THE Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has challenged the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and lawyers to play a pivotal role in the fight against corruption in the legal system.
ICPC chairman Bolaji Owasanoye made the call at the NBA Annual General Meeting and Conference in Lagos. He was speaking on the theme, ‘How Corruption Fuels Insecurity and Bad Governance: The Role of Lawyers in Tackling Corrupt Practices in Nigeria’.
Owasanoye, who decried corrupt practices in the legal profession, advised the leadership of the NBA to act swiftly and sanction lawyers involved in corrupt practices.
He questioned the ‘middlemen’s role’ played by some lawyers for suspects involved in corruption cases, particularly money laundering and illicit financial flows (IFFs), describing it as unethical.
“In one of the investigations by the Commission, we traced the money to the account of a lawyer. When we got to the account, the money had further been transferred to many accounts in an effort to frustrate the investigation. These lawyers are agents of money launderers, and they undermine the legal profession.
“Also, some lawyers are engaged in the payment of bribes to file cases in courts or to collect receipts. Lawyers must dare to speak and challenge the status quo and reinvigorate the fight against corruption and money laundering,” he said.
Owasanoye further expressed deep concern over orders granted by courts to lawyers preventing anti-corruption agencies from investigating and making arrests.
“The courts are now in the habit of issuing orders stopping anti-corruption agencies from investigation and making arrests. The biggest culprits are the senior lawyers, and it is a matter of regret that the NBA is not doing anything about it.”
Evaluating the nexus between corruption, insecurity and bad governance, the ICPC boss explained that the provision of critical infrastructure, security, education, health, and food are the immediate casualties of corruption.
“A single transaction of diversion of huge sums could have an immediate impact that may become irreversible or more difficult and costly to reverse, while petty diversion of budget or misallocation of resources may not immediately make an impact but will inevitably impact medium to long term.”11
He further stated that the Commission was collaborating with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) through the use of modern technology to aid the fight against corruption and illicit financial flows.
In a related development, the former Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Sam Amadi, has hailed the impact of the anti-corruption agency in addressing corruption in the country, particularly in the public sector and government finance.
In his presentation at the NBA conference, Amadi commended the ICPC for fostering integrity, honesty and accountability in the system.
“The ICPC has been very excellent under the present Chairman and Board which has brought integrity, honesty and accountability to the system,” he said.
He further emphasised the importance of human rights to social order, saying that they are critical conditions for social justice and good governance.
Amadi also called for self-regulation by the legal profession.
According to him, “The NBA has to self-regulate its members by addressing and penalising the corrupt ones among them. The Association should create a new index for good performance.”
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman of Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Olanrewaju Suraju, advised lawyers to uphold the integrity of the legal profession.