Assessing the Principle of Legality in Nigerian Criminal Jurisprudence

Aniedi J. Ikpang


Every criminal statute in all jurisdictions should adhere to the principle of legality for a proper application. The principle of legality means that every criminal statute should be published in a given jurisdiction. The publication involves the process whereby offences should be reduced into a written form with punishment or sanction expressly stated therein. Also, such statute should not be applied retroactively but should only take effect from the date the assent is given either by the president or the governor whichever is applicable. Further, the punishment to be meted out to the accused person should be the type which was in application at the time of the commission of the offence. The goal post (punishment) should not be shifted (increased or reduced) after the foul (offence) has been committed. In examining this paper, attention was focused on the mass of legal literature available and the recommendation is that the principle has stimulated the quality of criminal statutes through the process of reliability, certainty and comprehensibility.

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