The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will no longer no longer condone lawyers who frustrate the fight against corruption through frivolous applications in court.
Chairman of the commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, made the assertion yesterday at a lecture organised by the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADL) held in Ikeja, Lagos, with the theme, ‘The role of Nigerian lawyers in the fight against corruption.’
He lamented the negative role of some lawyers he termed ‘rogue elements’ in frustrating the fight against corruption.
Similarly, Executive Secretary, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, said the biggest threat to the success of the administration of criminal justice is the unchanging attitude of lawyers to the letter and spirit of the law.
He also lamented that some Judges continue to tolerate the dilatory tactics of lawyers, rather than enforce the spirit of the law fully.
“Ref, saying “refusal to recognised the import and impact of the legislation and continued attempts to delay progress of criminal cases, especially corruption cases, is a gross violation of the Rule 30 of the Rules of Professional conduct and ought to be severely sanction without equivocation.”
Magu, while praising legal practitioners for assisting the agency in their duties, said the commission has had to confront corrupt lawyers, warning that it would no longer condone them.
“Your direct confrontation of the corruption monster through the instrumentality of the law is an inspiration to those of us in the enforcement of the law.
“However, in the course of confronting the monster, we constantly run up against a gang of rogue elements who are not only frustrating the work that we are doing, but also give a terrible name to the Bar and Bench.
“The biggest form of corruption is the one that has eaten deep in the temple of justice. We are all witnesses to the abuse of ability, skills and knowledge of few rogue elements in the profession.
“The EFCC has no choice than to challenge senior lawyers, who are perverting the cause of justice. We are resilient to weed out corrupt individual, be it in the judiciary or otherwise. There is no time now in Nigeria than to say, enough is enough.”
Magu stated that under his watch, EFCC would come to the aid of shortchanged Nigerians and intervene where there is impunity.
He enjoined lawyers to work together with the agency, expressing readiness to partner with lawyers whose credibility can be vouched for, but would not stay idle and watch Nigerians being shortchanged.
Owasanoye, who was the guest lecturer at the event, said lawyers have a greater role to play in the fight against corruption, adding that the success of the fight against corruption depends on the cooperation of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA).
“The role of lawyers in the fight against corruption is well recognised. Like Ebola and Cancer, corruption has eaten deep in the country until President Muhammadu Buhari came on board.
“Recent mind-bugling revelations of corruption emanating from the military arms contract have established the fact that the effects of corruption in Nigeria is not under estimated.
“If the fight against corruption fails, Nigeria has fail, because if nothing changes, the legal profession will not survive.”
He added: “The fight against corruption is not a tea party and when corruption fights back, lawyers are always collaborators.
“Fighting corruption requires resilient. If lawyers fail to fight against corruption, they are not fighting government, but society.
“The more corruption thrives, there will be more crimes such as kidnapping. Where a lawyer takes a bribe in the course of the fight against corruption, he is liable to prosecution.”
In his explanation on the obstacles in the fight against corruption and solutions, Owasanoye urged the federal government to extend the fight to state and local governments, pointing out that the whistle blower Act should be formed and witnesses protected.
“Creating an effective framework against corruption is important. By improving on characters of people voted into offices, both at the public and private sectors, it will diminish corruption.
“We also need to keep data of criminals. Inadequate funding of criminal justice is also a big problem, as well as poor oversight of the work of anti-corruption agencies, but the NBA must rise to the occasion,” he stated.
In his submission, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) said the President must do more than declaring his assets by ensuring that his ministers and other public office holders follow suit.
Falana, who was the chairman of the occasion, faulted the position of the Speaker of House Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, that budget padding is not a crime, adding: “Section 81 of the constitution says the President shall cause the budget to be prepared before the House, not the National Assembly influencing the budget.”
He noted: “Today, I am not sure we have many lawyers of good conscience. We were hoping the NBA would do something about those lawyers who allows cases to go on for 15 years, but since the NBA is busy making money, it is time for lawyers of good conscience to distance themselves.”