Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), has justified his call for reforms in the anti-graft was even as he has been criticised for suggesting that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should be stripped of the power of prosecution.
Mahmoud, in his inaugural speech in Port Harcourt last Friday during the just-concluded NBA conference, called for reforms in Nigeria’s anti-corruption war that would include limiting the EFCC’s ambit in trying graft cases.
“The critical institutions involved must be repositioned, re-equipped and re-tooled to confront the problem of corruption on a consistent and sustainable basis.
“As a start, we commend the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for the work it is doing and for its modest achievements.
“However, going forward, the NBA must demand the reform of the institution itself. We need to define its mandate more narrowly and more clearly.
“In my view, its broad objective as an investigative and prosecurial agency should be reviewed.
“I recommend strongly that the EFCC be limited to investigation,” he said.
The NBA president has, however, come under attack for his suggestions.
Abiodun Aremu, secretary of the Joint Action Front, said the proposal shows the “high level of un-seriousness in the polity.”
“You cannot run an economy that is anchored on corruption and you want to fight corruption. So if the NBA (chairman) insists on creating more diversionary agencies to underscore the context of its corrupt activities, it shows a high level of un-seriousness.
“And that’s just the point, because lawyers themselves are the beneficiaries of the diversion in the polity in the name of fighting corruption.”
Similarly, Debo Adeniran, another rights activist and director of the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, said the NBA president’s statements were “self-serving.”
“The anti corruption agencies like the EFCC and ICPC are even supposed to have more funds allocated to them to strengthen their prosecutorial powers.
“The agencies should be able to afford good lawyers that would match the ones hired by the criminals to defend them in court.”