Lawyers Are Impediments To Fight Against Corruption – Magu

 

Ibrahim Magu, acting EFCC chairman
Ibrahim Magu, acting EFCC chairman

The chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, has said that the anti-graft agency will soon go after lawyers who help their clients to commit crimes, with a view to prosecuting them.

The EFCC chairman who expressed concern that lawyers aide their clients to escape justice and get away with crime, said that such counsels have constituted an impediment to the fight against corruption.

Magu spoke at the beginning of a workshop organised by the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, in collaboration with the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, themed “Anti Corruption, Ethics of the Legal Profession and Justice Sector, held in Abuja on Tuesday.

He lamented situations where lawyers help their clients to launder money or purchase houses and other properties, knowing that the funds are proceeds of crime and assured that the EFCC would not spare such legal practitioners.

He observed that lawyers have a great stake in the fight against corruption as they have the responsibility to defend persons accused of economic and financial crimes, and urged them to put the nation first in their dealings.

To the consternation of lawyers and civil society players at the workshop, the EFCC chairman also urges lawyers to deemphasise the issue of fundamental human rights in the fight against corruption, as the interest of the nation is more important than individual liberties.

“We should deemphasise the issue of fundamental human right. Frankly speaking, what is important now is national interest. The country’s interest should be above any individual interest. You should put your actions on a scale and find out whether that thing is in the interest of the nation,” he said.

The EFCC boss also observed that some lawyers charge as much as a billion naira from some accused persons and work to help such persons escape justice not minding what crime they committed.

Magu, whose comments were applauded by members of the integrity community, civil society and journalists, received a cold reception among lawyers who apparently irked by his position.

But Magu’s position was actually reinforcing earlier stand of the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee, Itse Sagay, who berated lawyers who become partners in crime with their clients in the name of defending them.

Sagay said that lawyers have a duty to inform anti-corruption agencies or other relevant law enforcement agencies if he/she discovers that a client is involved in crime, reasoning that taking a brief does not mean a counsel should protect a criminal.

A lawyer who knows that his client is guilty should advise him to plead guilty before the court to save himself/herself and the court time.

The Professor of Law said that lawyers are duty to promote the well-being of society s their profession cuts across all facets of human life but lamented that lawyers engage in acts that pervert the cause of justice, just to satisfy their clients.

He opined that it is unethical and a breach of the rules of conduct of the legal for lawyers to exploit court procedures to bring about delays that can delay or impede the dispensation of justice.

Sagay frowned at several means my which lawyers abuse court processes to pervert the cause of justice, including frivolous applications, accusing judges of bias to initiate the transfer of a case.

The PACAC chairman admonished judges confronted with such ploys, particularly accusations of bias just before a ruling, not to capitulate but be courageous and stand firm against intimidation to deliver their judgements.

Sagay noted that other ploys employed by counsels to scuttle cases is their withdrawal from a case just before ruling and requests for client’s treatment abroad, adding that such tactics can turn lawyers into accomplices in criminal acts.

Like Magu, Sagay warned that lawyers who allow themselves to degenerate from counsel to accomplices through money laundering, forgery and other criminal acts will prosecuted by relevant law enforcement agencies.

The General Secretary of NBA, Afam Osigwe, in his own opening remarks said that the association decided to hold the workshop to discuss how lawyers who defend accused persons can equally help in the fight against corruption.

Osigwe, however disagreed with Sagay’s position, arguing that because of the confidentiality between a lawyer and a client, ”it is wrong for a lawyer to divulge confidential information to a third party.






     

     

    While agreeing that “lawyers should not be a tool in the hands of clients to commit crime, he said that the time tested concept of counsel/client confidentiality is important and should never be breached.

    The NBA scribe also frowned at suggestions that lawyers should provide information to law enforcement agencies about their client, arguing that lawyers cannot be expected to do the work of the anti-graft and other security agencies.

    “Any provision of the law that turns lawyers into informants against their clients should be fought,” he stated, adding that “lawyers cannot gather information for the EFCC or inform against his client. It is wrong.”

    Also at the opening of the workshop was the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who was represented by Sylvester Enebor, Chief Justice of the Federation, CJN, who res represented by Justice Kudirat Kekere – Ekun of the Supreme Court and the President of the NBA, Augustine Alegeh, represented by Francis Ekwere, chairman, NBA anti-corruption committee.

     

     

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