CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE – PLEA OF GUILT – Whether an accused who pleads guilty to a criminal charge can be convicted summarily


“The law is settled that if an accused person pleads guilty to an offence with which he is charged, the Court shall record his plea as nearly as possible in the words used by him and if satisfied that he intended to admit the truth of all the essentials of the offence of which he had pleaded guilty, the Court shall convict him of that offence and pass sentence against him unless there appear sufficient cause to the contrary. See Daniel v. F.R.N (2015) 13 NWLR (pt. 1475) 119; Kolo v. COP (2017) 9 NWLR (pt. 1569) 118. In the instant case, the accused person was arrested for dealing in 200 grammes of Marijuana. He made extra judicial statement in Yoruba admitting to the commission of the offence. The said statement was interpreted into English language and both were admitted as Exhibits PD2A and PD2B, upon his subsequent arraignment in Court on 12/3/2015, the following was recorded as proceedings of the Court: – O. Kalu appears for the prosecution – Accused person in Court but not represented. – Kalu: One count charge dated 25/09/14 read and explained to the accused person in order for him to take his plea. – Court: Charge read. – Accused person: I understand the charge and I plead “guilty.” – Kalu: In view of Accused person’s plea I ask for a date for summary review of Accused person’s charge and also for his remand in prison custody. Date for return date. – Court: Adjourned to 14/4/15 for hearing. All orders prayed for by prosecutor granted.” After the review of evidence and consequent summary conviction by the learned trial judge, the accused person entered allocutus in the following words before sentencing. “l will not do it again. I did conductor work at Agege, the person I did conductor work for introduced me to Bintin.” It was after the allocutus that the Appellant was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with hard labour. The requirement is that the charge must be read over to the accused and explained to him in the language he understands and to the satisfaction of the Court before being called upon to make his plea. See Erekanure v The State (1993) 5 NWLR (pt 294) 385; Kajubo v. The State (1988) 1 NWLR (pt 73) 721; Effiom v. State (1995) 1 NWLR (pt 373) 507. In the instant case, I am of the view that the learned trial Judge satisfied the requirements of the law before sentencing the Appellant upon his plea of guilty. The Court did not need to call evidence after the Appellant had made the plea. The only thing left for the Court to do was to convict him summarily. Calling for a review of evidence from the prosecution, was to my mind over indulging the Appellant for which the learned trial Judge deserve commendation.” per OKORO, J.S.C. in BALOGUN v. FRN (2021-LCER-40452-SC) (Pp 28 – 30 Paras C – E).

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