This Day (Lagos)

10 December 2012

Nigeria: Plea-Bargain Is Eroding Judiciary Integrity, Says Olaifa

The former Chairman, Local Government Election Petition Tribunal in Oyo State, Justice Waheed Olaifa (rtd), has described plea-bargaining as a bad compromise which is eroding the integrity of the judiciary and deepening the culture of corruption in the country.

Olaifa who spoke with journalists shortly after he bowed out of the bench, noted that plea-bargaining was a strange element in the Nigerian legal system.

He said: "Plea bargaining is not in our own law. Instead of allowing plea bargaining and releasing accused persons, government could allow corrupt officials put down some of the stolen money and still be tried in the court of law.

"In criminal cases we recover items allegedly stolen and still punish the offenders. It would be double jeopardy for the person found guilty. However, they can ameliorate their jail term having recovered the stolen money.

"The present situation is such that encourages corruption because the corrupt person will put his mind on settlement having stolen more than enough," he said.

Also, he observed that the use of capital punishment should not be encouraged, because "we are more enlightened than that."

The jurist attributed slow dispensation of justice in the country to the use of old legal apparatuse.

According to him, "We are still using some of the old rules. The police always face hard time bringing accused persons to court. Usually, they complain that they don't have enough money to bring suspects to court."

"The police as well as the Ministry of Justice often complain that they don't have sufficient resources to bring witnesses to court. The police are really handicapped and they need to be helped.

"In some cases the Investigating Police Officer might have been transferred from the jurisdiction of the court. In such a situation how do you sort ongoing case?," he asked.

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