The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Itse Sagay, has tasked lawyers and professionals in the financial and private sectors to see themselves as partners in the fight against economic and financial crimes.
Mr. Sagay spoke today at the commencement of a two-day workshop titled “The Role of Professionals in the Fight Against Corruption,” which was held at the Rockview Hotel in Abuja. He stressed that the war against corruption could not be won without the involvement of professionals.
“The implementation of your rules and regulations, including the ethics of your profession and disciplinary methods, are essential in winning the war against corruption."
However, a legal luminary, Femi Falana, decried the role of lawyers in assisting politically-exposed persons to commit financial crimes, adding that efforts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) towards prosecuting members of the Bar complicit in such acts is in order and should be supported.
“A number of leading lawyers have been indicted by the EFCC and they are being prosecuted and this should serve as a lesson to others to be careful and to take the role of ethics very seriously,” he said.
Mr. Falana also condemned the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for seeking to exempt lawyers from complying with provisions of the Money Laundering Act 2012 (as amended), which classifies law firms as designated non-financial institutions.
He further added that it is essential for the EFCC to go after professionals, including bankers and estate managers, who presented themselves as vehicles to facilitate offenses just as the agency is in order to prosecute politically exposed persons that have been involved in money laundering.
“The EFCC should not spare professionals, real estate agents, and law firms that assisted in the fraudulent and illicit flow of cash. They all have to be prosecuted.
"I hereby urge the National Assembly to call for a public hearing towards ensuring that work being done on the amendment of the Money Laundering Act would not be done hastily since it is apparently aimed at whittling down the powers of the country’s anti-graft agencies,” Mr. Falana said.
Meanwhile, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, who was represented by the Director of the Nigerian National Volunteer Service (NNVS), Tor Tsavar, said that the workshop is essential considering the rather ignominious role that the banking sector has played in money laundering.
“It is regrettable that professionals, particularly those in the banking sector, offered direct and indirect support for those who commit financial crimes to beat the law just as lawyers and other professionals are important in this fight," he said.
The workshop was organized in collaboration with the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria and the Convention on Business Integrity.
It was attended by many professionals from the legal, financial, banking, and mining sectors among others and provided a platform for them to exchange ideas in fashioning ways towards elimination of interruptions in the fight against corruption.