PRIVATE LEGAL PRACTITIONERS OR CITIZENS CAN PROSECUTE WITHOUT THE AUTHORITY OR FIAT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL – SUPREME COURT OF NIGERIA
The Supreme Court of Nigeria has drastically changed the long held position of the law that it is only the Attorney General of the State that can prosecute or authorized the prosecution of criminal complaints in the Courts. According to the Apex Court, the provision of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) giving powers to private legal practitioners or private citizens to prosecute without the authority of the Attorney General of the State is not in conflict with Section 211 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 ( As Amended) that vest exclusive powers on the Attorney General to prosecute or authorize prosecution by fiat.
This new position of the law and very interesting development in our jurisprudence is clearly captured in the recent decision in the case of RAPHAEL OBIJIAKU V CHIEF JOE OBIJIAKU & 2 ORS (2022) 17 NWLR (PT. 1857) 377 at 405 Paras E- F, where Aboki JSC held,
“A private legal practitioner or indeed a private citizen, has the indisputable right, under section301(1) of the Anambra State Administration of Criminal Justice Law, 2010, to lay a complaint and prosecute same, without the fiat of the Attorney General of the State”
Can you see the new development and position of the law ?
IN THE YEAR 2018 THE SUPREME COURT HAD AGAIN STATED THAT THE LAW IS DYNAMIC
Hon. Justice Amina Augie JSC in the case of OIL AND GAS EXPORT FREE ZONE AUTHORITY V DR. T.C. OSANAKPO, SAN in a Judgement delivered on the 14th day of December 2018 had held thus:
“The Law is not static, rather it is dynamic and adapts to issues as they come along in various cases that pass through the courts of law”
Also In NEPA v AUWAL (2011)5 NWLR (PT. 1241) 571, the Court held,
“The law is dynamic and changes are made on daily basis to accommodate the realities of the modern society”
The role of lawmakers is to make laws that are in tandem with the modern society and emerging realities.
If you are social media influencer, journalist, social and/or political commentator or even if you have diarrhea of the mouth, pen, key board or key pad, know that any person you defame in the course of your work has the right to personally or through a private legal practitioner to commence a criminal complaint against you without waiting for the fiat or authority of the Attorney General of the State which sometimes do not come or come late after the tempo must have died down.
Defamation attracts both criminal and civil action. The injured person can decide to opt for any one or go for the two against you.