Chairman of the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, has accused some Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) of frustrating the anti-corruption war.
According to him, the catalogue of brazen infractions by senior lawyers that borders on criminality is legion.
He said an unnamed SAN received N1.7billoon in legal fees from a corrupt politician without qualms.
He said the same senior advocate received N300million from a governor in the Southsouth as legal fees for an election petition case and failed to pay tax.
He said the SAN quickly took advantage of the Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme when he realised he was under probe.
The EFCC boss said this in a message to lawyers entitled: “Need for ethical reforms as NBA conference begins.”
Magu said: “As lawyers converge on Abuja for the Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, I wish to seize the opportunity of this momentous occasion to felicitate with all our learned friends who are undoubtedly among the most important stakeholders in our country’s fight against corruption…
“We are very worried that on a number of occasions, some members of the NBA, have elected to side with those who do not want the good of Nigeria.
“I believe it is part of the professional ethical code of lawyers to ask questions as to the source of their clients’ wealth…
“It is amazing that a senior lawyer can accept professional fees of N1.7 Billion Naira from a politician without scruples! The same lawyer with a turnover ofN3, 765,414,995.24 only paid valued added tax of N7, 051,928.24.
“The N300million cash payment which the senior lawyer received from a South South state government in an election petition matter in 2016 was never captured in his tax submissions to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
“Yet when he got wind of EFCC investigation he was quick to take advantage of the VAIDS window as cover to shield himself from the Commission’s dragnet.
“Another senior lawyer who is quick to advertise himself as the nemesis of the EFCC, has turnover of over N5.1billion with an assessed total tax liability of over a billion Naira between 2010 and 2017. Sadly, he merely declared a meager N8million as gross earnings for 2014 and 2015, and N10million for 2016.
“I can go on and on. The catalogue of brazen infractions by senior lawyers that borders on criminality is legion. The tragedy is that these so called smart senior lawyers are supposed to be role models for the young lawyers.
“Young lawyers who worry about their future and the future of the noble profession in Nigeria must rise today and demand the cleansing of the mercantilist tendencies of some of the learned silks.
“Today, I called on members of the Bar to spare some moments to reflect deeply on the ethical stock of the profession. Clearly, the time has come for members of the Bar to set new benchmarks for ethical conduct by members while drawing new inspiration to whip erring members in line.
“The NBA must strengthen its disciplinary mechanism and ensure that disciplinary measures are applied to every errant member no matter how highly placed. This will help to rid the profession of bad eggs and secure its credibility.
“It is bad enough that our people are at the mercy of public officers who abuse our common patrimony for personal gain, it is worse to see lawyers who should rise above the rot become complicit in the mindless thievery.
“I expect members of the bar to frown at many of the shenanigans that still go on in court, especially the tendency by some very senior members of the profession to abuse the processes of court through frivolous applications intended to frustrate trial and outright intimidation of judges.
“Despite these shortcomings, the EFCC which I represent is still indebted to lawyers for the role they have played in our modest achievements over the past few years.
“Without the commitment and dedication of some members of the Bar, the Commission would not have secured a total of 158 convictions so far this year and 189 last years.
“Finally, I wish to leave members of the NBA with the wise words of our dear President His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari, that ‘if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us’.
“I once again invite you all to partner with the EFCC and the generality of Nigerians in the fight against corruption.”