The DPP stands for Directorate Of Public Prosecution. It is manned by a Lawyer referred to as the Director Of Public Prosecution. This is the Directorate that spearheads criminal prosecution. Courtesy of our legal regime as ensconced in our Constitution of 1999 as amended, the Director Of Public Prosecutions inclusive of Law Officers(Law Officers are Lawyers in Public Service- Attorney General, Solicitor General, State Counsel of various grades, refer to the Law Officers Act, Laws Of The Federation Of Nigeria, 2004 for detailed provisions on this) who work with him are all under the Attorney General of the State or Federation.
The Attorney General is the chief law officer of the State or Federation. Next to the Attorney General is the Permanent Secretary known as the Solicitor General, however this is official hierarchy and deference to office perks. Most Solicitor Generals do not concern themselves with active litigation ditto for some Attorney Generals. As it regards criminal prosecution, our focus in this series, the man at the centre of it all is the DPP of various States and the Federation and Law Officers under him.
The Directorate Of Public Prosecution for administrative conveniences aside depending on most arrangements qua State is located at the State Capital is also found at the Zones headed by a Law Officer who is usually an Assistant Director Of Public Prosecution or a very Senior Law Officer however designated. The Zonal Offices have Law Officers working under the mentioned head.
As stated above the office of the DPP is under the watch and control of the Attorney General under our extant constitutional regime. The Office of the Attorney General inclusive of the DPP is responsible for criminal prosecution- Instituting same, Taking over same and Discontinuance of an already filed criminal action. Worthy of note that by the provisions of the community reading of Sections 174 and 211 of the extant Constitution detailing the powers of the Attorney General whether of the Federation or State, other authorities, persons, agencies have the vires to maintain criminal action, the EFCC, ICPC, Police draw their prosecutorial powers as contained in their enabling laws from this provision, however their prosecutorial powers are subject to AG’s control who can take over or end same.
Private individuals with Attorney General’s fiat can prosecute( fiat refers to authority to prosecute).
The Attorney General functions through his staff, who are the Solicitor General, DPP and Law Officers regardless of status and cadre. Bear in mind that the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions- DPP can prosecute in all courts EXCEPT A Court Martial.
The scope of offences the Attorney General and Office of DPP can prosecute depends on the law establishing the offences. There are 2 broad offences- The Federal Offences and State Offences. Federal Offences are offences contained in laws enacted by National Assembly; The State Offences are contained in laws enacted by the State House Of Assembly.
There is a borderline, on the surface it is a Federal Offence but meant to take effect as a State Law example of such offences is Armed Robbery, as provided in the Robbery and Fire arms(Special Provisions) Act, being an Act of the National Assembly, however it takes effect as a State Law, most importantly and key indicator of its taking effect as a State Law is that Trial of offences under the Act shall be at the High Court Of The State where the incident took place. Refer to Section 9 of the said Act.
In Ishmael Emelogu vs State-(1988) 2 NWLR(PT 78) 524, the Appellant, Ishmael Emelogu was convicted and sentenced to death for committing the offence of Armed Robbery, he contended in his final appeal at the Supreme Court that Armed Robbery is a Federal Legislation and The Office Of the Attorney General Of Imo State cannot prosecute him except with delegation of authority to so prosecute by the Federal AG, this contention was rejected for though Armed Robbery as contained in the Robbery and Firearms(Special Provisions) Act is a Federal Law but it is meant to take effect as a State Law especially amongst others that the charges can be filed in the State High Court.
The dichotomy between Federal Offences and State Offences save for the borderline explained above is that the Federal Offences are prosecuted by the Federal Attorney General, DPP of the Federation and Law Officers in Office of the AG of the Federation; State Offences are handled by the Attorney General Of The State and his Law Officers/DPP.
Thus for a State Attorney to prosecute for a Federal Offence that authority must be delegated to him by the Federal AG and vice versa otherwise the Charge fails. Refer to Anyebe vs State-(1986) 1 N.W.L.R.(PT 14) 39, in this case, the appellant, Mr. Anyebe was tried and convicted for Illegal Possession Of Firearms, a Double Barrelled Short contrary to Section 4 of The Firearms Act 1958 as amended by Firearms(Amendment) Degree No 31 of 1966 Gun, he was prosecuted by the AG of Benue State. He was convicted, on appeal, his appeal against his sentence and conviction were set aside for the fact that the Attorney General Of Benue State, who prosecuted him under a Federal Law has no authority from the Federal AG to so do and this anomaly voided the conviction.
NB: The series continues next week sunday. It will be presented in summary, emphasis on important points that concerns the Reading Audience not learned in law, devoid of technical language since the reading audience are mostly not lawyers.
Keywords- N.W.L.R means Nigerian Weekly Law Report, one of the Reports in Nigeria where cases of Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are reported. It was founded by Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN in 1985.
PS- Those who subscribe to Law Report sites/Reports can read the cases cited online.