In a piece entitled ‘The fight against anti-corruption agencies by NBA’, Falana alleged that some of these lawyers have placed the rich and powerful individuals above the law.
He said that in recent times, these lawyers, whom he also described as a “cabal” in the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), have shown the tendency to manipulate the criminal justice system to the detriment of the Nigerian society.
“…the NBA never challenged senior lawyers who have continued to frustrate the prosecution of corruption cases through frivolous objections, interlocutory appeals and stay of appeals as well as orders of interlocutory or perpetual injunctions in favour of treasury looters,” Falana said.
“In advanced capitalist societies, lawyers are duty-bound to ensure that the law is higher than everyone, no matter how highly placed. But in a peripheral capitalist society like Nigeria, lawyers have placed rich and powerful individuals above the law.
“In recent times, many senior lawyers have shown proclivity for manipulating the criminal justice system to detriment of the society by lending their expertise to clients outside the bounds of law in contravention of paragraph 15 (2) of the Rules of Professional Conduct in the Legal Professional which stipulates that: In his representation of his client, a lawyer shall keep strictly within the law notwithstanding any contrary instruction by his client and if the client insists on a breach of the law the lawyer shall withdraw his service.”
He further expressed dismay that the NBA could kick against the decision of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to publish the list of criminal suspects who allegedly committed electoral malfeasance during the 2011 and 2015 general elections.
“It is rather unfortunate that the NBA has suddenly become the defender of electoral offenders when the reports compiled by its own election monitoring team had confirmed the violations of the Electoral Act 2010 by political thugs and other enemies of democracy in several parts of the country,” he said.
“In fact, the NBA had cooperated with the Professor Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission in the prosecution of a number of electoral offenders in many states of the federation after the 2011 general election.
“Having been asked by the NBA to coordinate the prosecution team at the material time I have since dissociated myself from the baseless attack of the NHRC by the NBA.
“Convinced that the NHRC has rightly taken up the challenge of protecting the democratic rights of the Nigerian people I have directed my law firm to defend the NHRC pro bono publico if it is sued by any of the indicted electoral offenders.”
He added that in the bid to save the NBA from self-inflicted destruction, the progressive extraction of the legal profession should stop bar leaders from giving the impression that “Nigerian lawyers are comfortable with the large-scale corruption in the country”.
“As a matter of urgency, the NBA should be retrieved from the overbearing influence of a cabal of lawyers trying desperately to use it to frustrate the prosecution of criminal elements who have willfully inflicted eternal agony on the masses through the criminal diversion of the commonwealth,” he added.
“All patriotic lawyers should ensure that the anti-graft agencies have the autonomy to operate without intrusion from public institutions and private bodies. As corruption will always fight back to protect some vested interests, the anti graft agencies should be prepared to collaborate with the trade unions and other mass organisations in the fight against corruption.
“Finally, since the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (ACJA) has done away with stay of proceedings and other delay tactics hitherto employed by senior lawyers to stall the prosecution of corrupt people trial courts are enjoined to prevent unending cross examination of witnesses and frivolous adjournments by lawyers.”