Abuja City Gate
WorldStage Newsonline-- As the world marks the 2016 International Anti-corruption Day, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has made a case for urgent reform of the nation's anti-corruption agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), if the nation must record success in its on-going fight against corruption.
NBA's position contained in a statement issued in Abuja by its President, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) in commemoration of this year's Anti-corruption Day, suggested urgent robust legal and institutional reforms in agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to allow for their effectiveness.
Mahmoud also suggested the need for a modification of approach to the fight against corruption, to focus more on preventive measures as against the current approach that seeks to punish after corruption act has occurred.
He said, "It is regrettable that in spite of all the efforts against corruption Nigeria is still rated very low in the annual anti-corruption index of Transparency International.
"In view of the fact that anti-corruption crusade is part of our public interest programme especially at the Bar and Bench, the NBA calls for urgent structural, legal and institutional reforms of the EFCC for more effectiveness and efficiency.
"While the NBA commends the current efforts to fight corruption, we note that the present legal and institutional framework which is in place is defective in structure and substance.
"To combat corruption successfully, a combination of strong legal and ethical framework and the presence of effective institutions are important for success. We further recommend that the mechanisms for investigation and prosecution against corruption must be restructured and strengthened.
"We note with grave concern that the current anti-corruption crusade seems to be much more focused on fighting corruption after it has occurred, but not much attention is paid to preventive measures with a view to minimizing the incidence of corruption.
"We strongly believe that prevention must equally be robust and effective. The current system is not sufficiently robust to prevent corruption from occurring within the public service system.
"We call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to initiate measures that seek to prevent corruption from occurring, in addition to the fight after corruption has occurred."
The NBA President said the association supported the fight against corruption, particularly judicial corruption, because of its belief in the importance of a virile and independent Judiciary for the success of the anti-corruption fight.
He noted that the Judiciary “has a significant role to play in the anti-corruption crusade and added that for the Judiciary to fight corruption effectively and efficiently, it has to be fearless and financially and institutionally independent.
"This means that the independence of the Bench and Bar is key to the campaign against corruption. But when the Judiciary is underfunded and perceived to be weak, those who thrive in corruption will continue in their fraudulent acts with impunity believing that nothing will happen.
"We call upon the Federal Government to ensure that adequate funds are allocated to the Judiciary as it prepares to present the 2017 appropriation Bill to the National Assembly.
"It is expected that adequate funding will contribute to independence of the Judiciary and reduce the incidence of judicial corruption.
"With regards to the Bar, the NBA shall spare no effort in weeding out corrupt lawyers in the legal profession through diverse means including our disciplinary mechanism.
"We strongly believe that imposing punitive suspensions from practice and series of disbarment will serve as deterrent to potential corrupt legal practitioners some of whom may be candidates for appointment to the Bench. As I stated before the NBA will fight judicial corruption.
"We shall make the legal profession unattractive for corrupt lawyers. We must devise ways of identifying and flushing out bad eggs at all levels of the Bar and the Bench."
Mahmoud said the issue of corruption had led to loss of confidence in Nigeria by its citizens both home and abroad, due to the activities of fraudsters, corrupt public officials and bad governance by our leaders.
He noted that, on the international scene, Nigeria had been blacklisted as a state in which integrity and transparency are alien and where no transactions occur without greasing of palms.
Source: Prince Okedinachi - World Stage Group