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REQUIREMENT FOR A VALID PLEA IN CRIMINAL CASES

Dictum

Samuel Erekanure v. The State (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt. 294) 385: wherein in allowing the appellant’s appeal and ordering a retrial, this Court set out the requirements that must be satisfied thus: (a) the accused must be present in court unfettered unless there is a compelling reason to the contrary; (b) the charge must be read over to the accused in the language he understands; (c) the charge should be explained to the accused to the satisfaction of the court; (d) in the course of the explanation technical language must be avoided; (e) after the requirements (a) to (d) above have been satisfied the accused will then be called upon to plead instantly to the charge.

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TAKING OF PLEA IN A CRIMINAL CASE – READ CHARGE, UNDERSTOOD BY ACCUSED

The person accused must be present in court and the charge must be read to him and explained to him by the court registrar or any other officer of court. The charge so read and explained must be understood by the accused person to the satisfaction of the court. This presupposes that the charge is thus read and explained to the accused in the language he understands so that he is fully aware of the case against him. It is after this that he is asked to plead. The record of court therefore must show that the accused is in court and the charge is read and explained to him before he pleads to that charge. Once these conditions are satisfied the arraignment cannot be vitiated. The trial that follows the plea is not vitiated once it is shown that the charge read and explained is that one the accused has pleaded to. The reading and explaining of the charge are crucial matters on the face of the record. It is then presumed he understands the case he is facing in court even though the record does not say that he “understands or seems” to understand the charge. What will indicate that he understands the charge read and explained to him will be discerned from the totality. of the following proceedings. Kajubo v. The State (1988) NWLR (Pt. 73) 721 and Erekanure v. The State (1993) 5 NWLR (Pt. 294) 385 are cases not on all fours with this case. In Kajubo’s case there was nothing on the face of the record that the charge was read much less explained to the accused. In the instant case the record clearly indicates the charge was read and explained to the accused and his plea was taken. The test required in cases like these, on the rationale of whether the accused understood the charge read and explained to him, is the objective test of what can reasonably be inferred after the charge was read and explained before the plea was taken. Certainly the accused pleaded to what he understood. Where a charge was amended, it must be read and explained to the accused so that the court is satisfied he understands the charge before his plea is taken. Once the charge is read and explained it is to be presumed that the accused understood the same before he pleaded. “Understanding” is the state of the mind of the accused which he only knows with the court merely presuming he understood after explaining the charge read to him. This case has satisfied all the requirements of s. 215 of Criminal Procedure Law (supra).

— Belgore JSC. Onuoha v State (1998) – SC. 24/1996

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WHERE ACCUSED PLEADS GUILTY TO AN OFFENCE

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.

– J.I. Okoro JSC. Balogun v. FRN (2021)

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ACCUSED PERSON MUST PLEAD BY HIMSELF

What is required is that the accused person must plead himself. If he pleads through his counsel or through some other person, the trial is a nullity: R v Boyle (1954) 2 QB page 292; R v Ellis (1973) 57 Cr App R.571.

– Sanusi, JSC. Umaru Sunday v. FRN (2018) – SC.145/2013

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