All All hands must be on deck to fight corruption – Afam Osigwe
By Michael Jegede
The immediate past General Secretary of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Barrister Mazi Afam Osigwe, has called on Nigerians to give full support to the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in its war against corruption.
Osigwe who is also a former chairman of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter of NBA made the call in an interview in Abuja.
According to him, corruption has done so much harm to the fortunes of Nigeria that every well-meaning Nigerian should rise in support of government’s effort to kill the hydra-headed monster.
“Corruption has led to so many deaths. Corruption has led to the death of the infrastructure we have because people simply pocket the money and work away. If we don’t fight it, there may not be a good tomorrow for our children. All hands must be on deck to fight it,” the legal pundit stated, adding that, “But there must also be transparency in fighting it. Recovered loots must be accounted for and paid into the federal government treasury. The mode of fighting it must be lawful. It must be within the limits of the law that people must not be unnecessarily demonized or destroyed in public, only for the affected agencies not to prosecute them or to find out that they are innocent. The process must be lawful.”
On the allegation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that treasury looters are aided by senior lawyers to escape justice in Nigeria, Osigwe said: “This point has been made several times that I wouldn’t want to dwell so much on it. The people that prosecute people for the EFCC are lawyers. And a number of them are senior lawyers. And it is a constitutionally guaranteed right that a person being prosecuted is entitled to a defence counsel. And to suggest that because they get lawyers to defend them, the lawyers are aiding corruption, is to suggest that you would rather want to hang them without a trial, because you don’t want them to have counsel. You want to by intimidation; you want to by abuses scare lawyers into refusing to accept their briefs. But you know what? I am sorry we’ll disappoint them. They are entitled to defense counsel and they must have it. In some cases a trial may be set aside if an accused person fails to get counsel. Any institution that fights corruption and suggest that rule of law should not be binding on it can never succeed in fighting corruption.”
Speaking further, the ex-NBA scribe wondered why the EFCC reacted the way it did to the suggestion by the new NBA President, Mr. Mamood Abubakar, SAN, that the anti-corruption agency should be stripped of its prosecutorial power.
“I would say that the reaction by the EFCC was unfortunate. It showed EFCC as a body that is not yet cultured in the manner that public institutions should be run. The NBA President simply made a recommendation that we should give a second look at the EFCC to consider whether the EFCC should not discontinue with prosecution as the same time it does investigation. But the EFCC descended to an all-time low that bordered on the irresponsible, if I may say that. It cast aspersion on the generality of lawyers by saying that the Nigerian Bar Association is populated and directed by rogues and vultures. That is not the kind of language you would expect from a decent institution whose major battle is to fight financial crimes and corruption,” Osigwe remarked.