Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Opeyemi Oke has reiterated the need for Nigeria to join developed countries that have embraced the culture of plea bargaining in their judicial system.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a Plea Bargaining training programme for Magistrates of the Lagos State Judiciary organised by the Rule of Law & Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ROLAC) on Monday, the Chief Judge said that in the United States where it is deeply entrenched, its culture has greatly advanced the judicial sector of the country.
“In the United States where plea bargaining is deeply entrenched, the Columbia Law Review reports that about 90% of the criminal defendants convicted in State and Federal Courts plead guilty rather than exercise their right to stand trial before a Court or Jury”, Justice Oke stated.
She said that though plea bargain system is gradually gaining ground in Nigeria, the system, since its inception has proven to be a useful tool in aiding criminal justice administration and has also curtailed undue delays in the dispensation of criminal justice.
According to her, “A considerable number of high profile cases prosecuted by anti-graft agencies have been concluded using the plea bargaining tool which is a form of criminal justice package on its own”.
Justice Oke added that in Lagos State, the Administration of Criminal Justice Law has supported the push towards the adoption of the concept of plea bargaining as an accepted procedure in criminal proceedings.
She asserted that “Sections 76 and 77 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State has firmly entrenched Plea Bargaining into our Criminal Justice system. Plea Bargain saves precious judicial time and resources, reduces the trauma to the victim, helps with prison decongestion, case management for the courts and reduces the awaiting trial inmates in our prisons”.
While thanking ROLAC, for partnering with the Lagos State Judiciary to train its magistrates and for the efforts of the organisation towards improving the administration of justice, the Chief Judge expressed the belief that the Magistrates will benefit immensely from the training considering the calibre of resource persons that would facilitate different sessions of the training.