Prosecution Of Criminal Offences In Federal Courts Can Be Made By Who? By Abdulrahmon Ibrahim Ojo.

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It is very easy to attempt the above question because, it is obviously accustomed with court proceedings in criminal matters. However, it is quite challenging to ascertain the veracity of the actual person/body conferred with the power to prosecute in federal courts which include the Supreme Court, the Court of appeal and the Federal high court. Now, I would like to make some points regarding this question prior to the enactment of the ACJA.

Conversely, it is apparently clear that criminal proceedings can be instituted in court vested with criminal jurisdiction by persons or authority competent to do so. The competent authority/persons are vis;
1. ATTORNEY GENERAL: He is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation or of the State. He derives his powers to initiate criminal proceedings against any person or persons under the constitutional provisions in any court other than court martial. See S.174(1,2,3) 1999 CFRN, also S. 211(1,2,3) 1999 CFRN respectively. See the case of A.G.S V. HASSAN (1985) 2 NWLR (pt 8) 483.

2. POLICE OFFICER: S. 23 of the Police Act empowers any Police Officer to conduct all prosecutions before any court in Nigeria subject to the power of the A.G.F or A.G.S. See the case of OLUSEMO V. C.O.P (1998) 11 NWLR (pt 575) 574.See also the case of F.R.N V. OSAHON & 7 ORS (2006) 5 NWLR (pt 973) 361. Where it was held that “police officers can prosecute in the federal high court”.

3. PRIVATE PERSON: Pursuant to S. 59(1) C.P.A, private persons may institute criminal proceedings against a person alleged to have committed an offence by laying a complaint before the court.
4. SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Some certain officers other than police officers are authorized to institute criminal proceedings in respect of offences created by them. See S. 12(2) EFCC Act cap EI LFN 2004.

In criminal proceedings, the question of who prosecute a criminal offence/institute a criminal proceedings is very essential because, the incompetence of the prosecutor will have effect in the entire proceeding, hence, be declared null.

The ACJA is unambiguously the hottest law in Nigeria presently due to its wide applicability and revolutionary nature. According to S. 106 of the ACJA (2015), the A.G.F and A.G.S is the most competent institutor to institute criminal proceedings in Nigeria subject to S. 174(1,2,3) and 211(1,2,3) 1999 CFRN. The aforementioned section has obviously and indisputably suspended the provision of S. 23 of the Police Act which empowers the Police officers to prosecute matters in court. This section has accordingly overruled the decision of the aforementioned case F.R.N V. OSAHON, citation provided.

See the case of ATTORNEY GENERAL OF LAGOS STATE V. HASSAN (CA/L/745/2013[2016] NGCA 86 where it was held that “police officers are not answerable to the attorney general”.

According to S. 383 of the ACJA(2015), a private person can institute criminal proceedings if the conditions enumerated therein is met.

The conditions include:
(1) The registrar shall receive an information from a private legal practitioner where:
(a) the information is endorsed by the Attorney-General of the Federation or a law officer acting on his behalf stating that he has seen the information and has declined to prosecute the offence set out in the
information; and
(b) the private legal practitioner shall enter into a recognizance in:
(i) such sum as may be fixed by the court, with a surety, to prosecute the information to conclusion from the time the defendant shall be required to appear,
(ii) pay such costs as may be ordered by the court, or
(iii) deposit in the registry of the court, such sum of money as the court may fix.
See also S. 384 ACJA (2015).

Conclusively, where a statute specifies a special prosecutor, no other person except the attorney general can validly institute criminal proceedings in respect of a violation of the provisions of that statute.

Abdulrahmon Ibrahim Ojo is a 100L law student of Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto.

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