Lawyers not immune to corruption probe, says Sagay
The Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay yesterday said lawyers were not immune to investigation of charges of corrupt practices against them.
He therefore, called on the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate, arrest, try and jail lawyers who are found guilty of receiving bribes from corrupt public servants and politicians.
Sagay stated this in Benin City at the 2017 Annual Law Week of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Benin Branch with the theme: “Fighting Corruption Within The Rule of Law in a Democracy.”
Delivering a paper titled: “Corruption in the Judiciary; the Disciplinary Role of the NJC Vis-à-Vis Law Enforcement Agencies,” Sagay expressed shock over the way Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) were alleged to have members of the bench for favourable rulings. He lamented that such practices have introduced judges to the culture of collecting bribes.
He explained that the provision of the constitution on schedule 3(i) didn’t give judges the right to involve in corruption stressing that judges must be perfect and remain the repository of honour, integrity and high moral standards.
He said when the law courts across the country “fail to interpret, apply and enforce the law; the existence of any civilized society will be endangered,” adding that loss of confidence in the judiciary would amount to chaos and disintegration.
“The EFCC and the police must monitor and investigate the activities of lawyers who receive share of the proceeds of crime as their fees. They should be treated like accomplice after the fact because they share in the proceeds of crimes of politically exposed persons and once paid from that stained loot, it becomes their life’s struggle to protect and shield the primary criminals from the consequences of their crimes.
“Thus, the complicit lawyer must not be spared. He is grossly in breach of the ethics of the legal profession,” he added.Dean of Law, University of Benin, Prof. Lawrence Atsegbua (SAN) stated that the law has failed as a tool of fighting corruption because in spite of laws prescribing stiff penalties for corruption, more monies than ever have been stolen from the public coffer by corrupt means.
Chairman of the occasion and Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Esther Ikponmwen described corruption as a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabric of the society, stressing that if not tackled it may continue to hamper the growth and development of the country.