Nolle Prosequi and the Attorney-general: a Clear Demand for Regulations

ABSTRACT

The purpose for which any law may be enacted cannot be located at the outside the desire to ensure peace, order, and the protection of the rights of every citizen. Our laws are creations of reasoning and principles which should at all times be vigorous even at the test of reasonableness. The powers allotted to the Attorney-General in the Nigerian Constitution is in the humble opinion of this researcher, an imperfect fortune because it is not subject to any restraints whatsoever. This paper examines the power of the Attorney-General as contained in section 174 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 i.e. the power to institute criminal proceedings, to take over criminal proceedings instituted by any other person under his fiat, and to discontinue criminal proceedings at any stage before judgment is delivered. Mention shall also be made of the scope of exercise of these salient powers. Furthermore, this paper shall also consider the historical development of this office and how it emerged with such powers which is considered enormous in this study. The focus of this study shall be centered on the power to discontinue criminal proceedings which is otherwise known as nolle prosequi, the tendency of abuse of this ostensibly unfettered discretion, and the need to ensure that substantive justice at all times preponderates and substantially dominates the desire of a single person to exercise a constitutional power irrespective of the professional nomenclature. At the end of this study, the researcher shall humbly and respectfully make recommendations which are not geared towards a condemnation of the antique nolle prosequi, but focused on the need to prevent abuse and miscarriage of justice which has recently become unavoidable and often frequents the exercise of this power.

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