The National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Paul Usoro (SAN) has harped on the need to entrench the indispensable essential tenets of democracy such as rule of law, accountability and transparency.
Usoro spoke in an address he delivered at the last NBA Executive Committee (NEC) meeting at the National Secretariat Abuja, where he stated that the promotion and protection of the Rule of Law, is the “lead motif of and for the establishment of NBA”.
He opined that rule of law, permeates the entirety of the professional lives of practitioners saying, “it is a principle and fight, that is immutable and alive at all times and demands eternal vigilance”.
He observed that Rule of Law has a twin principle in the Fundamental Rights of citizens, hence should not be under any unmitigated assault or in bondage. He recalled that he is being prosecuted and persecuted by the EFCC on frivolous allegations of money laundering but explained that the proof of evidence which was subsequently served on him does not contain any fact that contradicts the position he took to wit, “I am being prosecuted for professional fees totaling
N1.1billion that were legitimately earned and paid to Paul Usoro and Co. by the Akwa Ibom State government between 2015 and 2016 and for professional fees totaling N300million that were paid to Paul Usoro and Co. by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State.
He posited that by such prosecution for purported misconduct, the law profession is under siege adding that, “for the very first time, both in our country’s history and in the history of our Association, the NBA election of 2018 has been the subject of purported investigation by the EFCC. I do not believe that such an investigation is within the purview of EFCC, as there was no financial or economic crime that was alleged.
I am also not aware that the EFCC has taken as much interest in the activities of other professionals and their associations as it has taken in our profession and our Association, particularly in recent years. To put it mildly, our profession and indeed the justice sector, I repeat, is under siege. Even the Independent Corrupt Practice Commission (“ICPC”) has taken to inviting our past Presidents and General Secretaries for questioning over the contract award for the construction of our National Secretariat.
But then, these agencies do not act alone; they act in close collaboration with some of our members. The petition that triggered the purported EFCC investigation into our 2018 Elections, for example, was written by one of our members. Indeed, we have taken to reporting ourselves to the EFCC even in internal matters of the Association which could be resolved internally. We do need to rethink our ways and reassess our circumstances in this regard, in our collective interest, for our collective good and for the good of our profession and our Association”,he stated.
He called on government to streamline the thematic areas of EFCC so that they do not become attack dogs against those opposed or critical of government’s draconian policies.