– Legal practitioners advise EFCC
– EFCC may resort to plea bargaining – report
For far too long, high-profile politically-exposed personalities alleged of misappropriating funds have been let off the hook and not made to face the penalty for their actions as prescribed by law.
And with the ongoing $2.1 billion arms procurement scam trial involving ex-National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), former Daar Communications Plc Chairman, Raymond Dokpesi, and a host of others, many fear that the case may go down the same road.
However, legal practitioners lent their expert advice to the prosecuting EFCC when they spoke with ENCOMIUM Weekly…
‘If you cannot prove your case beyond reasonable doubt, it has no merit’ – Deji Fasusi
What I believe is, if you don’t have a watertight case, you will not be able to secure conviction. They need to present their case in a manner in which the judge would be convinced without reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence. Failure to do that, the matter would be dismissed. If you cannot prove your case beyond reasonable doubt then it has no merit.
The onus is on the prosecution to prove their case because the constitutional presumption is that the accused or the defendant as the case may be is innocent.
If the evidence against Dasuki is not strong enough, that case has to be dismissed. That’s what the law is there for, it speaks not only for the plaintiff, it also speaks for the defendant. The defendant deserves to be heard.
’The EFCC must be alive to its responsibilities’ – Fred Agbaje
My advice is that the institutions in charge of prosecution of corrupt offenders, that’s the EFCC and ICPC, must be alive to their responsibilities. There must be thorough investigation, not shabby ones. Also, the prosecution department must be led by lawyers who know their onion and who are prepared to do their work diligently. Not lawyers who’ll accept EFCC briefs because of the monetary aspect or the publicity, and at the end of the day, they do nothing and the accused is set free again. I’m talking from experience.
If the investigation is wishy-washy or badly done, there’s nothing the prosecuting lawyers or the judges can do. Such a case is doomed to fail because the investigation has been badly carried out. And that’s the major problem of corruption cases in Nigeria.
Also, it falls on the judiciary to be upright and join in the fight against corruption. And I’m happy that the Abuja court has started well with punitive bail conditions.
I was in court one day when EFCC was called and one of the EFCC witnesses backed out. He withdrew his whole statement. In other words, some of these EFCC witnesses are easily bought by the suspect. And once that is done the case is messed up for the prosecution, particularly for the unserious prosecutor. So, the lawyers, the police and the judge are the three orishas that must be worshipped if we’re to make any progress in the fight against corruption. Otherwise, all the noise we hear in the news about $2.1bn, when they get to court, you discover that the EFCC will begin to backslide and the cases are thrown out with the accused discharged and acquitted.
Thankfully, the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 does not allow frivolous adjournments or postponements. It does not allow such which has allowed some EFCC suspects to return to government houses.
‘The state is not out to persecute but to prosecute’ – John Itodo
First, nobody escapes or has the power to escape justice. Like I said in my previous commentaries, the
success or otherwise of any case, particularly criminal charges rests on the shoulders of the prosecutors and the quality of evidence they are able to stark against the accused or defendant as it’s referred to in some jurisdictions.
The fate of Dasuki et al depends squarely on the prosecutor, his evidence and the witnesses he is able to put forward on the day. If any witness on the day of trial decides to wake from the wrong side of the bed and gives evidence that are damaging to the prosecution’s case, then it’s most likely game over for the prosecution and his team, the judge cannot help in that case and certainly not the media.
That is why it is good for the prosecution to carefully select his crop of witnesses, run a simulation or what lawyers call pre-trial with them before they enter the witness box; because once they enter that box, it is them and the court and everything that proceeds from their month until they are discharged is critical to the success or otherwise of the case.
Another issue is, no matter the media trial a defendant is subjected to, the judge has the final say, and that say is predicated on the evidence before him or her. The judge cannot import evidence from the media or social media and judge a defendant based on that even though he, the judge is a member of the society and listens to all the news and criticisms in the social media sphere, he is still neutral and ‘blind’ and I dare say deaf. The judge like the emblem of justice is blind.
