The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ekiti State, Mr. Olawale Fapohunda, SAN in the piece below writes about how he submitted a clemency application on behalf of a 21 year old armed robbery convict. He faulted the conduct of the defence lawyer and hinted on the likelihood of reviewing the Ekiti State Administration of Criminal Justice Law to include a provision on ineffective legal representation or bad lawyering.
Mr. Olawale Fapohunda, SAN wrote
- Today I took the unusual step of writing and submitting a clemency application on behalf of a 21 year old convict. I have requested the advisory council on prerogative of mercy to exercise its powers in his favor. He was sentenced to 21 year’s imprisonment for Armed Robbery.
- While the decision of the trial judge cannot be reasonably faulted, I do not believe that his lawyer acted appropriately in his interest.
- As the lead prosecuting counsel in this case, I am convinced that he is entitled to a claim of professional misconduct against his lawyer. His lawyer failed to perform in a reasonably competent manner and his performance prejudiced the applicant.
- This in my view is a gross violation of the Right to Fair Hearing as provided for by Section 36 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
- The Right to Fair Hearing includes the right to effective legal representation by lawyers and applies to all lawyers whether state appointed or retained by the defendant. While a defence lawyer is entitled to conduct his case in any manner that he deems appropriate, I do not believe that this discretion extends to instances where his approach is manifestly and shockingly unprofessional.
- I do not accept the argument of conflict of interest. That an Attorney General should not be seen to personally make this application by virtue of the office. Indeed in my considered view, it is precisely because of the office that an Attorney General should make make this application especially on behalf of indigent persons. This is where our “ Commissioner for Justice” title kicks in.
- I am considering a review of the Ekiti State Administration of Criminal Justice Law to include a provision on ineffective legal representation or bad lawyering. Criminal defendants should be entitled to reprieve in cases where the defence lawyers performance was deficient and occasioned serious errors that prejudiced the defendant.