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Romrig (Nig.) Ltd v. F. R. N.

ROMRIG NIGERIA LIMITED

V

FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

COURT OF APPEAL

( BENIN DIVISION )

HELEN M. OGUNWUMIJU JCA (Presided and Read the Lead Judgment)

IBRAHIM MUSA MOHAMMED SAULAWA JCA

AYOBODE OLUJIMI LOKULO-SODIPE JCA

CA/B/329CB/2011

WEDNESDAY, 9 APRIL 2014

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Autre fois convict - Meaning of

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Charge - Amendment of - Effect of - Criminal Procedure Act, section 164(4) considered

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Condonation - Meaning of Legal condonation - What constitutes - When applicable to an offence

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE- Conviction without arraignment -  Impropriety of - Charge - Withdrawal of before accused enters defence - Effect of

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Double jeopardy - Plea of - Applicability of - Conditions precedent to

CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE - Plea bargain - Meaning of Nature of - Advantages of - Terms of - Non-compliance with the parties - Effect of - Attitude of court to - Types of - Whether may be entered into in absentia

EVIDENCE - Who asserts - Onus on to prove

MATRIMONIAL CAUSES - Condonation - Meaning of - Legal condonation - What constitutes - When applicable to any offence

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE - Abuse of court process - Meaning of

STATUTE - Criminal Procedure Act, section 164(4) - Charge - Amendment of- Effect of

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Abuse of court process’- Meaning of

WORDS AND PHRASES - ‘Autre fois convict’- Meaning of

Issue:

Whether in the circumstances of charge No. FHC/EN/6C/ 2008-Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion and Ors, the learned trial Judge was right when he held that the defences of plea bargain agreement, condonation, plea of autre fois convict, the doctrine of double jeopardy and abuse of court process are not available to the appellant in respect of charge No. FHC/B/ HC/2008 - F.R.N v. Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion and 6 Ors.

Facts:

The appellant was the 5th accused in a charge preferred in the Federal High Court, Benin Division, Edo State - FRN v. Igbinedion. In the course of the trial, the 1st accused entered a plea bargain with the prosecution which led to an amendment of the charge from which the appellant was excluded. The trial court convicted the 1st and 2nd accused persons, sentencing them accordingly. The prosecution subsequently preferred another charge against the appellant and six other accused persons. The accused persons jointly filed a motion on notice, praying the court to set aside the charge against them on grounds of double jeopardy, condonation among other reliefs. The trial court discharged and acquitted only the 1st accused and ordered the other accused persons to take their plea. Not satisfied, the appellant filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal, challenging the ruling on grounds that the trial court erred by holding that the defences of plea bargain agreement, condonation, and plea of autre fois convict and doctrine of double jeopardy were not available to it.

In determination of the appeal, the Court of Appeal considered the following statutes:

Economic and Financial Crime Commission Act, section 14(2) “Subject to the provisions of section 174 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which relates to the Power of the Attorney-General of the Federation to institute, continue, takeover or discontinue criminal proceedings against any person in any court of law), the Commission may compound any offence punishable under this Act by accepting such sum of money as it thinks fit, not exceeding the maximum amount to which that person would have been liable if he had been convicted of that offence.”

Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State:

“Notwithstanding anything in this law or in any other law, the Attorney-General of the State shall have the power to consider and accept a plea bargain from a person charged with any offence where the Attorney-General is of the view that the acceptance of such plea bargain is in the public interest, the interest of justice and the need to prevent abuse of legal process.”

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, section 36(9) “No person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again, be tried for that offence or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence save upon the order of a superior court.”