Concerned Lawyers Vow To Fight Obstacles To Anti-corruption War
BEVERLY HILLS, February 19, (THEWILL) – Some legal practitioners who identified themselves as Concerned Lawyers on Thursday carried out a solidarity march to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC's office in Lagos to defend the integrity of their profession and support the anti-graft agency's battle against corruption.
This came on the heels of a recent claim by the EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu that corrupt persons were using lawyers to frustrate the war against corruption as well as the prosecution of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ricky Tarfa for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The lawyers, who were led to the anti-graft agency's office by a human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana SAN, described as embarrassing, actions of some legal practitioners which seem to be hindering the fight against corruption and promised to mobilise Nigerians against any group seeking to hinder the anti-graft war.
They also backed the EFCC for keeping some high profile suspects in custody and wondered why the courts will grant them bail, but refuse to extend same privilege to suspected kidnappers and armed robbers.
The lawyers, who were received by EFCC boss, assured the commission of their unflinching support so long as it is prepared to fight corruption without being selective and kicked against the generalization of all lawyers as corrupt since there are as many bad eggs in the legal profession as there are in the commission.
Falana, who first spoke on behalf of the group, decried the worrisome spate of corruption in the country, describing it as a family phenomenon, where fathers and their children are locked in the same prison without shame.
According to him, “We are here to assure the EFCC of our unflinching support and solidarity as long as the EFCC is prepared to fight graft without trace of selectivity.
“We also want to urge you to beware not to fall into the fallacy of generalisation. There are bad lawyers and judges, but there are also good ones.
“Name and shame criminal minded judges and lawyers; Majority of members of the legal profession are prepared to work with the EFCC to ensure that corruption is fought.
“There should be respect for lawyers doing their professional duties. No lawyer should be harassed for doing his professional duty. But any lawyer found to have aided and abated corruption should be dealt with in accordance with the laws. No one is above the law.
“We are embarrassed by a few of our privileged colleagues who bribe judges, talk to them behind doors to pervert justice,” he said.
The radical lawyer, who admitted the fact that every accused person is entitled to legal representation, however tasked lawyers to always uphold the ethics of their profession.
“Lawyers must not be allowed to take advantage of their profession to frustrate trial of a suspect. We have a duty to this country as ministers in the temple of justice,” he said.
Emphasising the call for bail denial for persons accused of corruption, Falana noted that the courts must exercise their discretion to bail very well.
“Why deny a suspected armed robber or kidnapper bail, but grant a person who is accused of stealing N10 billion or above bail and give him his passport to roam the world?
“Corruption is responsible for armed robbery and kidnapping. It is responsible for unemployment in our society and so, why should such people enjoy bail?
In his response, Magu said he was willing to die fighting graft, noting that corruption has started fighting back.
He said: “Corruption has started fighting back. Beneficiaries of proceeds of corruption have constituted themselves into a gang of 134 lawyers to fight back, but we will win.
“We have professionals who are paid with stolen funds to fight those fighting corruption. They do not believe that corruption in itself is wrong…”
He described them as a “set of unpatriotic Nigerians”, noting that they have created an industry out of providing expertise and technical know-how to crooks.
“It was against this backdrop that I made my call on some senior lawyers to aid EFCC to recover our stolen commonwealth, rather than helping to thwart the efforts of the government in that direction. Since I made that call, a number of your colleagues have been calling for my head.
“I want to announce that we have been prosecuting lawyers quietly. Apart from the widely published case against learned silk, Ricky Tarfa (SAN), the EFCC has taken several lawyers to court and some have been convicted. The commission would be releasing all the information about those people to the public soon.
“Apart from those, we have been quietly investigating many senior lawyers across the country in relation to the proceeds of certain heinous crimes against the Nigerian people. When we have reached a comfortable stage in our investigations, we would take them to court and make the outcomes of our inquiries known to the people.
“I am very much aware that the war against corruption and all the work of the EFCC cannot be done without the courts, where lawyers and judges make up that indispensable branch of democratic governance.
“Far from the devious insinuation that we may be denying the rights of suspects and accused persons to legal representation, what we are asking members of the noble profession to do is stricter due diligence on their prospective clients and refuse to be part of the mindless looting of Nigeria.
“Let senior lawyers allow the ethics of their profession, the interest of Nigeria and their good conscience to guide them when they accept briefs and are called upon to use their skills to pervert the cause of justice, as many now do,” the EFCC Chairman stated.