The Law Of Double Jeopardy And Its Exceptions (Part 2)

Deborah Warrie

Deborah Warrie

Remember the story of Anna and Alex in the last edition? Well this is a follow up to the story on our legal series. So the other 2 factors that avails an accused for the principle of Double Jeopardy to be established are:

  1. The facts of the earlier matter and the new one must be the same.
  2. The earlier trial must have resulted either in the discharge, acquittal, or some other form of punishment of the accused person.

See ROMRIG NIGERIA LTD V. FRN (2014) LPELR – 22759 (CA).

Section 36 (9) of the 1999 Constitution prohibits the trial of a person more than once for the same criminal offense. See AGAGARAGA v. FRN (2006) LPELR-5655(CA) Per MONICA BOLNA’AN DONGBAN-MENSEM, JCA (Pp 12 – 12 Paras B – D). It is important to note that double jeopardy is not a principle of international law. It does not apply between different countries, unless having been contractually agreed on between those countries as, for example, in the European Union (Art. 54 Schengen Convention), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in various extradition treaties between two countries.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of which Nigeria is a signatory to, having been Ratified on the 29th of July 1993, and came into force on the 29th October 1993, recognize, under Article 14 (7) that: “No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.” However, it does not apply to prosecutions by two different sovereigns (unless the relevant extradition treaty expresses a prohibition). What does this mean in the layman’s language? It simply means that if Anna and Alex committed the offense of murder in lets say Rome and Greece. The principle of Double Jeopardy will not apply to them, they will be tried by each countries criminal code, distinctively except there is an extradition treaty between Greece and Rome where it is expressly stated that the principle of Double Jeopardy, can apply.  So the next question to ask is are there exceptions to this principle? Definitely! which brings us back to our story. Remember After the completion of their sentence and release, the victim sued Anna and Alex for fraud, attempted murder,misrepresentation amongst others. The lawyer to Anna and Alex pleaded that the principle of Double Jeopardy was applicable to Clients as they had served their sentence. So is their lawyer right? Or does the victim’s suit fall under the exception? Well lets begin with the exceptions to this principle.



By virtue of the legal maxim “Exceptio probat regulam” which simply means An exception proves the rule. The law of double jeopardy, in the Nigerian Legal System exceptions include:The other factors will be carefully addressed, in the next edition of this series.

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