The acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu has said that the Commission will no longer tolerate lawyers that frustrate the fight against corruption in any form.
Magu said that those lawyers who are specialists in filing frivolous applications in court to derail justice should be prepared for a tougher ride.
Speaking at a special lecture organised by the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADL) in Lagos with the theme ‘The role of Nigerian lawyers in the fight against corruption’, Magu lamented the negative role of some lawyers, whom he termed as ‘rogue elements’, in frustrating the fight against corruption. He however praised legal practitioners who have been assisting the agency in its duties.
“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.
“Under my watch, EFCC will come to the aid of short-changed Nigerians and where there is impunity, EFCC will intervene. We are working hard and want to enjoin all of you to work together with us. We have partnerships with lawyers whose credibility can be vouched for, but we will not stay idle and watch Nigerians being short changed.”
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) however, condemned the statement credited to the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, calling lawyers rogues.
The NBA, in a press statement signed by its General Secretary, Isiaka Abiola Olagunju, called on the commission to withdraw the statement and to tender an unreserved apology.
The association criticised the chairman of the anti-graft agency for using uncivil words of ‘rogues’ and “vultures” on lawyers who are doing their constitutional duties.
NBA said: “The inaugural address of the NBA President was a statement of nearly 30 pages, which set his vision and direction of his programmes for the Nigerian legal profession. He committed himself to leading a brave new Bar fully aligned with the aspirations of Nigerians in their quest for national development which can only be anchored o the rule of law built on strong institutions.
“In the paragraph of the statement dealing with corruption, the NBA President restated the commitment of the NBA in the fight against corruption. He commended the modest achievement of the EFCC but called for the reform of the agency to enhance its capability to deliver on its mandate on a consistent and sustainable basis devoid of political interference and on the basis of well established institution safeguard that demands proper regulation of the wide discretionary power involved in the investigation and prosecution of criminal matters.
“The NBA condemns in the strongest term the use of abusive and uncivil language of ‘rogues and vultures’ and such structures by the public authority. Name calling and abusive language is not expected of any public institution. It is unacceptable. The NBA demands unequivocal withdrawal of these statements and unreserved apology from the EFCC”.
The association called on the EFCC to endeavour to get its facts correctly before making statements or insinuations.
Last weekend the EFCC in a statement described the Nigerian Bench as one populated by rogues and vultures.
It said such group of people could not sit in judgement over others or command their respect.
The EFCC,s statement was a response to the call by the new NBA President, Abubakar Mahmoud, for the restructuring of the anti-graft agency.
Mahmoud had after his inauguration as the president of the NBA called for the restructuring of the EFCC.
Among other proposals, he said the anti-graft agency should be stripped of its prosecutorial powers.
But EFCC described the call by Mahmoud as a self serving one.
It said the aim of the call was to create “a cabal of untouchables” since some of the country’s senior lawyers are undergoing trial now for cases of corruption.