President Muhammadu Buhari has urged legal practitioners in the country not to frustrate the course of justice while defending public officials. The President who spoke at the opening of the 55th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Abuja yesterday, argued that the legal profession would achieve more credibility if members of the Bar and the Bench uphold their professional ethics. He said:
“I am convinced that law, lawmakers, lawyers, law courts and the law enforcement agencies all have pivotal responsibilities to discharge, if the change we seek is ever to materialise. This administration has taken on the challenge of improving security, fighting corruption and revamping the economy, among many others”.
“The fight against corruption is a struggle for the restoration of law and order. Corruption and impunity become widespread when disrespect for law is allowed to thrive in society. Disrespect for law thrives when people get away with all sorts of shady deals and the court is unable to check them”.
“Ability to manipulate and frustrate the legal system is the crowning glory of the corrupt and, as may be expected, this has left many legal practitioners and law courts tainted in an ugly way. In a gathering such as this, I do not need to elaborate on the way that corruption and impunity have damaged our economy. But I would like to say more on what, I believe, should be your role as legal practitioners, in helping us back to the path of rectitude”.
“First, we need to make our courts functional and effective again. This means that we must have lawyers who take the ethics of the profession very seriously; lawyers who will not frustrate the course of justice, even though they defend their clients with all legitimate means and resources.
“Nigeria needs ethical lawyers who always keep the end of justice in mind and will never sacrifice the integrity of the legal system to cover the misdeeds of their clients, no matter how lucrative the brief may be.”
Corruption as rights violation
Noting that lawyers were often in the vanguard of the defense of human rights, President Buhari urged them to view corruption too as a gross violation of human rights. The President said:
“For the millions still wallowing in want and diseases, corruption is a major reason why they cannot go to school; why they cannot be gainfully employed; and why there are few doctors, nurses and drugs in their hospitals and health centres. It is the reason why pensioners are not paid and potable water is scarce”.
“In effect, corruption diverts public resources meant for millions of people into the private pockets of a greedy few, thereby causing a lot of suffering, deprivation and death. In my view, there can be no greater violation of human rights. Viewed in this way, I think we can all fully appreciate the gravity of this oppressive and destructive evil.”