Alex Enumah in Abuja
The federal government Thursday said that the mechanism of a plea bargain if well deployed is capable of fast-tracking the return of stolen assets to the nation.
Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata (SAN), who described plea bargaining as an important component of the administration of criminal justice was also of the opinion that the concept when fully accepted is capable of reducing litigation costs and time.
Apata spoke in Abuja, while receiving a plea bargaining manual on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami. The manual was developed with the support of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) in partnership with prosecutors and other officials of the Ministry of Justice as well as members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Apata, who was represented at the occasion by the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF), Mr. Umar Mohammed, seized the opportunity to correct the misconception that plea bargaining is deployed to give soft landing to looters of the nation’s treasury.
He said the standardisation of guidelines for the implementation of plea bargaining will promote consistency of practice and enhance public confidence in the process.
“Plea bargaining is an important component of the administration of criminal justice. It helps in the management of the caseload of prosecutors and enables the state to concentrate its limited resources on the cases considered more deserving of full prosecution. If carefully applied, plea bargaining can enhance the quick return of stolen assets. It can also aid the decongestion of the facilities of the Correctional Services,” he explained.
Also speaking, legal consultant to RoLAC and President, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS), Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), noted that for any plea bargaining application to be effective, it must be approved by the AGF.
While he stressed that the manual does not place any limitations on the prosecutorial discretionary powers of the AGF, Akinseye-George, however, stated that any agreement reached based on the manual shall be legally binding.
He noted that the manual covers virtually everything that is required to have a successful plea or sentence bargain.
“Article 7.0 outlines a set of 12 guiding principles which must govern plea and sentence bargains.
“Article 8 describes specific factors which must be considered before recommending a plea or sentence bargain.