Lawyers call for transparency in assets recovery process | Dailytrust

Lawyers call for transparency in assets recovery process

Pioneer SPIDEL Chairman, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) swearing-in the new Executive Officers and Council members of SPIDEL in Ibadan recently
Pioneer SPIDEL Chairman, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) swearing-in the new Executive Officers and Council members of SPIDEL in Ibadan recently

From May 23 to 26, 2021, the umbrella body of legal practitioners in Nigeria, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), held its first major event for the year 2021 in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.

It was the NBA’s Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) 2021 annual conference which took place at the Jogor Event Centre, Ibadan, with the theme: “The Role of Public Interest in Governance in Nigeria”.

The current federating structure of the Nigerian state is clearly unwieldy and the debilitating situation is clearly seen in the spate of security crises in the country.

It is observed that there are lack of local laws and an administrative structure for the administration of stolen funds in a manner that ensures that the funds are not re-looted but redistributed in an equitable manner.

It was agreed at the conference that it is constitutional and thus lawful for Houses of Assembly to make anti-corruption laws and to establish state anti-corruption commissions to fight the menace at the state level.

The SPIDEL conference was a platform for members of the bar and other stakeholders who undertook a comprehensive review of burning issues in the polity with emphasis on public interest and practical solutions.

At the opening ceremony, the Chairman of the Conference Planning Committee, Monday Onyekachi Ubani, delivered a welcome address.

Ubani explained that Nigeria was not working, and that if it were, it was only for five per cent of the populace, and hence that it was only when honest and patriotic stakeholders “as assembled herein” proffered practical and workable solutions to Nigeria’s challenges that the country would start working for the majority.

The Chairman of SPIDEL, Prof Paul C. Ananaba (SAN), in his opening remark which set the tone of the conference, submitted that public interest remained one of the various tools that could enhance social change in private and public life as change would be put in place via public opinion and court decisions that reformed legal rules, enforced existing laws and articulated public norms.

COAS death and war on terror

The NBA President, Olumide Akpata, said Nigeria was under siege, pointing out that the war on terror suffered a major setback with the death of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, and implored everyone to ensure that his death be not in vain.

Akpata noted regrettably that the US Embassy recently issued a travel advisory warning to its citizens from travelling to certain parts of Nigeria citing security reasons, and that the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) was another recent example, all indicative of the failure of governance at all levels.

In that regard, Akpata recommended that governors governed in the public interest to promote economic and social equality.

The keynote address was delivered by Justice Eko Ejembi of the Supreme Court of Nigeria who also represented the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad.

Goodwill messages were further presented by the Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta L. Abimbola, and the pioneer Chairman of SPIDEL, Chief J. K. Gadzama (SAN).

The conference was declared open by the Oyo State Governor, Engr Oluwaseyi Makinde. He welcomed conferees and said the theme of the conference was apt because in Nigeria everyone wanted good governance but that the methods of achieving it had always been elusive. He pointed out that the masses were calling for more inclusiveness in governance and he hoped that the conference would set the right tone in achieving this.

The conference featured technical sessions with over 50 eminent speakers, senior lawyers, academicians, the political class, stakeholders and renowned jurists.

Generally, they observed the disconnect between a large segment of the legal profession and the ideals of public interest lawyering owing to the obvious gaps in the legal education curriculum.

Participants agreed that cases of disobedience to court orders were on the increase, and noted that the sad state of affairs must be stemmed as accountability in governance could not be promoted if court judgments were not obeyed and the rule of law was consistently negated.

Corruption

They also decried the growing spate of corruption in the nation and the attendant consequences on the common man.

Arising from the conference, SPIDEL enjoined government to make people-oriented policies which will impact welfare and security of the people.

SPIDEL expressed deep concern at the spate of insecurity in the nation and called on the federal government to take urgent steps to ensure that the lives of citizens were protected, and also called on all lawyers to view public interest lawyering as an avenue to enhance the relationship between the ordinary citizen and the judiciary and therefore encouraged all human rights activists to get involved in public interest lawyering irrespective of their areas of practice.

SPIDEL further said it viewed with deep concern the frequent bloodletting in the incessant clashes of farmers and herdsmen and recognised the need for an urgent intervention to stop the ugly situation. To this end, SPIDEL approved the ban on open grazing by some states and called on other states to adopt the ban by the institution of appropriate laws to prevent further clashes and ensure the preservation of lives.

Ranching

SPIDEL, therefore, submitted that there was the need for the federal government to invest in and institutionalise ranching in the country.

As regards the recovery of proceeds of corruption, it was resolved that for transparency in the assets recovery process and to make the international community more disposed to releasing stolen funds to the country, government must demonstrate transparency and accountability in the recovery processes with:

A. Institutionalisation of appropriate mechanism for efficient management of recovered assets.

B. Establishment of a database for all entries and vouchers.

C. Establishment of a dedicated fund for the depository of seized and confiscated assets.

The lawyers expressed deep concern that several state governments continued to disobey court orders and their attorneys general appeared unable to advise them accordingly.

Court orders

To this end, SPIDEL urged the NBA to amend its Rules of Professional Conduct to include provisions compelling all attorneys general to ensure that their governments obeyed court orders and that any attorney general that failed to do so be heavily sanctioned accordingly.

SPIDEL submitted that: “The cardinal duties of the state governors are to protect lives and property within their states. To this end, it is proper for state governors to establish state policing outfits like Amotekun and Ebube Agu for the protection of lives and property of their citizens. SPIDEL supports the establishment of regional vigilantes by state governors to assist the police protect the lives of all Nigerians.”

The conference urged the federal government to champion the creation of state police as a way of reducing over-reliance on national security outfits for preservation of lives and property.

SPIDEL also called for a constitutional review and restructuring of the country to ensure that each region is strengthened, security is ensured and all citizens have a sense of belonging, arguing that it will take away all feelings of marginalisation that several regions are complaining about.

SPIDEL further submitted that: “That the provisions of the constitution in providing for the financial autonomy of the different arms of government be upheld. To this end, SPIDEL calls on state governors to enforce judicial autonomy in their states and ensure the financial independence of the judiciary and the legislature. This will ensure that the judiciary is poised to deliver justice to the poor and oppressed without fear or favour.”

 

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