It’s in the power of AGs to enter nolle prosequi in criminal cases —Kazeem
By Abdulwahab Abdulah
The Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, recently spoke on the role and duties imposed on him by the Constitution on granting nolle prosequi in any case pending before the state courts. In this interview, he explained why he entered nolle in the State versus Deepak Khilnani and Sushil Chandra. Excerpts:
The issue of Nolle Proseque
This is not to say that this office is not aware of the issues that have been in the press. I know sometimes when you hold public office, you have to be willing to take a lot of punches out there. One of the things I found when I got to this office as it happens in other places too, is that the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has often been used as a tool to settle scores; scores that are not criminal, but absolutely commercial.
The DPP’s office is dealing with issues relating to 22 million people; crimes and others. They are already overburdened. One of the challenges I gave to the DPP is that, she should not be used as a tool to settle criminal and commercial related issues. If you have commercial related issues, go to commercial courts and solve those problems.
Where there is an issue that has already gone to a certain stage, review all facts and we can take position. One of the files was this one you have referred to. After the thorough review by the DPP, we came to the conclusion that the matter was not criminal in the opinion of the office of the Attorney-General. I will also tell you that while that so called matter was attempting to progress through the criminal court, there was also already a matter in civil court, instituted by the same people on this matter, commercially related.
Now you also have to realise that the office of the Attorney-General, as much as possible, anytime we take things, especially criminal cases to court, our intention is to win. We don’t have time for frivolities. Be that as it may, the DPP in this case came to unassailable conclusion that this matter was commercial. What did she do? She sent the case file to this office (office of the AG). If you do your review, you issue that advice, non-prosecution. After that report, we sent the case file together with our report to the AIG Zone 2, and said this is our finding.
Of course, Section 211 of the Constitution of the Republic of Nigeria gives this office the right to enter Nolle Proseque. Of course that power must be used very carefully. I’m very aware of that huge responsibility. Well, the aggrieved party in this case went to court to challenge their right. We filed papers against them in court, as it is their constitutional right to do so. The court came to the decision that the matter had no merit. So the case was thrown out. I understand that they intend to go on appeal, which, again, is their constitutional right at the Court of Appeal.
Again, I am willing, even if the people want, they can come, we will explain the issue to them at the end of the day. Let me tell you that this office is an office with huge burden. You make tough choices. The choices that you have made free the DPP to face major criminal issues such as kidnapping, sexual assault, rape, defilement, armed robberies and many other issues. Why would we waste valuable manpower and time on commercial matters when there is a commercial court?
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