NBA fires back at EFCC, says lawyers are not rogues •Demands withdrawal of statement

THE Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has condemned the statement credited to the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, calling lawyers in the country rogues.

General Secretary of the NBA, Isiaka Abiola Olagunju, in a press statement  made available to newsmen in Abuja, on Tuesday, called on the commission to withdraw the statement with immediate effect.

Olagunju accused the EFCC boss of using uncivil language of ‘rogues’ and ‘vultures’ on lawyers, who are performing their constitutional duties.

The General Secretary said “the inaugural address of the NBA president was a statement of nearly 30 pages, which sets out the vision and direction of his programmes for the Nigerian legal profession.

“He committed himself to leading a brave new Bar fully aligned with the aspirations of Nigerians in their quest for national development, which can only be anchored on the Rule of Law built on strong institutions.

“In the paragraph of the statement dealing with corruption, the NBA president restated the commitment of the NBA in the fight against corruption.

“He commended the modest achievement of the EFCC, but called for the reform of the agency to enhance its capability to deliver on its mandate on a consistent and sustainable basis, devoid of political interference and on the basis of well established institution, safeguard that demands proper regulation of the wide discretionary power involved in the investigation and prosecution of criminal matters.

“The NBA condemns, in the strongest term, the use of abusive and uncivil language of ‘rogues and vultures’ by the chairman of the anti-graft agency. Name calling and abusive language is not expected of any public institution. It is unacceptable. The NBA demands unequivocal withdrawal of these statements and unreserved apology from the EFCC,” the statement added.

The association called on the EFCC to get its facts correctly before making statements or insinuations.

Last weekend, Magu, the EFCC chairman, described the Nigerian Bench as one populated by rogues and vultures and that such group of people cannot sit in judgment over others or command their respect.

Magu stated this in a statement by the spokesman of the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, in response to the call by the new president of the NBA, Abubakar Mahmoud, for the restructuring of the anti-graft agency.

Mahmoud had, after his inauguration as the president of the NBA, called for the restructuring of the EFCC and that the anti-graft agency should be stripped of its prosecutorial powers.

But the EFCC, in the statement by Uwujaren, said the call by Mahmoud was a self-serving one, adding that the aim of the call was to create “a cabal of untouchables” since some of the country’s senior lawyers were undergoing trial now for cases of corruption.

The statement said: “It is too much of a strange coincidence that the suggestion to strip the EFCC of its prosecutorial powers is being floated a few months after the commission, in unprecedented fashion, arraigned some senior lawyers for corruption.”