A group known as the National Association of Democratic Lawyers has criticized the National Executive Committee of Nigerian Bar Association over its resolution held concerning the seminars/conferences organized and sponsored by the EFCC for judges.
According to the group, the act of the NEC members is hypocritical as some of them have initiated such gatherings organized by other establishments, such as the National Communication Commission, Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria, etc., and even made paper presentations in such such seminars, adding that not only prosecutorial agencies may likely influence the judiciary.
The NADL in a letter dated 9th January 2019 signed by the Chairman, Board of Governors, NADL, Jiti Ogunye, made available to TheNigerialawyer, also stressed that it supports the prosecutorial activities of the anti-corruption agencies, including its continued engagement with the Judiciary under the auspices and coordination of the National Judicial Institute.
Below reads the full Press statement
9th January 2019
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DEMOCRATIC LAWYERS ( NADL)
THE HYPOCRISY OF NBA/NEC ON SEMINARS FOR JUDGES
- The National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADL) is constrained to issue this Statement, as a major stakeholders in the justice administration sector and in the operation of the rule of law in Nigeria.
- Based on a principled objection raised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) not too long ago, the National Judicial Council ( NJC) directed the National Judicial Institute (NJI) to organise all seminars that may be sponsored for judges by public and private institutions in Nigeria. Since then, seminars sponsored for judges by agencies of the government, including prosecutorial bodies have been organised by the National Judicial Institute. However, notwithstanding the involvement of the National Judicial Institute in such programmes, the various ministries of justice in the country have continued to organise seminars for judges and other stakeholders in the justice sector. The NBA has never hesitated to participate in such programmes.
- Curiously, at the meeting of the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association which was held in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory on December 3rd and 4th, 2018, it was resolved that “prosecutorial agencies” be prohibited from organising seminars for judges. According to the NBA/NEC, such interactions that “are not at arm’s length could blur the perception of an independent judiciary in the eyes of the Nigerian public”! “NEC notes that these training programmes are of particular concern to lawyers, given the penal sanctions that attach to prosecution by the prosecution agencies.”
- Like many members of the NBA, members of the NADL had thought that the resolution was meant to preserve the independence and impartiality of judges handling cases that are being prosecuted by the prosecutorial agencies. But upon a closer look at the resolution, we found that the NBA, which had decried the sponsorship of training of judges by prosecution agencies, had turned round to approve seminars and conferences sponsored by other statutory bodies. As far as the NBA NEC is concerned, the seminars sponsored by the prosecutorial agencies are in contradiction with “civil claims and liabilities that are usually the subject matter of agencies like the Nigerian Communications Commission, Shippers Council etc who (sic) routinely organise skill development workshops and seminars for judges.”
- The apparent inconsistency of the NBA/NEC on seminars for judges was informed by the undeniable fact that the workshops organised for judges by the National Communications Commission, Shippers Council, etc, were actually initiated by some current members of the NBA/NEC. Hence, such lawyers have recently participated in the 15th Edition of the Maritime Seminar for Judges sponsored by the Nigerian Shippers Council. It is also on record that the Bar Leaders have participated and presented papers in similar conferences for judges which were sponsored by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), banks and other financial institutions. The fact that the statutory bodies and financial institutions which sponsor such seminars have cases pending before our courts is of no moment to the NBA/NEC which pretends to be defending the independence of the Judiciary.
- The position of the NBA/NEC thus gives the erroneous impression that only prosecutorial agencies are likely to influence judges through seminars sponsored by them while similar programmes organised at the instance of AMCON, NIMASA and the Shippers Council are designed to develop the capacity and skill of Nigerian judges.
- We make bold to declare that this impression being deliberately created by the NBA/NEC vide a self-serving resolution does not represent the popular position of Nigerian lawyers who believe that the Judiciary should be adequately funded to organise workshops to enhance the capacity of Nigerian judges, and that the Judiciary be robustly engaged by sectors that are critical to administration of justice (criminal and civil) in the enhancement and refinement of its adjudicatory tools.
- For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerian lawyers are not waging a war against the prosecution agencies (especially the anti-corruption agencies that exercise prosecutorial powers. Nigerian lawyers want these agencies to fearlessly but properly exercise their prosecutorial mandate in accordance with the rule of law.
- It easily can be recalled, in this connection, that immediately the NBA Leadership emerged at the Annual General Conference (AGC) of the NBA, held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in September 2016, the position frontally advocated in a maiden presidential address was that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) should be stripped of its prosecutorial powers. As generously reported by the print and electronic media, the NBA President advocated that the EFCC be “reformed by limiting its role solely to investigation.” Under the envisioned “reform” EFCC’s mandate to prosecute would be handled by an independent, highly resourced prosecution agency. The NBA President was quoted as having stated, in elaboration, that :
“The critical institutions involved must be repositioned, re-equipped and re-tooled to confront the problem of corruption on a consistent and sustainable basis. ‘As a start, we commend the efforts of the EFCC 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 objective as an investigative and prosecutorial agency should be reviewed. ‘I recommend strongly that the EFCC be limited to investigation. ‘The NBA anti-corruption committee would be mandated to develop clear recommendations toward enhancing the fight against corruption and improving the effectiveness of the agencies involved….’The NBA would advocate urgent reforms that would reposition the judiciary and make it play crucial roles…a clean, efficient and knowledgeable judiciary is a foundation for building an orderly, peaceful and prosperous society.. ‘The NBA, under my watch, will fight judicial corruption. ‘We shall make the legal profession unattractive for corrupt lawyers,”
- The NADL supports the prosecutorial activities of the anti-corruption agencies, including its continued engagement with the Judiciary under the auspices and coordination of the National Judicial Institute.
Chairman, Board of Governors, NADL firstname.lastname@example.org
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