AN APPRAISAL OF THE APPLICATION OF PLEA BARGAINING PROCEDURE IN NIGERIAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE RESEARCH
There are certain key decisions that people who are being prosecuted have to make: one of the most important decisions is to plead guilty. It is „plea bargain‟ when the accused pleads guilty in return for an offer by the prosecution or when the sitting judge has informally made it known that he will minimize the sentence if the accused pleads guilty with plea bargaining the process shifts the focus from the judge leavingthe negotiation to prosecutor and the accused or the accused‟s counsel. Practically, it may prevent a public finding of the facts and substitute it with a behind-the scenes cut short. In this case a deal is usually made between the prosecutor and the accused, whereby the prosecution may offer to drop more serious charge(s) against the accused in exchange for guilty plea of a lesser charge(s) and the prosecution and the accused come to an agreement to solve the case.
At the resolve of the case both parties, the prosecutor and the accused tend to achieve one thing, saving of time and reduction of costs.
There is need to begin and conclude trials expeditiously, decongest the prisons, reduce the time and financial cost of criminal investigations and trials still maintain and observe fundamental human rights principle without much ado; laying credence to the above, the concept of plea bargaining apparently seems to be one of the procedures that would assist the Nigerian criminal justice system to achieve these laudable objectives.
However, the concept “plea Bargaining” has generated a lot of arguments amongst members of the bench, bar, law enforcement agencies, the academic community and the public at large in Nigeria and it is this event of argument at various levels that generated the interest of the researcher to delve into this controversial area of study so as to make an attempt in ascertaining the proper position of the law.
These arguments today arose from the seemingly increasing use of plea bargaining by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria (EFCC) which the enabling Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act
Many people have argued in Nigeria that the practice of plea bargaining by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission allows offenders to receive insignificant punishment that will undermine deterrent aspect of criminal sanctions. Some also believe that offenders can evade the law, provided they are willing to bargain. Equally, some have argued that the practice circumvent the rigorous standards of “proof beyond reasonable doubt” imposed on the prosecution during criminal trials. Some people also believe that the application of plea bargaining comprises the fundamental principles enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.