Before the advent of colonialism, in the whole protectorates that constitute Nigeria today, the power of the Obas in the west, Monarchs in the north, and aristocrats in the southern part of Nigeria was so overwhelming that, individuals’ rights as perceived nowadays were virtually non-existent. Mere criticism of the action of the rulers was offense. Criminal offenses were poorly defined and judges exercised arbitrary powers to prosecute acts which were not legally defined as crimes. In courts, there were no formal rules of procedure and no legal representation was permitted. Confessions were frequently obtained by torture and then repeated to obtain the names of accomplices. Punishments were applied unequally, sometimes in accordance with local customs and monarchs, aristocrats, Obas, as well as members of their families were exempted from some of the most degrading forms of punishment. Judges can increase or reduce sentences even where they were fixed by law. Superstition and cruelty were rife (ALOBI 2005). Ii was generally believed, in some part of the country that, crime was the consequence of evil. In some cases, it was assumed that there are some individuals that had been taken over by devils or demons which directs them to commit crimes. Humans were seen as both contractors of their own destiny, a dichotomy which has remained central to the explanation of crime up to the present day (ALOBI 2006). Nigeria’s colonization by British forces brought about the application of British criminal and civil laws in southern protectorates which ran hand-in-hand with the Sharia law in the northern protectorate. The procedures for the prosecution of criminal law in the south are enshrined in the criminal procedure act; while the procedures for prosecution of criminal cases as defined by the penal code in the northern Nigeria are contained in the criminal procedure code (ALOBI 2006) so even after Nigeria’s independence in 1960, British laws and Islamic laws still form the nucleus of the country’s criminal and civil laws. These two laws defined what a crime is and what is not, and the procedures for prosecution of violators. So this study will look at the prosecution of criminal cases by the men of the Nigeria police force in the F.C.T Abuja to see whether application of these laws had really made a difference with the prosecution pattern of pre-colonial Nigeria.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Apart from the protection of lives and properties, the second most important aspect of the police job is prosecution of criminal cases in courts. Once a person is suspected to have committed a crime, the police steps in and effect an arrest, this is followed by a diligent —investigation of culpability. If culpability is established by evidence, prosecution begins immediately. A good prosecutor must have a sound knowledge of the law. Must be very tactical and sequential in the presentation of his evidence, he must be trustworthy and corrupt free, and as well as discharge his duty without any fear or favour. But in Nigeria society, there is a growing body of worries among the people regarding the way police prosecute suspects in court. There are uncountable instances in which judges discharged and acquitted suspects being prosecuted by the police for lack of evidence against them (Abubakar, M. 2005).
It is under these circumstances that professional competence of the men of the force on prosecution is put to question. Are they really knowledgeable? Are they not influence from the top by the ruling class who feeds their children, friends, and relations should not be prosecuted it is bribe that exchanged hand? Or is it personal interest/sentiment that influences their job? These seeming questions tend to tell on the credibility of policemen as they are perceived as very corrupt and incompetent. Even where the cases are not discharged and acquitted for lack of evidence, the prosecution used to linger for a very long time with the occasional detention of suspects on remain in prison custody. Today, the presence of a large number of suspects awaiting trial in different prisons in the country is seen as a failure of police prosecution (ALIYU 2006). While on the part of the police, the prosecution is one area where they are doing their best, but their best is not seen by many as good enough.