Published April 12th, 2012
As an expert in forensic
psychology it is essential to quickly point out that in researching the current
controversies surrounding plea bargaining in Nigeria the constitutionality of
plea bargaining is yet to be established in our federal system of justice.
By every standard plea bargaining is odd to
the Nigerian legal system as our system of jurisprudence is
rooted in the English common law.
Like many things in Nigeria persons, agencies
or institutions sometimes covertly make their own “laws”
then run their offices with the belief that their creations
like the plea bargaining concept is part of the law of the
Currently in Nigeria, as pointed out by the
Senate President David Mark, plea bargaining should not be
used to protect any bad wealthy men and women in Nigeria.
In the same vein, the Chief Justice of
Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher condemns the unusual
leniency that comes with plea-bargaining, an arrangement
that is clearly outside the nation’s constitutional or legal
But this was not the case of the United
States of America, where the system of plea bargaining was
legally born 131 years ago and became established
constitutionally in 1970 in the Brady v. United States.
In a society with highly functional
judiciary, adequate judicial record keeping, efficient
policing, and non-corrupt judges plea bargaining becomes
very vital. In America, plea bargaining forms about 90% of
all criminal convictions and the agreed plea bargaining
arrangements cannot be altered once they receive approval
from the courts.
In America, plea bargaining as an arrangement
in criminal courts helps a person admits to being guilty of
a lesser crime in the hope of receiving less severe sentence
for a more serious offence and help manage the court cases
The American legal system also makes
extensive use of plea bargaining in the disposition of
offenders deemed to be mentally ill in regards to temporary
A plea bargaining practice that could pass
into the cases of many high profile corruption offenders
with unbelievable amount of billion naira scam.; an amount
of money that that the individual can never fully consumed
in his or her life time—a possible sign of psychological
If the concept of plea bargaining is going to
be continuously taking place in our courtrooms until it
gains constitutional blessing, it should be used selectively
as with offenders with bizarre financial behaviors. All
federal and state courts should consider using plea
bargaining in proceedings for involuntary committing
corruption convicts into mental hospitals.
For the purpose of practice, and benefit for
both the prosecutor and the defendant; let us use plea
bargaining in certain matters like in the case of
extraordinary corruption transgressions.
In the eyes of many Nigerians corruption
convicts especially those involved in high profile cases
appeared dangerous to self and/or dangerous to others
therefore should be classified as gravely troubled as in the
case of many million dollar or billion naira thieves.
In Nigeria, it should be used to serve the
interest of the society by having the convicted big
man/woman with stolen billions in the bank, and in the
bedroom committed to what could be known as a forensic
clinic as in a designated unit in our mental or psychiatric
hospital in the prison or within the communities.
Plea bargain as a process could mutually
satisfy many of these corruption convicts since going to a
mental hospital is far better and of a lighter punishment
than getting very long sentence or receiving possible death
sentence which many Nigerians are now calling for.
On till the law makers in the National
Assembly make plea bargaining part of the law of the land
like the Criminal Justice System of Lagos State, let these
corruption convicts get the benefit of psychological
testing, behavioral therapy, moral modification, and social
accountability through plea bargaining.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D., is a
Forensic/Clinical Psychologist and the Secretary-General of
the Nigeria Psychological Association (NPA), Abuja.