SERAP Seeks Tougher Sanctions For Corrupt Lawyers

A group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has said lawyers who aid suspects of political corruption to subvert the course of justice, as “principal offenders.”

In a statement on Sunday by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP said its call followed growing allegations that some senior lawyers were facilitating corruption in the judiciary.

It said such a situation was not only a breach of lawyers’ professional ethics but also a criminal act which the Nigerian Bar Association must publicly condemn and ensure that such senior lawyers were punished.

It frowned on the situation where lawyers and judges who aid large-scale political corruption often go unpunished.

The group said it was important for the NBA to impose stiffer sanction on lawyers who facilitate corruption in the judiciary not only to protect the integrity of the legal profession but also to ensure that victims of large-scale corruption get redress in court.

SERAP said, “It is not only professional misconduct but also a crime for a lawyer to knowingly assist or induce another to break, violate or attempt to violate the rules of professional conduct or commit a corrupt act and other action prejudicial to the administration of justice that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.

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“Any lawyer who acts in such a way as to be directly responsible for the act of corruption or acts as part of a conspiracy to corrupt should face liability as a “principal offender.”

“Even where a lawyer is not directly responsible for the act of corruption but facilitates or otherwise provides assistance to a principal offender, he/she should be liable as an accessory or accomplice.

“This accountability mechanism for lawyers and judges must follow due process of law.”

It noted that every lawyer had an obligation to uphold the standard of the legal profession by not engaging in any illegal activity or facilitating anything that could breach the law.

It called on the NBA to “provide strong leadership including by strongly and publicly speaking out against corruption in the legal profession and the judiciary, promoting tougher sanctions against corrupt lawyers even if those involved are senior members of the bar including SANs, and judges.”

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It said for the NBA to remain relevant and to add value to the ongoing anti-corruption war, it needed to “create, develop and actively promote anti-corruption initiatives for the legal profession.”

SERAP reminded the NBA of its vital role of saving the legal profession from public ridicule by “consistently and proactively promoting and ensuring lawyers’ compliance with anti-corruption and ethics rules, and to encourage lawyers to carry out their professional duties diligently and conscientiously.”