The President of the Pan African Lawyers Union, Chief Emeka Obegolu has called on the National Association of Prosecutors to extend the practice of plea bargain as envisaged under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) beyond the conventional practice of financial crimes with Politically exposed Persons but to also defendants in violent crimes such as terrorism, rape, armed robbery etc.
The President made this call when presenting the lead paper titled THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF PLEA BARGAIN IN ENHANCING SPEEDY DISPENSATION OF JUSTICE during the 5th summit on criminal justice administration organized by the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), ably supported by the National Association of Prosecutors (NAP) and the Federal Justice Sector Reform Coordinating Committee (FJSRCC) held at the Auditorium of the Federal Ministry of Justice on the 10th of April 2019.
He noted that with the legislation on plea bargain, the country has witnessed more convictions for allegations of financial crimes. He cites The reports released by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2018 as a testament to the fact that convictions have increased from what it was in 2017. In 2017 there were 189 convictions between January and December 2017 in contrast to 312 Convictions in 2018 between January and December 2018 10. He posited that the catalyst for this increase is at the door step of plea bargain.
Chief Obegolu noted that even with the gradual appreciation of the process of plea bargain as a positive innovation that can be utilized in the dispensation of criminal justice, investigation and victim – offender mediation, that regrettably, the federal Prosecutors and most state Prosecutors have not extended plea bargain to violent crimes.
He observed that it is only through plea bargain that the victim of a violent crime can be properly compensated as to bring a true closure to the incident while serving the interest of justice and public order. He advised however that plea bargain can only be beneficial to the society where the practitioners have practical skills in mediation and negotiation.
He invited the Prosecutors to note the provision in section 1 of the Act which provides that “The purpose of this Act is to ensure that the system of administration of criminal Justice in Nigeria promotes efficient management of criminal justice institutions, speedy dispensation of Justice, protection of the society from crime, and protection of rights and interests of the suspect, the defendant and the victim” and give true meaning to the purpose of the Act.
In conclusion the PALU President urged the organizers to do more of enlightenment to address the public perception of corruption in the implementation of some reported plea bargain agreements which invariably leads to the uninformed conclusion that plea bargain supports corruption and financial crimes.