The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye SAN, OFR, has posited that the wrong trajectory being observed in the legal profession in the country can be corrected if lawyers provide leadership and direction to members of the public who engage their services.
The ICPC boss stated this while hosting the new National executive committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) who were at the Commission’s headquarters on Tuesday on a courtesy visit.
Professor Owasanoye, who decried the alarming rate of how some lawyers undermine the profession, cited examples of lawyers who enmeshed themselves in questionable acts that have overtly rubbed off on the legal profession in the country.
“Many who claimed to be lawyers are not living up to the name and they embarrass all of us. Many of them undermine the integrity of the profession by betraying the very essence of our training. How do you explain why a lawyer would put forward or try to defend an illegal contract. We have seen an agreement prepared by a lawyer for people to engage in illegal transaction. While the agreement was violated, a lawyer who we believe should know better wrote to ICPC to intervene. We all know it is wrong for someone to pay to get a job in public service and here we are seeing a lawyer drafting an agreement for the parties involved.”
The ICPC Chairman added that the unprofessional conduct of some lawyers were reason why the perception of the legal body was low in the country just as he warned that Nigeria was at risk of being grey-listed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
“You may be aware that there is a mutual evaluation on the country by the Financial Action Task Force and Nigeria is currently at the risk of being grey-listed. One of the reasons for that is because the legal profession has been seen to be resistant to the anti-money laundering and financing autonomy requirements. This may lead to the grey-listing of Nigeria by FATF in February next year. The implication of the grey-listing is that Nigeria’s economy is running on loans and when you are grey-listed, you will have to borrow at a premium. If you neighbour borrows at four (4) percent, you will have to borrow at twelve (12) to fifteen (15) percent.”
Professor Owasanoye expressed the need to educate members of the NBA on the implications of their actions on the economy just as he urged the National executive committee of the Association to push forward policies that would advance the course of the justice sector reform.
Earlier in his address, the National President of the NBA, Mr. Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, SAN, OON expressed concern about the perception of the legal profession in the public saying the profession was not as corrupt as the press would want to make the public believe.
He stated that the NBA under his leadership was on the same page with the ICPC in the fight against corruption and would make itself available for any form of collaboration with the Commission that would advance its course in reducing the menace of corruption in country.
Maikyau also suggested that cases of infractions by lawyers that have been noted by the ICPC could be forwarded to the NBA’s secretariat for necessary disciplinary actions by the body.