Alex Enumah in Abuja
Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) yesterday observed that the effective deployment of the provisions of Plea Bargain will among others enhance the recovery of the country’s stolen assets by public office holders.
Malami made the observation while speaking at a virtual roundtable for the review of the draft guidelines on Plea Bargaining for federal prosecutors.
Plea Bargain according to section 494(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, is, “the process in criminal proceedings whereby the defendant and the prosecution work out a mutually acceptable disposition of the case, including the plea of the defendant to a lesser offence than that charged in the complaint or information and in conformity with other conditions imposed by the prosecution, in return for a lighter sentence than that of the higher charge subject to the court’s approval.”
Malami stated that the country’s justice system “is presently fraught with a lot of challenges which prolong adjudication time and most times frustrate parties”.
He argued that, if well implemented, Plea Bargain will help improve on the nation’s justice sector.
Represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata (SAN), the minister said, “The effective deployment of Plea Bargain provisions will therefore, reduce the financial cost of prosecutions, hasten trial process, eliminate uncertainty of trials, enhance the quick return of stolen assets, and generally enhance the efficiency of the criminal justice system”.
While describing the development of the Draft Guidelines as one of the strategic interventions by the Federal Ministry of Justice towards ensuring lasting reforms in the Criminal Justice Sector in Nigeria, he enjoined participants to come up with useful recommendations that would enhance the capabilities of federal prosecutors in the area of Plea Bargain.
“The purpose of the Draft Guidelines is to promote standardisation and consistency in Plea Bargain (including compounding of offences) by Federal Prosecutors as well as ensure that the principles of accountability, equity, integrity, and transparency are observed in reaching plea bargain agreements across board.
“The Draft provides further support to the existing Code of Conduct and Prosecutorial Guidelines for Federal Prosecutors which generally regulate the conducts and actions of Federal Prosecutors in the exercise of their prosecutorial discretion.
“I am informed that the purpose of this roundtable is to obtain the input of stakeholders, particularly with regard to foreseeable challenges in the implementation of the Draft Guidelines, for my consideration in finalising the document.
“This is indeed, a welcome development and a step towards fostering a healthy synergy amongst Federal Prosecutors for the overall benefit of the Criminal Justice System”, he said.