The NBA, Corruption and the Rule of Law – Babafemi Badejo

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Summary: The Nigerian Bar Association has elected a new leadership due to the pervasiveness of corruption in Nigeria and its inverse relationship with the rule of law. A praiseworthy effort to combat the epidemic of corruption in Nigeria, particularly in the administration of justice. However, for the new leadership to handle the menace of corruption in the country, which has become increasingly related to the rule of law, investigations on the implicated legal practitioners must be conducted and those found guilty should be brought before the disciplinary committee for appropriate punishments.

The Nigeria Bar Association got a new executive over a month now. Given the pervasiveness of corruption in Nigeria and its inverse relationship with the rule of law, one would have expected clear moves, even if as concretised expressions of intent, to fight the scourge of corruption in Nigeria in general and in the dispensation of justice in particular.

As K. Zannah, in a 2007 paper stated, a 1999 study in Lagos State indicated that 99 per cent of lawyers surveyed agreed that there was corruption in the state judiciary, while in the same report 70 per cent of Nigerians spoken to across the country believed the judiciary was corrupt. The situation can only be assumed to be worse today. After all, our corruption perception index, including under this administration, has been very shameful.

I have, elsewhere, defined corruption as: “The abuse of power and/or authority, including manipulation of rules or opportunities, or extortion from another in the public, private or social realms for self or filial/familial relations or inducement (bribery), by another in furtherance of undue gain to the self or a desired third party”. This comprehensive definition allows us to see the pervasiveness of corruption, even in our religious settings, not to talk of governments at all levels. Unfortunately, Nigerians tend to focus only on corruption at the federal government level and totally close their eyes to acts of their respective governors and local government chairpersons, not to talk of their so called “Men of God”.

It is generally accepted that corruption, as a cancer, is killing Nigeria. The tendency is to throw up our arms that nothing can be done. But should this continue to be the case?

The Nigeria Bar Association professes to stand for the rule of law, which is inversely proportional to corruption. The more corruption in any society, the less the operation of the rule of law in that space and vice-versa. NBA cannot and should not be allowed to operate under a spirit of business as usual.

The NBA in Nigeria acts by its silence on the indictment of lawyers for perpetrating corruption in the quest of justice. The NBA leadership could have chosen to champion additional investigations and public defence processes before appropriate bodies, as deterrence to other learned friends. Such public actions would aid the delivery of a clear message that corruption must be routed out if we are to enjoy the rule of law.

Practical steps are needed to be jumpstarted by the NBA leadership to further investigate and drag indicted colleagues before the legal practitioners disciplinary committee at a minimum. Disrobing a number of corrupt lawyers and those aiding and abetting corruption is necessary.

Such dragging of lawyers towards responsibility to foster the rule of law can happen under extant laws and regulations. I repeat, the NBA can no longer continue business as usual. It should start its cleansing drives with examples from the top of the profession.

Key Recommendations: To combat corruption effectively, the new administration must disengage unscrupulous lawyers who have abused the legal system.

About the Author: Babafemi Badejo is a legal practitioner, writes from Lagos.

Source: Premium Times

Keywords: Nigerian Bar Association, Rule of Law, Corruption

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