By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, has said plea bargain will reduce the cost of prosecution in the country.
Malami, said this at a virtual stakeholders roundtable to review the draft guidelines on plea bargaining for federal prosecutors.
He said the provisions are inadequate to guide the prosecutor and the defendant in reaching a plea bargain that ensures the protection of public interest, the interest of justice and prevents abuse of legal process.
The AGF revealed that the provision in Section 270 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015,
can also be effectively deployed to address the compounding of offences which features in some statutes but without any procedural detail to aid its application.
He said, ‘’Section 270 of the ACJA (2015) provides the general legal framework for the application of Plea Bargain. I believe that this provision can also be effectively deployed to address the compounding of offences which features in some statutes but without any procedural detail to aid its application. This lacuna is responsible for abuses in compounding of offences which had strengthened the current public skepticism about plea bargaining in general.
‘’In spite of the laudable provisions of section 270 of the ACJA, there is no doubt that these provisions are inadequate to guide the prosecutor and the defendant in reaching a plea bargain that ensures the protection of public interest, the interest of justice and prevents abuse of legal process. This informed the development of the Draft Guidelines which is before you for review.
‘’As you are well aware, the Justice system in our nation is presently fraught with a lot of challenges which prolong adjudication time and most times frustrate parties. 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.’’
Concluding, he stated that ‘’The purpose of the Draft Guidelines is to promote standardization 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.’’