22 Jan




A charge[1] is a document usually drafted and signed by the prosecutor or magistrate (in North) containing the statement and particulars of offences with which an accused is brought before a court- S 1 CPC, S 2 CPL. Serve to intimate the accused as required by Section 36 CFRN.

:: FORM AND CONTENTS OF A CHARGE SHEET: specimen forms are provided. Headeding of Court, Charge Number, Unambiguous reflection of the name of the accused, date and place of commission of the sufficiently described offence, victim/thing, and the legislative provision under which the accused would be punished. 151 CPL. Garba v State.


  1. THE RULE AGAINST AMBIGUITY: Charge should be clear and adequately intimate the accused of charge against him. Okeke v Police

– THE RULE AGAINST DUPLICITY: Meaning that no single count shall contain more than one offence except in permitted circumstances. Like; – where money (belonging to a person) is misappropriated over a period of time by accused-R v Nwankwo; – Where Statutory forms allow (See appendix to CPCLaws); – offences defined in the alternative; -Where accused commits identical offences in a single transaction, – overt acts in treason and treasonable felony.

– THE RULE AGAINST MIS-JOINDER OF OFFENCES: Generally, one charge sheet (and trial) per offence-Section 156 CPA, 209 ACJA… and separate trial. Except where offences were committed within one year[2] or in the course of same transaction[3] or where offences are of same or similar character[4] or offences have the same elements but are constituted under different laws or the prosecution is in doubt as to which of two offences had been committed[5] or offences (i.e. the several acts) culminate in another single offence[6] or offence which may be committed in any of several occasions (re-understand) Though court can still order separate trials.

– THE RULE AGAINST MIS-JOINDER OF OFFENDERS: the general rule is one accused per charge sheet. However, two or more may be jointly charged where they are accused of; –jointly committing the same offence-155 CPA; – different offences in the course of the same transaction done with common intention -155 CPA, Haruna v The State 1972 All NLR 738 9 (on conspiracy); – where one is accused of committing the offence and the other for aiding/abetting or being an accessory; – where one steals and the other helps in disposal or concealment.

:: THE EFFECT OF A DEFECTIVE CHARGE AND EFFECT OF CONVICTION ON A DEFECTIVE CHARGE: Mere defect/Breach in Charge may not vitiate the charge or invalidate the proceedings except the defect is so fundamental as to cause substantial injustice or to mislead the accused-166 and 167 CPA, 222 CPL. 206 CPC, 158 ACJL 220 ACJA, Onakoya v FRN.

Moreso, suspect should timeously challenge[7] (immediately after it is read and explained to him and before pleading) as pleading to a defective charge is implied submission to the jurisdiction.

It appears that breach of the rule against ambiguity can vitiate charge.




[1] In the High Court in the South, it is referred to as an information.

[2] Section 157 CPA. Provided the offences are not more than three. Dau v Kano Native Authority

[3] Section 158 CPA. Haruna v State.

[4] 158 CPA.

[5] 159 CPA. E.g. Receiving stolen property is so similar to stealing that the prosecution may just charge for both. Or CC may call the circumstances stealing while PC would call it another offence. IGP v Bakare.

[6] Section 160 CPA

[7] But 221 and 222 ACJA says ruling on such challenge would be given together when delivering judgment-396 ACJA.


Quite eccentric really

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