Plea Bargaining is an arrangement between prosecutor and defendant whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence or an agreement to drop other charges. While court of law trial is a proceeding in which opposing parties in a dispute present evidence and make arguments on the application of the law before a judge. Therefore, a plea bargain allows both parties to avoid a lengthy criminal trial and may allow criminal defendants to avoid the risk of conviction at trial on a more serious charge
On the 20th of February 2017, a case involving the EFCC and former employees of the Central Bank of Nigeria at the Federal High Court, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria before presiding Hon. Judge, Justice Joyce Abdumalik in a case of an alleged N7.9 billion fraud preferred against them by the EFCC.
The court registrar called the case and two of eight former employees of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in the case of an alleged N7.9 billion fraud charged against them have chosen the plea-bargain option while six others standing trial in the same case however, chose to proceeds with trial as they pleaded not guilty to the charges sheets against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The duo, Togun Kayode Philips and Esther Afolabi Adenike, prayed the court, through their counsel that they would like to negotiate their freedom through plea-bargain.
The accused were said to have colluded to steal various sums of money totaling about N7.9 billion between 2010 and 2012. They were said to have re-circulated some mutilated currencies received from deposit money banks, which the apex bank had marked for destruction.
Testifying in the case, EFCC’s investigating officer, Hammadama Bello, told the court that acting upon a petition to the commission against the accused persons in 2014, he alongside seven other officials of the anti-graft agency conducted an investigation and discovered they have been stuffing N1,000 notes into newspaper cuttings and diverting the contents for personal use.
Bello also told the court that both the accused persons have confessed to their culpability in the crime.
However, Abdulmalik said the two accused persons were trying to initiate an evasive plea-bargaining as they have not disclosed their account numbers and the identity of their banks. She, therefore, instructed them to do so before the next adjournment date of March 22, 2017.
However, counsel to one of the accused, Mr. Babatunde Akinola, objected to a counter-affidavit by the counsel to EFCC, Mr. Adebisi Adeniyi. He informed the court that he needed time to study the documents before responding to them.
Abdulmalik thereafter asked the other counsel if they objected to his submission and consequent upon their refusal to object to it, she directed all the parties involved to choose a convenient date for hearing on the trial.
The question we ask is a plea bargaining the same as a trial conviction?
A guilty or no contest plea entered as a judge-approved plea bargain results in a criminal conviction; the defendant’s guilt is established just as it would be after a trial. The conviction will show up on the defendant’s criminal record.
The case was adjourned.