commission of the offence to which the conspiracy is related…”
Also, Philip Johnson in his book, The Unnecessary Crime of Conspiracy, defines conspiracy as:
“… An inchoate or preparatory crime permitting the punishment of persons who agree to commit a crime even if they never carry out their scheme or are apprehended before their objective…”
See also: DPP vs Bhagwan 1972 AC.
The definition is in pari materia with the provision of S.1 of the Criminal Attempt Act of 1981.
In the case of R vs Reed (1982) CLR, it was held that if A and B agree to rob a bank, in arriving at the bank it seems safe to do so, their agreement would necessary involve the commission of the offence of robbery. If it is carried out in accordance with their intentions, accordingly, they are guilty of the statutory offence of conspiracy.
Also in R vs Anderson (1986) AC where the accused for a fee agreed to supply diamond wire to cut through bar in order to enable another to escape from prison. The accused claimed that he only intended to supply the wire and then go abroad believing that the plan could never succeed. The accused’s conviction for conspiring with others was sustained at the appellate court.
See also: Oduneye vs The State (2001) vol 2 NWLR pt 697.
In the case of Otegheri vs IGP 1959 WRNLR, the court stated that the conspiring between the parties must be to do an act which is illegal. If the conspiring is to do a legal act the charge would hold no water.
In the case of Ogugu vs The State 1990 vol 2 NWLR pt 134, it was held that a person cannot be said to commit conspiracy if others alleged to have conspired with him are acquitted or discharged. To convict one person suggests that the others were equally guilty of conspiracy.
Also, by the decision of the court in the case of Suleiman vs The State (2009) vol 15 NWLR pt 1164, a single person cannot be charged for the offence of conspiracy.
Requirement for Proving Conspiracy
In order to establish the offence of conspiracy, there are some ingredients required to be proved. These ingredients were provided by the court in the case of Legi Mohammed vs The State 2014 LPELR 24311 CA. In this case, the court per Uwa JCA provided that the prosecution must prove the following for a conviction of conspiracy:
(a) An Agreement between two or more persons to do or cause to be done some illegal act or some act which is not illegal, by illegal means;
(b) Individual participation in the act by each of the accused persons.
- Lecture delivered by Dr Mrs. M.A. Abdulraheem Mustapha, faculty of Law, University of Ilorin.
- Okonkwo and Naish: Criminal Law in Nigeria
- The Nigerian criminal Code
- The Nigerian Penal Code