By Our Reporters
Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN
I think we need to understand the context in which the CJN is trying to re-direct the judiciary because of the wide spread corruption in the judiciary. What he is trying to do is to use extra-ordinary power to deal with the situation , but the question may be asked where did it get the power from?
Former CJN Alfa Belgore tried to do the same thing . So I think what the CJN is saying is that the plea bargain is being abused by some judges . An example is the case of lucky Igbenedion . What Prof. Chidi Odinkalu said is right . But I think if the position of the CJN and Prof Odinkalu can be harmonized, the country will be better for it . Corruption on Nigeria is an extra -ordinary problem that demands an extra -ordinary solution.
Professor Itsey Sagay, SAN
In principle, plea bargain is a good idea because it allows the prosecutor to negotiate with the defense and then judgment can be given quickly. But the judgment in sentencing or imposing fine or whatever will not be as heavy as when trial was concluded.
The result of plea bargain concept is that it reduces the cost of prosecution and the time for cases. But it does not work as it was intended.The state therefore does not have enough resources to prosecute more cases. So, I like it.
The CJN, I believe, has not said plea bargaining is bad in principle. The way the EFCC is using it is corrupt. The CJN must have his reasons for saying that they are using the whole concept in a corrupt manner and that is why he (CJN) is angry with it. He cannot ban it, it is a legislative thing. He can only discourage it by saying or advising judges and prosecutors not to use it.
Like I said, there is nothing wrong with the principle, but there is something wrong with the way we Nigerians use it, when it gets to our turn we will use it and spoil it.
Chief Felix Fagbohungbe, SAN
The CJN is very correct , I read the CJN’ report and I am in line with him Plea Bargain does not have a place in our justice system.
Chief Robert Clarke, SAN,
I support the two proponents who spoke in favour of the plea bargaining, that is, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. A plea bargain is part of our criminal justice system. Plea bargaining definitely leads to quick dispensation of criminal cases in court.
Many cases take so long in court because of the attitude of some of our lawyers. Why can’t we allow plea bargain to ensure that justice is done in criminal matters and at the same time ensure that little of the state resources are plough into a criminal case, little time and resources of the court is also used to achieving same result.
Plea bargain suppose to mean that the accused will plead guilty to the offence after which he will be sentenced and made to refund what he stole. The ultimate thing here is to secure conviction and ensure that the offender is punished for his offence.
Though, I may agree with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN in a way because of the prevailing corruption in the country where plea bargain may be misused by those who want to capitalise on the option as a soft landing measure out of their crimes.
Chief Solo Akuma, SAN, Former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice
Plea bargain is not a bad concept, but let there be a legislation on plea bargain, making it constitutional and how it should be done because as at today, there are no legislation on it. It is known to be the faster way of concluding criminal trial. It saves government cost of prosecuting the culprit but a guideline should be set out so that it is not abused by the prosecution, defence or the court.
Plea bargain to me should also entail a total refund of what the accused was alleged to have stolen, not a situation where one is alleged to have stolen N1billion and he or she is refunding N100million. That cannot be acceptable. In addition to the refund, the accused would also be convicted, that way the idea of being a convict would deter others from committing similar crime.
Norris Quakers, SAN
Plea bargain is now part of our administration of criminal justice . In Lagos State the concept of plea bargain is now part of the administration of criminal justice law of Lagos State Section 75 of the law gives the Attorney General of the state the right to determine the acceptance of a plea bargain under three parameters.
It is it in the interest of the public, it would serve the interest of justice, prevent the abuse of legal process. It is clear that only the Attorney General in the case of Lagos will determine whether to accept or reject a plea bargain. In other cases only the prosecution agencies using these parameters can determine the potency of the plea bargain.