University of Sussex
Kagu, Abubakar Bukar.pdf (13.43 MB)

Globalisation of plea bargaining and its emergence in Nigeria: a critical analysis of practice, problems, and priorities in criminal justice reform

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posted on 2023-06-09, 04:59 authored by Abubakar Bukar Kagu
Almost a decade since the first case of plea bargaining received publicity in Nigeria, there is still uncertainty about the nature and impact of this system on criminal justice administration. There is also a lack of clear understanding of how the process is conducted and fulfilled, as most of the activities are done behind the closed doors of the prosecutor’s office. What is even more significant is the degree of apprehension about the legality of the system, and the allegation that the process neither serves the purpose which it claims to address nor promotes the justice system’s main objectives of retribution and deterrence. These controversies have resulted in enormous criticism and arguments on whether the concept of plea bargaining is a suitable and sincere reform or whether it is a transplant that encourages compromise the kind of compromise that breeds corruption in the legal system. This study explores the development of plea bargaining in Nigeria as well as the polemics that surrounds its application. It begins by tracing some of the significant institutional changes that have continued to reshape criminal justice policies and practices all over the world, and how these multifactorial elements in social, political and legal parlance have influenced the transition from adversarial and inquisitorial systems to one that promotes consensual justice in form of negotiating with a criminal offender. An understanding of these trajectories has helped to reveal the inherent conflict of ideas as to whether or not to preserve the orthodox values of criminal justice from the compelling incentives that plea bargaining presents or to tolerate a system that offers various alternatives that are pragmatic in nature. Although this debate is filled with strong utilitarian arguments for plea bargaining, it also presents an overwhelming opposition from right based scholarship. While this research does not reject plea bargaining in its entirety, it was able to demonstrate the importance of maintaining a system of criminal justice that is consistent in promoting the rule of law, as it reveals the dangers of drifting towards practices that potentially threaten the legitimate interest of the various parties in criminal justice. To explore the different arguments on this subject matter, this study draws upon critical analysis of the global transition from a trial based criminal justice to the contingencies that prompted the rise and expansion of plea bargaining in different parts of the world. The study then evluates the complexity of this transition as it applies to Nigeria. The empirical aspect of this thesis takes a deep and critical assessment of these aspects through the eyes of legal practitioners and legal scholars in Nigeria. This leads to an analysis of the long standing polemics on legality, suitability, and the advantages and disadvantages of plea bargaining in Nigeria, through which some of the distinctive characteristics of the Nigerian plea bargaining system was examined in ways not previously done. It also assesses the impact of this acclaimed legal reform as it continues to generate widespread accusations of partiality and inconsistency. In contrast to previous works, this study was also able to explain the practical application of plea bargaining in Nigeria along the line of the different technicalities used to fulfill different priorities. It also observes and explains how these processes conflict with other existing criminal laws and the extent to which it has resulted in the hybridization of the criminal justice system. These findings are in fact the first in-depth empirical analysis of the different procedural imports, legal challenges, divisiveness and the constitutional problems surrounding the application of plea bargaining in Nigeria.


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