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Published On: Wed, May 14th, 2014

Senate moves to legalise plea bargain

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By Ikechukwu Okaforadi

Senate yesterday passed for second reading, a bill seeking to hasten the justice administration system of Nigeria, which will among others provisions, provide legal backing for plea bargain as a legal option in Nigeria.

The Bill, sponsored by the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, if finally passed, will provide a clear guide line in the implementation of plea bargain in the criminal justice system of Nigeria, which hitherto, is dependent on the discretion of the judge handling the case, which is believed to be subject to abuse.

Titled: “An Act to Repeal the criminal act procedure Act, criminal procedure (Northern States) Act 2004, the administration of Justice Commission act and enact the administration of Justice in Nigeria, the bill was passed and referred to Senate committee on judiciary for further works and to return it in four weeks’ time.

Leading the debates on the bill, Ndoma Egba noted that for several decades, Nigerians have lived with a criminal justice system that is grinding slow and subject to abuses.

While admitting that these abuses has rendered Nigeria’s judicial system ineffective, Egba also noted that from the police stations to the courts, to the Prisons, the system has delivered everything, yet the justice and the society has been worse for it.

According to him, part of the problem of the system is its inability to apply commensurate punishment to infractions.

“It is common to see a court give maximum sentence to a petty thief, while those who stole billions of naira from the public coffers get far lesser sanctions for their crimes when convicted by the court”, he said.

“The primary objective of the Bill is to ensure speedy and efficient administration of criminal justice in Nigeria. It seeks to bring together the criminal code and Penal Code in one body of law, so as to promote uniformity, protect the society from crime, as well as protect the rights and interests of accused and victims in criminal proceedings in the country” he said.

He said the Bill deals basically with the problem of delay in the dispensation of justice, which remains prominence in the aspect of criminal justice delivery in Nigeria.

In his remarks, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided the plenary, said any reform of criminal justice without reform of the Evidence Act will amount to futility.

“It is important that we look at consolidating the criminal code and Penal Code”, he said.

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