You can’t criminalise professional fees, NBA tells EFCC

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has condemned moves by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to criminalise professional fees by clients to legal practitioners.

The association stated its position in a communiqué yesterday at the end of NBA’s National Executive Council meeting in Abuja.The body also condemned the rampant killings of lawyers, attacks on court premises, spate of kidnappings, menace of herdsmen and other forms of criminalities across the country.

The body called on the Federal Government to be more proactive in addressing the challenge of insecurity in the country. This is coming on the heels of President of NBA, Paul Usoro (SAN), who might be arraigned today before a Federal High Court, Lagos, over money laundering to the tune of N1.4billion.He was alleged to have received the money from the Akwa Ibom State government.

The NBA said EFCC investigated Usoro based on a Zenith Bank N300 million inflow into his law firm’s account on March 14, 2016, and the subsequent outflows from the account to various senior counsels between March 22 and 23, 2016. It said the inflow was payment by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State in respect of an Election Petition Appeal that was determined by the Supreme Court, in which Usoro served as the coordinating counsel.

In a related development, the NBA has cautioned the Federal Government against waging partisan, selective or discriminatory anti-corruption war.This came as the world marked the 2018 International Anti-corruption Day.

It said the trial of persons for corrupt practices must be speedy and not be used as an excuse, or basis for trampling upon the fundamental rights of citizens.While also calling for proactive strategies in fighting the ravaging menace, the NBA said orchestrated media trial of persons charged with corrupt practices amounts to corruption itself, just as it degrades and corrupts the justice administration system.

In a statement, Usoro said the “country sees the effects and consequences of corruption in the suffocating poverty amongst our people and indeed, in the pervasive insecurity of lives and property.”The body stressed that the anti-corruption fight not be selective or discriminatory in nature, adding that the trial of persons for corrupt practices must itself not be tainted with corruption.

“The NBA advises government to beam the searchlight on these corrosive and corrupt practices as a proactive measure in the fight against financial and economic corruption. Impunity in public service must be abhorred, and so must political non-accountability and the lack of transparency in public administration and the management of our affairs,” the statement added.

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