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Dansuki, the former National Security Adviser can get off the corruption charges by plea bargaining, do you agree?
If you are Nigerian or you follow news and updates from my country, then you will be familiar with the current anti-corruption campaign sweeping over the country with the Office of the National Security Adviser under the Goodluck Jonathan administration right in the middle of it. I expressed to a colleague that the culprits may not see the inside of the jail cell if they plea bargain and return the stolen national funds but my colleague disagreed until I shared the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Plea bargaining is one area of criminal law practice that is yet to be explored in Nigeria and very few Nigerians know it even exists in our jurisprudence. Maybe, if we use it more often, it will serve as a means of reducing the cost and time to government of prosecuting an alleged offender, it will in turn ensure a smoother and faster administration of justice process and it gives an accused person an opportunity to plead to a lesser sentence.
The Black’s Law Dictionary defines “plea bargaining” as a negotiated agreement, between a prosecutor and a criminal defendant whereby the defendant pleads guilty or no contest to a lesser offense or to one of multiple charges in exchange for some concession by the prosecutor. In Nigerian law, the enabling provision of the law for plea bargains can be found in Section 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
The law in subsection 1 provides that –
“1) Notwithstanding anything in this Act or in any other law, the prosecutor may:
a) Receive and consider a plea bargain from a defendant charged with an offence either directly from that defendant or on his behalf;
b) Offer a plea bargain to a defendant charged with an offence.”
Furthermore, the prosecution may enter a plea bargain with the defendant if the evidence isn’t enough to prove the commission of the offence beyond reasonable doubt; the defendant has agreed to return the proceeds of the crime or make restitution; where in a case of conspiracy the defendant has fully cooperated with the investigation and when the Prosecutor believes it is in the interest of justice or public interest. The Prosecutor must however consult with the investigating police officer.
In determining whether entering a plea bargain is in the interest of justice, the prosecutor will consider the following –
i. The defendant’s willingness to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of others;
ii. The defendant’s criminal history
iii. The defendant’s remorse or willingness to accept responsibility for his conduct.
iv. The desirability for prompt disposition of the case;
v. The likelihood of obtaining a conviction;
vi. The probable sentence or consequences if the accused is sentenced;
vii. The need to avoid delay;
viii. The expense of a trial and appeal;
ix. The defendant’s willingness to pay compensation.
There are numerous advantages to Nigeria embracing the plea bargain provision in our Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, such as a decongested prison, reduction in cost of prosecution and also the opportunity for the accused to leniency after showing signs for remorse. I hope lawyers are making the best of this legal provision for the interest of their clients and the prosecution is also doing same for the interest of the public.
Adedunmade Onibokun Esq,