By Emeka Mamah
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has lampooned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other security agencies for allegedly turning â€œthemselves into debt recovery agentsâ€ following the current crisis in the banking sector.
The Section of Legal Practice (SLP) of the NBA which made this known said that financial transactions between banks and their customers were contractual, adding that security agencies cannot criminalize same by mere imputation, and then go ahead to arrest the debtors for such transactions.
The association further urged the federal and state governments to urgently address the demands by the striking judicial workers which has paralyzed court activities throughout the country.
In a communiquÃ© issued after its third annual general conference in Kaduna yesterday, the association also frowned at the imposition of stringent conditions for bail to persons accused of owing commercial banks, since according to it, such supposed offences are â€œordinarily bailableâ€.
The association however urged the Federal Government to take appropriate steps that will address the inadequacies and lapses in the current regulatory regime by introducing legislations that will forestall further crisis in the banking industry.
Over 450 lawyers from across the country including present and past Presidents of the NBA attended the conference which focused its discussions on the need to enhance the status of judicial officers at the lower bench, need to adopt new billing strategy by lawyers on their clients; the seeming criminality of financial transaction which may have adverse effect on the nationâ€™s economy, the relationship between senior and junior lawyers in law firms and the use of land as means of creating wealth.
The 15- point communiquÃ© which was signed by the SLP Chairman, Funke Adekoya (SAN) read in part: â€œthat the SLP deprecates the attitude of the EFCC and security agencies which have turned themselves into debt recovery agents and emphasized that financial transactions between banks and their customers are contractual which cannot be criminalized by mere imputation of the regulatory agencies.
â€œThe SLP frowns at imposition of stringent conditions for bail to accused persons on offences that are ordinarily bailable and recommends to judicial officers to follow laid down precedents that recognizes bail as a right.
â€œThe SLP encourages government at all levels to put in place measures that will enhance proper and systematic registration of landed properties and eliminate the bottleneck that hinders proper capital flow.
â€œThe SLP condemns inadequate remuneration of judicial officers by some states, especially at the magistracy level, and recommends that state governments should ensure adequate welfare for their magistrates as incentives for delivery of service.
â€œThe SLP calls on the various governments to, as a matter national responsibility, look into the demands of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) with a view to halting the ongoing strike which has paralyzed activities at all the Courts in the country.
â€œThe SLP observes that with the changing times and globalization, lawyers should adopt such principles of charging that will enhance the good of the profession, access to justice and maintenance of justice.
â€œThe SLP emphasizes the importance of adherence by lawyers to the rules of professional ethics while stressing that the future of the profession rests on unqualified observance of these rules.
â€œThe SLP observes that the present regime of remuneration of the juniors is undignified and a denigration of the public perception of the status of a legal practitioner and recommends that the senior members should pay the junior ones wages that take cognizance of the present economic realities.
â€œThe SLP tasks the senior members of the profession to embrace the culture of mentoring the junior ones in order to instill in them enduring virtues as worthy legacy for the profession.
â€œThe SLP states that partnership may assist successful practice in this era of specialization and global approach to the practice of law.
â€œThe SLP acknowledges the fact that the 2007 Rules of Professional Ethics as seen currently is inadequate, it however noted that the rules were enacted after 12 years of its being drafted and therefore needs to be updated and recommended that the copies of the rules be distributed to all branches for transmission to members.
â€œThe SLP advocates mutuality of respect between the Bar and the Bench and advises both not to employ indecent language which undermines the sanctity of the court and exposes the profession to public odium and ridiculeâ€.