What will you do if
an angry colleague with whom you had a heated argument earlier in the day is
running towards you with a knife, obviously with the intention of doing you
harm? I am guessing if you do not have a way of protecting yourself, you had
probably run away but what if you had a gun, would you shoot your assailant?
And if you did shoot him, will self – defense avail you in court?
Let’s begin by
delving into what the self –defense as a defense stands for?

Self- defense
according to Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th Edition, is the use of
force to protect oneself, one’s family, or one’s property from real or
threatened attack. The principle states that a person is justified in using a
reasonable amount of force in self – defense if he or she reasonably believes
that the danger of bodily harm is imminent and that force is necessary to avoid
this danger.
Section 286 of the
Criminal Code Act states it as follows: –
a person is unlawfully assaulted, and has not provoked the assault, it is
lawful for him to use such force to the assailant as is reasonably necessary to
make effectual defense against the assault:
that the force used is not intended, and is not such as is likely, to cause
death or grievous harm.
If the
nature of the assault is such as to cause reasonable apprehension of death or
grievous harm, and the person using force by way of defense believes, on
reasonable grounds, that he cannot otherwise preserve the person defended from
death or grievous harm, it is lawful for him to use any such force to the assailant
as is necessary for defense, even though such force may cause death or grievous
An illustration is
the case of Nnamani V State (2005) 9 NWLR (Pt. 929) 147, where the accused
was charged with murder. The case of the prosecution was that the accused
person stabbed the deceased with a knife which led to the death of the latter.
The accused pleaded self – defense, stating that the deceased had tried to stab
him with a broken bottle, however, it was discovered that the deceased had
already dropped the broken  bottle long
before the accused stabbed him and it was held that self – defense could not
avail the accused.
The general rule is
the force you use to protect yourself must be equal to the degree of imminent
threat. Therefore, stabbing a person who wants to slap you is not self –
defense or shooting a person who wants to punch you except you can prove that
the punch would have killed you. 
Adedunmade Onibokun, Esq