Section 36(9) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that no person who shows that he has been tried by any court of competent jurisdiction or tribunal for a criminal offence and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offence or for a criminal offence having the same ingredients as that offence save upon the order of a superior court. This is a fundamental human right in which every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to have.
This right is also known as the right against double jeopardy or the plea of autre fois convict, autre fois acquit which in simple term means I have been tried before for this offence and I have been convicted, or I have been tried for this offence and I have been acquitted. There are however some elements that the court will consider before availing an accused individual with this right. They are:
1. The first trial of the accused must have been a criminal one:
It must be shown that he or she breached a penal statute, and nothing else. In a case where the accused flouted rules of a club or association or a professional rule that carries punishments, it would not qualify as a criminal offence.
2. The first trial must have been before a court of competent jurisdiction:
Where a decision was given by a court that had no power to give judgement, the accused would not be entitled to this right.
3. That the earlier trial of the accused resulted in either a conviction or an acquittal:
The accused in the previous trial must have either been found guilty or not guilty, and he or she must have either been sentenced or released.
4. That the previous offence and the present offence are the same:
If a person was accused previously of stealing yam from Mr A and was either released or served his sentence, and he is presently accused of stealing yam from Mr B, he would not be entitled to this right.
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