Lawyers in public service have been urged to contribute to national development by offering sound legal advice.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), in a communique issued at the end of its 55th Annual General Conference in Abuja, urged lawyers in private or public service to discharge their functions creditably.
The NBA stated that lawyers, who find themselves in public service, must offer quality leadership.
“In this regard, lawyers in public service have a duty to uphold the rule of law, and observe the ethics of the legal profession in carrying out even their public service responsibilities,” the NBA said.
Speaking at the session with the theme: Contribution of lawyers in public office to national development, immediate past Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN) said it was necessary to review the role lawyers have played in the country’s development to appreciate what they are expected to do to develop the society.
Human resources, he said, are very important in the development of any country and Nigeria has benefited more from the role of lawyers in its effort to build a stable polity.
“In our existence as a nation, our parliament, the executive, the judiciary, in fact all aspects of our existence as a nation is circumscribed by law, and if that is the case, lawyers are more qualified to govern. What is the essence of governance? We have to focus on what we have decided to do.
“Therefore, we cannot over emphasise the role of lawyers in national development. We must provide the society with the so-called ‘dividends of democracy’. We must emphasise on the state of the nation and the restructuring of the society. Dividends of democracy has been interpreted in various manners. How does it affect the lives of the people, the amendment of the constitution, the polity, the National Assembly and the rest?
“We must not put aside the fundamental issues of human rights. The constitution as an organic document needs to be interpreted and amended in such a way that it will give quality life to the people.”
The Senate Minority leader and former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, in his contribution, said: “ There is no state in the country that does not have a lawyer, therefore, lawyers must be in government at both state and federal levels.
He said: “ I abolished child labour in Akwa Ibom State. I promulgated the Child’s Labour Law and created the Akwa Ibom State Infrastructure Agency, which drove the infrastructure renaissance that led to the uncommon transformation of my administration.
“ Once God gives you the grace to manage any place, please, leave that place better than you met it.”
He called on Nigerians to assist the lawyers to move the country forward in a bi-partisan way.
“The lawyer must not only do well, the society must also see him as doing well, otherwise, they will lose confidence in the law. It is only lawyers that have taken Nigeria to the Guinness Book of Records. This I accomplished through the Godswill Akpabio Choir.”
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Solomon Arase said: “Intelligence-driven investigations will reduce the number of Awaiting Trial Inmates (ATN). The Police has embraced community model; the Alternative Disputes Resolution Mechanisms (ADR) and restorative justice approach will no doubt, reduce the awaiting trial inmates. The police paid over N1billion in garnishee proceedings in the last one year and this has to be reduced.”
The IGP said he gave all the legal units of the police in the 36 states of the federation new cars so that they do not go to courts carrying their wigs and gowns in their hands. He warned that any police officer, who engages in extra-judicial killing will be properly investigated and prosecuted.
The NBA President, Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN) urged the IGP to make police men, who are of other ranks, officers.
Bauchi State governor, Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, said: “The Annual General Conference of the NBA is just coming at a point when the country is undergoing economic and political transformation. The general election of 2015 has put Nigeria in a community where if possible, every lawyer must be in government because democracy is predicated on the rule of law. Lawyers have gone to school to read the law and understand what the rule of law is all about.”
He added that lawyers have acquitted themselves well in Nigeria’s democratic experience in three areas, namely: good governance predicated on the rule of law, the need to completely eradicate corruption and the need to reform the economy of the nation. He called for the reformation of the law because the law itself is the beacon of reformation.
“The All Progressives Congress (APC) manifesto has come up with a comprehensive way by which Nigeria can develop and possibly eradicate all the ills in the society,” Abubakar said.
Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, said: “Lawyers in the legislature are engaged in the business of making laws because Section 4 of the Constitution empowers the legislature to make laws for peace and good governance of the country. These laws are aimed at the development of the country by building institutions such as hospitals, schools, markets and so on.
“With the assistance of my colleagues, I ensured that there is purposeful leadership for the country. Members of the legal profession are needed in the legislature more than any other arm of the government because of the drafting of bills for passage into law, the validity of the laws and compliance with the procedural processes of law making.
“Aside from the grace of God, the greatest asset and weapon that made me what I am today is the law; we made sure that the Childs Right Act was passed into law by the legislature and even now, we are trying to make sure that no child is left outside school. We want to criminalise it and make it an offence for any parent to take a child of school age outside the school,” he said.
Plateau State governor, Simon Bako Lalong, said: “ I thank lawyers in Plateau State for assisting me to defeat a sitting governor in a contest, which I liken to the Biblical contest between David and Goliath. Plateau lawyers took it upon themselves and made sure that I emerged victorious in the governorship election.