DEVELOPING AN EFFECTIVE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR CORPORATE CRIMINAL LIABILITY ADMINISTRATION IN NIGERIA

DEVELOPING AN EFFECTIVE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR CORPORATE CRIMINAL LIABILITY ADMINISTRATION IN NIGERIA

ABSTRACT

The evolution of the concept of corporate criminal liability of corporations is characterized by relentless struggles of the judiciary to overcome the problem of assigning criminal blame to fictional entities. Initially, a corporation was considered to be an entity devoid of a person in the strict sense; therefore, criminal guilt was considered to be quite difficult to establish in cases of aberrations of criminal nature by it. The principle of vicarious liability instead of criminal liability was invariably sought in such cases. With the emergence of welfare states with considerable emphasis on accountability and in view of some serious violations by corporations resulting in the loss of lives, public money, and damage to health and property, the issue of fixing a strict criminal responsibility was brought to focus. The doctrine of corporate criminal liability is therefore a developing phenomenon. Presently, the courts and the legislatures in Nigeria and other jurisdictions have devised some theories and evolved legal basis in a bid to place liability for crimes of intent on corporations. In this work, attempt is made to show that corporations can have the state of mind together with the physical elements necessary to constitute an offence. The work also examines the legal framework for corporate crime in Nigeria and other common and civil law countries. The work further examines criminal sanctions and their role in controlling corporate crime, the problems of corporate crime, and the incident of corporate killing in work places. The study also discusses the alternative models of corporate liability which are not derivative but which locate the blameworthiness within the corporation itself or at most take cognizance of the compartmentalization of knowledge within a corporation for corporate crime. In this work expository, analytical and comparative jurisprudence has been carried out with the help of relevant statutes and case law. Part of the findings of this work is that criminal law jurisprudence is settled on the point that corporations can be held liable for offences which require evidence and proof of mens rea. It has also been found that the ascription of criminal liability to companies meets several conceptual problems. The research further shows that neither the Nigerian Criminal nor the Penal Code expressly provides for the criminal liability of corporate bodies. Nigerian laws on corporate criminal liability are inadequate; they lack clear basis for corporate criminal responsibility especially as it relates to corporate manslaughter. The thesis also shows that lack of successful prosecution of companies in Nigeria for corporate manslaughter despite the wave of work place killings is largely due to defective and inadequate legal framework. The study has further found that the assumption that corporate liability must be derivative has come under increasing attack from legal commentators, academic writers, jurists and law reform bodies, who all attempt to locate criminal liability on an organizational basis. The work has attempted to outline a number of possible alternative models of corporate liability that have been put forward for Nigeria to borrow ideas from. The result of the work also shows that the existing modes of sanctioning in Nigeria is inadequate; imposing paltry fines of N1000 or N500 Naira for such a high environmental crime as oil spillage is not enough to deter corporations. To also prosecute individual officers of a company is equally unfair and ineffective. The research suggests that there is, therefore, no alternative to an adequate reform, appraisal and revamp of corporate criminal liability law in Nigeria given the recent law reforms that have taken place in other countries like the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada and Netherlands, as indicated in this work. In order to handle these issues successfully, the researcher chose a framework comprising eleven chapters with well articulated headings and sub-headings (as can be seen under the scope of study on pages 26-27 of this discourse) which form a road map which underlines the theoretical basis of this work, while the bibliography concludes the thesis.