The Lagos State Government says plea bargain has been entrenched in its criminal justice system, saying it curtails undue delay in the dispensation of criminal justice.
Calling for its adoption as a procedure in criminal proceedings, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Opeyemi Oke, gave the assurance on Monday while declaring open a special training for magistrates on plea bargain.
The programme was organised by the Rule of Law and Anti-corruption Programme (RoLAC) funded by the European Union and managed by the British Council.
Plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offence or to one of multiple charges in exchange for some concession by the prosecutor, usually, a more lenient sentence, or a dismissal of the other charges.
According to Oke, the concept of plea bargain is gradually gaining ground in Nigeria and has become very famous in the legal and socio-political lexicon.
“In Lagos State, the Administration of Criminal Justice Law has lent its hands in a push toward the adoption of the concept of plea-bargain as an accepted procedure in criminal proceedings.
“Arguably, since its incorporation as a feature of our criminal justice administration, it has proven to be a useful tool in aiding criminal justice administration and has also curtailed undue delays in the dispensation of criminal justice,’’ Oke said.
According to the chief judge, plea bargain saves judicial time and resources, reduces trauma on the victim, helps in prison decongestion and case management as well as reduces the number of awaiting trial inmates.
“A considerable number of high profile cases prosecuted by anti-graft agencies has been concluded using the plea bargain tool which, to my minds, is a form of criminal justice package on its own.
“It is here to stay and it gladdens my heart that we are here to partake of the wealth of knowledge and experience from our distinguished faculty,” she said.
Oke said that the importance of regular training for magistrates could not be over-emphasised, as it would keep adding to their knowledge.
She commended ROLAC for partnering with the Lagos State Judiciary to train magistrates, saying that such an effort was impacting positively on justice administration in the state.
“I am sure my magistrates will benefit immensely from this programme. We look forward to a rich, rewarding and highly educative training programme.
“I will, therefore, encourage you to make the best use of this programme,” she said.
Earlier, RoLAC’s Programme Officer, Mrs Ajibola Ajimakiwa, said that the training was done to enhance good governance in Nigeria by contributing to the strengthening of the rule of law and curbing corruption.
Ajimakiwa said that the training would support the Nigerian government’s commitment in fighting corruption and reforming the criminal justice system.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the four-day training has 50 magistrates, two solicitors two prosecutors and two officials of the Office of the Public Defender in attendance.