The attention of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has been drawn to the statement issued by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said to be in response to the inaugural address of the President of the NBA made in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Friday 26th August, 2016.
It has become necessary to react to the statement given its unduly harsh and negative tone totally uncalled for when in the culture of any democratic society, debates about the nature the character and responsibilities of public institutions must always be encouraged.
The inaugural address of the NBA President was an address of nearly 30 pages, which sets out his vision and the direction of his programmes for the Nigerian legal profession. He committed himself to leading a brave new bar fully aligned with the aspirations of Nigerians in their quest for national development which can only be anchored on the rule of law built on strong institutions.
On corruption, the NBA President restated the commitment of the NBA in the fight against corruption. He commended the modest achievements of the EFCC but called for the reform of the agency to enhance its capabilities to deliver on its mandate on a ‘consistent and sustainable’ basis devoid of political interference and on the basis of well-established institutional safeguards that demand the proper regulation of the wide discretionary powers involved in the investigation and prosecution of criminal matters.
Combining investigative powers with prosecutorial powers, (called the Roskill Model in England), is the exception rather than the norm. In the UK only the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) enjoys such combined powers. But given the institutional safeguards, both within the SFO and the maturity that characterizes the UK Criminal Justice Institutions, the abuse of such powers will be highly unlikely.
The NBA Constitution demands that it promotes law reform and legal development. It therefore commits itself to promoting healthy public debate about our institutions and interrogating their capabilities and performance, including ALL criminal justice agencies including the EFCC. The
NBA will not be intimidated or cowed in the discharge of this responsibility.
The NBA condemns in the strongest terms the use of abusive and uncivil language of ‘rogues and vultures’ and such strictures by a public authority. The responsibility of the EFCC is to investigate and prosecute suspects involved in financial or economic crimes and other corruption cases. Name calling and use of abusive language is not expected of any public institution. The NBA demands unequivocal withdrawal of this statement and an unreserved apology from the EFCC.
The NBA calls on the EFCC to also endeavor to get its facts correct before making statements or insinuations. The NBA President, Mr. A.B. Mahmoud, SAN has over the years supported the work of the EFCC in many ways and acted as counsel in a number of matters on behalf of the organization. However, neither he nor his firm has ever represented the EFCC or the Attorney General of the Federation or been involved in any prosecution or defense of Mr. James Ibori in any criminal matter before any court in Nigeria or outside. Secondly, on the case involving the former Governor of Rivers State, Mr Peter Odili the EFCC is aware that Mr. Mahmoud was lead counsel in its defense in a civil case involving the constitutional challenge of the Powers of the EFCC by the Rivers State Government. In spite of his best efforts, the case has remained stuck in the Court of Appeal. The records of the EFCC will also show that neither Mr. Mahmoud nor his firm has been paid a kobo, notwithstanding the over twenty (20) appearances in the matter in the course of the last several years involving air travels (Abuja to Port Harcourt) and hotel expenses. It is accordingly unkind and a deliberate attempt to mislead the public by suggesting that Mr. Mahmoud was ever involved in any way in the conduct of its criminal cases against the two former Governors.
DATED 29TH AUGUST, 2016
ISIAKA ABIOLA OLAGUNJU,ESQ
NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION