‘Plea bargain should be encouraged not abolished’

A ministerial nominee, James Ocholi, yesterday in Abuja, said plea-bargaining should be encouraged in pursuant of criminal justice rather than being abolished.

Ocholi, while fielding questions from the senators, said encouraging plea bargain would save time and money spent in pursuing criminal justices, although because the laws on it had not been codified.

Ocholi said that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act had addressed the challenge and paved way for plea-bargaining, saying “the Criminal Administration Act has codified how plea bargain can work.

“It has stated the circumstances where the plea bargain can be proposed, who initiates plea bargain, what the consequences should be when a suspect initiates plea bargain.

“I don’t think we should abolish it because it is very possible that someone who has the privilege to hold money in trust bridge the trust and later changes his mind and says sorry for what I have done.

“He should be allowed to return the money, it doesn’t prevent him from being convicted but it solves the entire riddle of 12 to 15 years criminal trial.

“Some of the cases in relation to the Abacha loot are still hanging which a plea bargain could have sorted them out. So, I think plea bargain should be encouraged instead of being abolished,” he said.

Ocholi said, in defence of the existing laws of Nigeria, no nation could codify laws for every offence that could arise; this was why judges always compared laws with other nations.

“So for now I think the laws we have are fair enough, of course there is room for improving them. The main thing we need is fair and adequate implementation of those laws; some of the laws are beginning to clash,” he said.

He berated delays in administration of justice, pledging that if his portfolio covered administration of justice, he would work hard to stop unnecessary delay in justice.

“I honestly think that justice delayed is justice denied and it injures people and when it injures people they are tempted to take laws into their hands. The earlier we are able to address it adequately the better and if I have the privilege to do this, I will,” he said.


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