An Abuja based activist, Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq., has shown displeasure at the way in which cases of suspects who are been prosecuted for one heinous crime or the other are struck out, with the suspect discharged on the ground of unwanted Prosecution.
Mr. Hameed made this known in a letter addressed to the Attorney General of the Federation, Malami Abubarkar, with the subject, “APPEAL FOR NECESSARY PRE-EMPTIVE ACTIONS TOWARDS CRIMINAL SUITS CONTINUOUSLY BEING STRUCK OUT BY TRIAL COURTS FOR THE PROSECUTION’S LACK OF DILIGENT PROSECUTION IN COURTS IN THE FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY-ABUJA”.
The letter which was dated the 21st November, 2018, and made available to TheNigerialawyer (TNL) reads in part:
” I have observed with dissatisfaction on several occasions, the striking out of suits by trial courts in the Federal Capital Territory-Abuja, in criminal proceedings, upon the applications of the Defendant’s counsel, the application which has been made pursuant to section 351(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015-herein after referred to as ACJA-, leading to the discharge of the defendants by the trial courts. I have also observed that the acts of the prosecuting counsel warranting the striking out order of the trial court have been due to the following among other reasons: (i) prosecution not being in court on the date fixed for trial or hearing of the suit without any reasonable or acceptable excuse to the court; (ii) prosecution not making its witnesses available for evidence in court after several adjournments, among others.
I could not hide my dissatisfaction and or displeasure at this attitude of the prosecuting counsel, and considering the present state of insecurity all across the nation, hence the writing of this letter as an appeal to Your Excellency for necessary preemptive actions in curbing this act of lack of diligence on the part of the prosecuting counsel leading to the discharge of the defendant in courts.
“Your Excellency, it is observable in these suits being struck out and the defendants being discharged, that the offences have been bothered on: armed robbery, theft, among other offences (including serious/indictable offences which threaten the security of this nation or cause injury to persons) yet, without considering the seriousness of these offences, and the dangers that some of these defendants if actually they were culpable, could pose to the public and their accompanying insecurity, the counsel in those matters were not diligent in prosecuting those cases with the intention of bringing the defendants to necessary and required justice according to laws of the land.
“Furthermore, Your Excellency would recall that the issue of ‘jungle justice’ which can be defined as the capital punishment meted out by individuals without any legal authority on a suspected individual (s), males, females or children or animals’, has been criticized and prohibited by all and sundry and the laws of our land for the negative effects it has on its victim(s). Members of the public have therefore through various orientation, counseling, seminars, among others, been counseled on the need to always submit and hand over any person arrested by them to the police or the appropriate law enforcement agency (either such person was arrested in the course of the act i.e. while committing the alleged criminal act or upon subsequent arrest made on him after the commission of the offence).
“This instruction, I believe, a high number of the members of the public have obeyed and trusted encouraging them to hand over the suspects to the law enforcement agency, causing a reduction in the cases of ‘jungle justice’ in Nigeria, and in the FCT specifically. Disappointingly, these arrested suspects that the public expected would be made to face the wrath of the laws of the land are charged to court and the prosecution would thereafter be reckless and not diligent in prosecuting the said defendants, leading to their discharge and being set free by the courts- including the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory-Abuja.
“Your Excellency, with due respect, it is noteworthy that the lack of diligence on the part of the prosecuting counsel who are under your control poses a great threat to the security of this nation. Some of these discharged persons for lack of the prosecution’s diligence, might lay a retaliatory attack on their victims or the informant or complainant who lead to their arrests which at the same time, upon the awareness of their discharge by the complainant, puts the complainant and his family or the community into fear of retaliation by their alleged suspects. Also, some of these suspects are unrepentant to the extent that they then utilize the opportunity of their freedom to perfect their ways of operation.
“Permit me to submit, Your Excellency, with due respect, and as a human rights activist, and having the progress of this nation at heart, that I find no one blameworthy for the lack of diligence on the part of the prosecution, than Your Excellency’s Office and that of the Director of Public Prosecution-herein after referred to as the DPP. This is because, public prosecution of offences by section 174(1)(a) and (b), (2) and (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)- herein after referred to as the Constitution- has been placed on Your Office thus ‘
‘174.–(1) The Attorney-General of the Federation shall have power— (a) to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria, other than a court-martial, in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National Assembly ;
(b) to take over and continue any such criminal proceedings that may have been instituted by any other authority or person ; and
(2) The powers conferred upon the Attorney-General of the Federation under subsection (1) of this section may be exercised by him in person or through officers of his department.
(3) In exercising his powers under this section the Attorney-General shall have regard to the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.’.
Therefore, and considering the provisions of the section 174(1)(a) and (b), (2) and (3) of the Constitution (supra), it is in my respectful submission that Your Excellency and the DPP are the ones not diligent because those prosecuting counsel are under the control and watch of Your Excellency’s Office and that of the DPP, so, vicarious liability would not allow any rejection of blame(s) from Your Excellency and the DPP.
“Having said all the above, I hereby recommend the following as what I consider as what could be a way-out of this situation:
“Your Excellency should call for records of all cases prosecuted in all courts in the FCT-Abuja (from the lowest courts to the High Courts) and the records of proceedings, especially those prosecuted since 2015 till date;
“Your Excellency should set up an investigative committee/panel (consisting of both legal practitioners in the public and private practice) to: gather the number of such cases struck out for lack of diligence prosecution; review and study the records of the proceedings; the reasons why those cases were struck out; the counsel that handled the cases or handling same, recommendations for strategic practice, etc.
“Necessary actions to be taken to forestall any such act of non-diligence of the prosecuting counsel from Your Office or any other Office of other prosecuting government’s agencies (Your Excellency being the Minister for Justice of the Federation by virtue of Section 150(1) of the Constitution).
“Necessary disciplinary action should be taken against any of the counsel that the investigative panel finds to have not been diligent with his duties which causes Your Office public embarrassment and public displeasure and breach of public’s trust.
“Finally, I am of the firm belief that Your Excellency would utilize your good authority to correct some of these alleged errors as being reported by this letter, and that the recommendations if carried out effectively would be of great assistance in the administration of criminal justice system in the prosecution of offences applicable to the FCT-Abuja and those of the Federal offences, in no time.