The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay (SAN) and rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN) have reached a consensus that activities of professionals, particularly lawyers and judges are frustrating efforts by the Federal Government to curb corruption and impunity in the country.
Lawal, Sagay, Falana and others, who spoke in Abuja at a workshop on the “Role of professionals in the fight against corruption,” were unanimous on the need for professionals to put societal interest above individual preferences, uphold professional ethics, and support government’s efforts to enthrone transparency in the conduct of state affairs.
The workshop was put together by PACAC, Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) and the Convention on Business Integrity (CBI).
Lawal said that the role of lawyers and some compromised judges, who offer their expertise to indicted individuals and deploy delay tactics and other underhand methods to frustrate the successful prosecution of criminal cases, was particularly injurious to the federal government’s anti-corruption campaign.
Represented by the Director, Nigerian national Volunteer Services (NNVS), Tor Tsavsar, the SGF said there was need for professionals to see themselves as stakeholders in government’s anti-graft efforts if the country was to grow and attain needed development.
“From recent revelations, corruption is usually aided and facilitated by conniving civil servants and professionals in the public and private sectors. It is no news that most stolen funds are laundered through our banks and other offshore entities that are owned and managed by professionals.
“A recent case of the ‘Panama Papers scandals’ is an example of how politicians, criminals and rogue industries were assisted by professionals to launder stolen funds. It is equally regrettable that some of the professionals do not stop at aiding, abetting and facilitating the stealing of public funds, but more often than not, go further to offer direct and indirect support to indicted officials to beat the law.
“It is no more news that corrupt officials are able to engage some of our seasoned lawyers, who employ negative tactics ‘in or out of court’ to frustrate trials of indicted officials. The retinue of frivolous interlocutory applications, which are pursued up to the apex court, while action on substantive matters are stayed, are common examples of how professional lawyers frustrate the fight against corruption.”
Sagay, who deplored the conduct of professionals who aid corruption and fraud, said the federal government was looking at ways of ensuring that those, who aid acts of fraud and corruption, are also prosecuted.
He said the workshop was intended to seek the support of professional bodies, and draw their attention to their responsibilities in this regard.
Falana urged the federal government and anti-graft agencies to look beyond public officers and politically exposed individuals to include professionals, drug dealers and human traffickers in their activities. [myad]