Justice is a three way thing justice for the prosecution, justice for the complainant and justice for even the accused. The job of the prosecutor is to prove the guilt of the accused through credible evidence and the state is not out to persecute but to prosecute.
Finally, the state should not give the matter to any lawyer who is already involved in any high profile matter, reason being that too many cases bug them down and you know the consequence? 100 percent dedication to the case is not guaranteed.
‘We should not put sentiments into the issue’ – Alaba Okupe
Regardless of the allegations levelled against Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), he is entitled to fair hearing. His imprisonment cannot be guaranteed without due process of the law taking its course.
We should not put any sentiment into the issue. It’s Dasuki today, it could be anybody tomorrow.
He must be given a fair treatment, after which if he’s convicted, he must suffer the appropriate punishment recommended by law.
‘The passports of the accused should be in the custody of the court until it determines the outcome of the charges’ – Mohammed Fawehinmi
There should be an application by the prosecution that none of them should be allowed to leave the country until the cases are thoroughly thrashed out in court.
Second, the passports of the accused persons should be in the custody of the court until the court determines the outcome of the charges levelled against them. And until the cases are done, no public official should leave the country, except for the president and his vice, as well as the minister for foreign affairs, whose portfolio specifies that.
On the part of the EFCC, they should investigate properly before even drafting a single charge. Once they investigate properly, gathering the evidence they need, convicting the accused becomes easier. Thankfully, they have some very good prosecutors such as Mr Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, who we all know is one of Gani’s best products. He’s proven times without number that he’s an excellent prosecutor. But the EFCC must do their own job by getting the likes of him the best evidence which would secure conviction. Once that is done, I can guarantee they won’t escape justice.
I sincerely hope they do not escape justice because those monies were meant to purchase arms and secure the lives of the soldiers and of Nigerians that we’ve lost to Boko Haram, they must be made to pay for it.
‘The prosecution must ensure it has credible and watertight evidence to prove its case’ – Gabriel Onojason
My advice to the prosecution is that they should ensure they have watertight evidence. One thing in criminal prosecution is that the law is on the side of the accused. So, for you to get the accused convicted, you have to do extra work, which is why the law states that you must prove beyond any reasonable doubt. So, the prosecution has to ensure that the investigation they have carried out so far produces evidence that cannot be controverted by the accused.
Also, like I’ve always said, instead of charging someone with as much as 40 or 50 count charges, get two, three or four charges only and ensure that they are watertight. Then you can be sure to secure conviction. At times you see the prosecution charge an accused with 15, 18 or 22 count charges, and if you can’t prove all of them, the man will go scot-free.
Summarily, the prosecution has to look at the quality of the charges against the accused and then ensure they have credible and watertight evidence to prove their case. Finally, the prosecution must be up and doing. We’ve seen instances where the prosecution will not show up in court and the court will be so angry with them and will throw away the case. So, they have to be serious with the prosecution of the matter and put in its best. I think if they can do these, I believe they’ll secure a conviction that’ll send a message to everybody that the days of impunity are over, and that a new sheriff who’s serious with fighting corruption is in town.
Meanwhile, indications from the ongoing arms procurement scam trial suggest that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is not opposed to the idea of plea bargain for the suspects if they plead guilty.
And this is according to a report in a news publication. The report, however, added that such option should be initiated by the defendant; and that it would only be granted if the defendant is ready to refund the loot.
This would not be the first time the anti-graft commission would be opting for plea bargaining with the agency employing plea bargaining in the trial of the now-late former Bayelsa governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha; as well as in several high profile fraud cases.
What is Plea Bargain
According to legaldictionary.net, plea bargain is “an agreement between the prosecutor and defendant in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to some of the charges, or a lesser charge, in exchange for a reduced sentence, or some other concession by the prosecution.”
The American Bar Association (ABA) explaining further said, “Plea bargaining usually involves the defendant’s pleading guilty to a lesser charge, or to only one of several charges. It also may involve a guilty plea as charged, with the prosecution recommending leniency in sentencing. The judge, however, is not bound to follow the prosecution’s recommendation.”
- TADE ASIFAT and MICHAEL NWOKIKE