Rule of law not negotiable in anti-graft war, SANs tell govt

LAWYERSSenior advocates caution against harassment of judges, lawyers

For the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN), while the Federal Government’s campaign against corruption is necessary, it must be prosecuted within the ambit of the rule of law to avoid an abuse of the fundamental rights of the citizens.

Rising from its meeting at the Nigerian Law School in Lagos at the weekend, the body, which is the umbrella organisation for all lawyers admitted to the Inner Bar, stressed its abhorrence for corruption but cautioned that efforts to combat the malaise must not be corrupted by the violation of human rights.

Anti-corruption agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have squabbled recently with lawyers and their umbrella body, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) over concerns that the anti-corruption battle is being derailed through the abuse of human rights and lack of due process.

In a statement jointly signed by Mr. Ebun Sofunde (SAN) and Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), BOSAN said: “The Body condemns all forms of corruption and money laundering by anyone, lawyers inclusive. And we wholeheartedly support appropriate efforts of the government aimed at curbing the menace of corruption through thorough investigation and prosecution of offenders in a fair trial that complies with due process of the law and ensures equal access to justice by the prosecutor and the accused, while guaranteeing the fundamental rights of all persons as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).”

The group said that while it “welcomes the investigation of any lawyer, no matter how highly placed,” due process must be followed to ensure that rights of suspects are guaranteed, adding that its members have a duty and a responsibility to hold themselves to the highest professional and moral standards.

They also pledged their determination to continue to ensure that those standards are maintained.

The elite group of lawyers condemned “all acts of disrespect by any person or agency of government, of valid orders of courts of competent jurisdiction,” warning that disrespect or disregard of court orders “is a step towards anarchy, which does not and cannot augur well for a democratic society such as Nigeria.”

BOSAN expressed concern on the “spate of disparaging remarks and attacks on the judiciary and judicial officers, often made in a generalised manner and perhaps calculated to intimidate and infuse fear in judges, who are sworn to dispense justice without fear or favour.”

It added: “It is the Body’s view that it is unfair to the many honest and hard-working judges in our country to be painted with the same brush as the few who have been found wanting for misconduct or those who bring the office into disrepute and violate their sacred oaths of office.”

It also warned lawyers to desist from joining the bandwagon of issuing “generalised statements of a disparaging nature” against judges, describing such conduct as “unprofessional.”



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