*Crimes and Justice*
*Series 2: Breach of Trust*
The Crime of Breach of Trust is any act which is in violation of the agreement reached with another person.It can also be reffered to as breaking a promise or confidence
The breach might occur through the form of duties or on the terms of a trust. Such a breach need not be intentional or with malice but due to negligence.
Breach of trust is a failure by a trustee to discharge the duties imposed on him by the terms of the trust or by the general law in relation to the trust on property or the beneficiaries.
It is crystal clear from the above that the offence of Breach trust is one that is mostly committed on a daily basis due to its different ways or forms that it takes.
Conservatively, Breach of trust can arise in Business of sales, Partnership, Contract between two parties, In a Master and Servant relationship, As an Agent of another person or a company, As public office holder (President, Class reps, Manager of a business/company) amongst others.
Relatively, Breach of trust in another form, is the willful misappropriation of a thing which had been lawfully delivered in confidence for a particular course to someone who may be a Trustee, an Agent, a Public Office Holder, a Servant, a Master, a Partner in Business, etc.
Under the Criminal code act, it is termed as Breach of Contract of person employed in certain services.
Under the Nigerian Penal code act, it is termed as Criminal Breach of Trust. Among its provisions is that whoever is being entrusted with property or with a dominion over property, then dishonestly misappropriates or converts to his own use that property or dishonestly uses or disposess of that property in contrast of any direction of law prescribing the mode in which that trust is to be discharged, such a person has commits criminal breach of trust.
(a) Mr A, being executor to the will of a deceased person but dishonestly disobeys the law which directs him to divide the effects according to the will and appropriates them to his own use then Mr A has committed criminal breach of trust.
(b) Mr A is a warehouse keeper and Mr Z when going on a journey, entrusts his furniture to Mr A under a contract that it shall be returned on payment of a stipulated sum for storage. If Mr A dishonestly sells the goods then Mr A has committed criminal breach of trust.
(c) Mr A residing in Kaduna is an agent for Mr Z residing at Zaria. There is an express or implied contract between Mr A and Mr Z that all sums remitted by Mr Z to Mr. A shall be invested by Mr A according to Mr Z’s direction. If Mr Z remits a sum of money to Mr A with directions to Mr A to invest the same in Government securities but Mr A dishonestly disobeys the direction and employs the money in his own business then Mr A has committed criminal breach of trust.
(d) But if Mr A, in the last illustration, not dishonestly but in good faith believing that it will be more of Mr Z’s advantage to hold Bank shares, disobeys Mr Z’s direction then buys Bank shares for Mr Z instead of buying Government securities. Here, even if Mr Z should suffer loss and should be entitled to bring a civil action against Mr A on account of that loss, Mr A not having acted dishonestly has not committed criminal breach of trust.
(e) Mr A, is entrusted with public money and is neither directed by law nor bound by a contract express or implied with the Government to pay into a certain treasury all the public money which he holds. If Mr A dishonestly misappropriates the money then Mr A has committed criminal breach of trust.
(f) Mr A, a carrier, is entrusted by Mr Z with property to be carried by land or by water. If Mr A dishonestly misappropriates the property then Mr A has committed criminal breach of trust.
The commission of any of those offences amongst the above mentioned illustrations or other forms that aren’t mentioned may attract the punishment of imprisonment which may extend to Fourteen years with option of fine or both.
My references are;
Section 305A (1,2,3,4,5) Criminal code act 1990 LFRN
Section 311 (a,b,c,d,e,f) 312, 313, 314, 315 Penal code act1990 LFRN
Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
Article 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill.
These are just the author’s opinion on the written article and will not be liable for any inconsistency therewith.
SAHEED, Afeez Ayinde
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