No Case Submission in Nigeria
In Nigeria, whenever a person is charged with an offence, the person (referred to as the accused) can either plead guilty or not guilty.
If the accused pleads not guilty for that offence, it is the duty of the Prosecution to provide evidence that all elements of the offence have been committed as well as to prove that the Defendant is the person who committed them. Therefore, the burden of proof lies with them. The burden of proof in criminal trials is beyond reasonable doubt.
During a Criminal Trial in Nigeria, it is the duty of the prosecution to prove that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt this is true to upholding the fundamental principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. If there is any possibility of innocence which still exists when the case is over, the court must acquit and find the accused not guilty.
The process of a criminal trial has 2 parts. In the first part, the prosecution presents its case and calls its witnesses. In the second part, the defence presents its own case and calls its own witnesses. In both parts 1 and 2, the lawyer for the other side can cross-examine the witnesses which the party presents to give evidence.
When can a No Case submission application be raised?
At the end of part 1, after the prosecution has finished presenting its case, if the defence feels that the prosecution has failed to prove its case, then the legal process in Nigeria allows the defence to make an application known as a no case submission.
When a no case submission is made, it basically means that the defendant is asking the court for an acquittal without it having to present a defence. The defendant is literally saying to the court that there is no case to answer i.e. the prosecution has not sufficiently proven the legal threshold to establish the commission of a crime in the court of law.
The submission is reliant on the strength (or rather, the lack thereof) of the prosecution’s evidence. When used, the results are extremely beneficial to a defendant because, when successful, it means that the case effectively stops without the need for the defendant to call any evidence at all.
The defence makes the plea by filing an application before the court, and if the judge agrees, then the matter is dismissed and the defendant is acquitted without having to present any evidence in their defence. If the judge does not accept the submission, the case continues and the defence must present their case. Therefore, because the defence really loses nothing by filing a no case submission application, it is a very common defence tactic used in criminal cases in Nigeria.
What is the standard for no case submission
The general standard which the courts in Nigeria will use in determining whether a no case submission should be allowed and the accused person acquitted is contained in Section 303 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, it provides that the Judge will consider four things:
- whether an essential element of the offence has been proven by the prosecution
- whether there is evidence linking the defendant with the commission of the offence
- if the evidence so far which the prosecution has provided is one that no reasonable court or tribunal would convict on it
- any other ground on which the court may find that a prima facie case has not been made out against the defendant for him to be called upon to answer.
The standard which the court uses to determine whether a case should be dismissed on the ground of no case submission is not one of beyond reasonable doubt, the court when determining this, has to decide whether a prima facie case has been made by the prosecution. Prima facie case here refers to the standard of proof under which the prosecution need only present enough evidence to create a rebuttable presumption that the matter asserted is true. A prima facie standard of proof is relatively low.
What Happens when a No case submission is successful?
The Judge dismisses the case against the defendant.
To understand a no case submission, think about it with this football match analogy, there are 2 halves. In the first half, the prosecution has the ball and are trying to score the defence. They have the entire first half to try to score a few goals. If at the end of the half they have not scored and it is still 0-0, the referee (the judge) will stop the football match and award the victory to the defence (no case submission). However, if the prosecution scores before the end of the half, then the game moves on into the second half and the defence has possession of the ball and try to equalise (or score more goals), if the defence scores as many or more goals than the prosecution scored in the first half, then at the end of the match the judge declares the defence as winners and the accused is acquitted. If the defence does not score any goals or as many goals as the prosecution scored in the first half, the judge will declare the prosecution as winners and convict the accused.
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