Plea-bargain not soft landing for looters – FG

Dayo Apata

THE Federal Government has said the introduction of plea-bargain arrangement as a means of resolving criminal cases in the country is not intended as a soft landing mechanism for looters of public wealth.

It said the procedure is intended to reduce time and cost in lost in criminal prosecution. The Solicitor General of the Federation (SGF) and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice (FMJ), Dayo Apata (SAN) said these in Abuja.

Apata spoke while receiving a “Plea Bargaining Manual,” developed with the support of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) of the European Union (EU) in partnership with prosecutors and other officials of the FMJ and members of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).

Represented by the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF), Umar Mohammed, Apata said, if well applied, plea-bargain was capable of hastening the return of stolen assets to the country.

Apata, who expressed delight about the successful development of the manual, noted that plea-bargain forms an important component of criminal justice administration.

He stated when fully accepted, plea-Bargain “is capable of reducing litigation cost and time.”

Apata said the manual, meant to standardise the guidelines for the implementation of plea bargaining, will promote consistency of practice and enhance public confidence in the process.

He added: “Plea bargaining is an important component of the administration of criminal justice. It helps in the management of the caseload of prosecutors and enables the state to concentrate its limited resources on the cases considered more deserving of full prosecution.

“If carefully applied, plea bargaining can enhance the quick return of stolen assets. It can also aid the decongestion of the facilities of the Correctional Services

“We are therefore pleased to receive the manual today for formal adoption and implementation,” Apata said.

Legal consultant to RoLAC and President, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS), Professor Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN) noted that the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) must be sought for any plea bargaining application to be successful.

Akinseye-George explained that the manual did not place any limitations on the prosecutorial discretionary powers of the AGF, but that any agreement reached, based on the manual, shall be legally binding.

He said that the manual covers virtually everything that is required to have a successful plea or sentence bargain.

“Article 7.0 outlines a set of 12 guiding principles which must govern Plea and Sentence bargains.

“Article 8 describes specific factors which must be considered before recommending a Plea or Sentence bargain.

“But how do we know when Plea bargaining is not in the public interest? These factors to consider are listed in Article 9 of the Manual.

“The remaining articles, i.e Articles 10 to 15 deal with the general procedure to adopt when embarking on Plea and Sentence bargain.

“The procedure may be initiated by the prosecution or the defence. But it in all cases the application must be in writing and approve by the Hon. Attorney-General”, he said.

RoLAC’s National Programme Manager, Danladi Plang, while handing the manual to Mohammed, noted that over

300 cases were resolved last year in Lagos through the application of plea bargaining manual.

Plang assured that his group was ready to work with the Federal Government once the manual is adopted. – The Nation

– Jul. 3, 2020 @ 17:55 GMT |

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