NBA canvasses reform of EFCC, judiciary
Just one week after the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Magu Ibrahim, blamed some lawyers he termed “rogue elements” for the seeking unnecessary adjournments that have slowed the pace of prosecution of anti-corruption cases in the country, the new president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), has called for a reform of the Commission and the judiciary, if the fight against corruption is to succeed.
Mahmoud, who took over from Augustine Alegeh yesterday, said critical institutions involved in the fight against corruption such as the EFCC and the judiciary must be repositioned, re-equipped and re-tooled to confront the issue.
He stated this while delivering his inaugural speech as the 28th President of the NBA in Port Harcourt.Mahmoud stressed that the fight against corruption should be better fought by all institutions of the state within the framework of the law. To this end, he advocated the review of operations of the EFCC as an investigative and prosecutorial agency.
According to him, the EFCC will be more effective and efficient if it is limited to the investigation of corruption cases.“The Nigeria Bar Association commits itself to the fight against corruption in Nigeria. We will put our knowledge, skills and all other resources to combat corruption and reclaim the dignity of Nigeria and Nigerians. We recognize, however, that the fight against corruption can only be achieved if we do so within the framework of the rule of law and by strong institutions.”
He pointed out that the repositioning and re-equipping of the EFCC has become imperative if the country is to confront the problem of corruption on a consistent sustainable basis. He commended the efforts of the anti-graft agency for the work it is doing and for its modest achievements.
“However, going forward, the NBA must demand the reform of the institution itself. We need to define its mandate more narrowly and more clearly. In my view, its broad operations as an investigative and prosecutorial agency should be reviewed. I recommend strongly that EFCC should be limited to investigation.
“The decision to prosecute and the conduct of the prosecution must be by an independent highly resourced prosecution agency. In addition, the EFCC and the prosecution agency must be secured from political interference in their activities. There is absolutely no reason for it to report operationally or otherwise to the Presidency,” he said.
He explained that the NBA under his leadership will vigorously advocate for radical reforms in the Judiciary, in a bid to set the third arm of government well repositioned and equipped to play its role in the dispensation of justice in the country. According to him, the NBA under his watch will fight against judicial corruption.
“The NBA will advocate for urgent reforms that will reposition our judiciary and equip it to play its future role. A clean, efficient knowledgeable, effective and transformative judiciary is at the foundation of building an orderly, peaceful and prosperous society.
“It is the only way we can guarantee the rule of law and an egalitarian society for our people. The notion that a judge could be bribed either by a lawyer or litigant is completely obnoxious and unacceptable. In many countries, it is unthinkable.
“The NBA under my watch will figure judicial corruption. We shall also make the legal profession unattractive for corrupt lawyers. We will ensure that the NBA does not become a date haven for miscreant lawyers.”
Mahmoud said the NBA would offer its services to reduce tension in the northeast and the Niger Delta. He estimated that over 2.3 million have been displaced in the northeast alone due to the activities of Boko Haram, adding that the NBA will provide pro bono legal services to victims and communities displaced by conflict in the region when the need arises.
“The NBA will set up a northeast task force with the following mandate. To provide pro bono legal services to individuals and communities in the region who are victims of the conflict to aid the process of rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation, “ he said.