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Senior lawyer expresses concern over Federal agencies visit to judges

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, and Publisher of Supreme Court Reports, Mr Layi Babatunde has expressed concern about the way some Federal government agencies visit Chief Judges of Federal courts to solicit for assistance on the disposal of their cases pending before the courts, saying it smacks of corruption.

Babatunde likens such visits to a situation where bank debtors form an association and pay similar visits to heads of courts to seek assistance on disposal of their cases.

Babatunde, the Managing Director of Lawbreed Publishers made these remarks in a paper he delivered at the just concluded Law Week of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch. The title of the paper is “Our role in the effective implementation of Nigeria’s anti-corruption laws”.

He said: “One major area of concern concerning the activities of some Federal Government Agencies is their penchant to visit heads of Federal Courts soliciting for assistance on the disposal of their cases pending before the courts or to be filed.

With all due respect this is a prototype of systemic corruption which should not be encouraged, no matter the level of self righteousness of the cause of the practitioners of such a despicable model of road to seeking Justice”. 

He added that the practice eats at the root of justice Administration in Nigeria having regards to S.36 (1) of 1999 constitution.

Babatunde particularly mentioned the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) who he claimed has severally visited heads of courts. “I therefore ask the  Independent Corrupt Practices Commission(ICPC) to invoke its powers under S.6(c) of its establishment Act; to redirect the efforts of such agencies particularly AMCON, who has on several occasions flaunted in national dailies the pictures of its chief executive visiting Heads of Courts soliciting such assistance, capable of compromising and polluting the streams of Justice;

That will be the day when bank debtors will also form themselves into an association visiting Heads of Court soliciting assistance on how their cases should be handled. Thankfully the courts have on a number of occasions resisted this patronizing and sometimes arm twisting approach to Justice Administration”.

The senior advocate enumerated some of the functions of some Federal government agencies as it relates to anti-corruption drive as follows:

  • The EFCC Act vide S.6 enumerates the functions of the commission, one of which under S.6(e) and(f) provides as follows:

S.6(e)    the adoption of measures to eradicate the Commission of Economic and Financial Crimes;

  • 6(f) The adoption of measures which includes coordinated preventive and regulatory activities, introduction and maintenance of investigative and control techniques on the prevention of economic and financial related crimes;
  • 6(p)    carrying out and sustaining rigorous public enlightenment campaign against economic and financial crimes within and outside Nigeria 
  • Under and by virtue of S. 6(b) of the ICPC Act the Commission is empowered: To examine the practices, system and procedures of public bodies and where, in the opinion of the commission, such practice, system or procedure aid or facilitate fraud or corruption, to direct and Supervise a review of the practice
  • 6(C)    To instruct, advise and assist any officer, agency or parastatals on ways by which fraud, corruption may be eliminated or minimized by such officer, Agency or Parastatal
  • 6(e)    To educate the public on and against bribery, corruption and related offences; and 
  • 6(f)    To enlist and foster public support in combating corruption.
  • S. 3 of the National Orientation Agency Act which provides for the functions of the Agency provide inter alia:
  • 3(h)    Orientate the populace about power, its use and the proper role of the Federal Government in serving the collective interest of Nigerians;
  • 3(l)    Sensitize, induct and equip all Nigerians to fight against all forms of internal and external  domination of resources by a few individuals or groups.   

He therefore advised Nigeria’s “anti-corruption Agencies to focus, not only on the people that the Government is serving but also on the Government serving the people. We should realize that the era of the king can do no wrong is long gone and has no place in our Constitutional Democracy”. 

Babatunde called on the agencies to make amends in areas where they found themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Such areas, according to him, include getting involved in debt recovery disputes.

He said: “The Supreme Court has held that the EFCC has no business getting involved in Debt recovery disputes(DIAMOND BANK PLC V. OPARA & 2 ORS. (2018) where the Supreme Court held that the EFCC, the Police and other security Agencies are not debt recovery Agencies”.

“The Rule of Law presupposes that no one is above the Law and perverting justice is in itself corruption. Lawyers who petition the EFCC and other Security Agencies over simple debts matters with no criminal content such as forgery should themselves desist from the practice which gives the Bar and those Agencies a bad name”.

Babatunde also advised lawyers to put their own house in order so as to contribute to solving nation building problems. “Charity begins at home, we as legal practitioners must seriously work at putting our house in order. That is the only way we can be an example to the larger community. The NBA politics is fast mimicking all the vices that beset our national politics – money and ethnic politics .The Bar to secure her independence must work at financial independence instead of relying on donations by Government and politicians. We should stop making financial demands on aspirants to NBA elective positions;

These are vices that swell corruption of the worst kind which perhaps explains why our politics especially at the national level is almost becoming a venture for the rich. Too much financial demand is being placed on the contestants which often turn out to be counter-productive;

If a contestant for the office of national president, for example, is expected to sponsor every branch law week, this will result in a huge overhead, which should be avoided. If we continue in this manner, we would have lost our independence, which is a mandatory requirement for fighting corruption”, he concluded.

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