A draft law to replace the Legal Practitioners Act is ready, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) has said.
Highlighting his efforts to restore confidence in the profession, Mahmoud said he set up a committee in December 2016, which has since submitted its report with far-reaching recommendations.
Among them, he said, is a draft new law to replace the Legal Practitioners Act.
“This law, if approved and passed, we hope, will introduce far reaching changes aimed at enhancing legal education, setting better entry standards, continuing professional development and discipline.”
Mahmoud sought the Federal Government’s support in efforts to reform the legal profession.
“A strong modern legal profession is key in our view to building the country’s legal system; necessary for peace and development; necessary for attracting confidence of all those who seek to do business with Nigeria.
“If Nigeria must transit to a modern economy and be competitive globally, it must have a respected legal profession and judicial system. This is our objective,” said Mahmoud.
The NBA president called for due process in investigation of judges for corruption, as, according to him, a strong and independent judiciary is the bulwark of democracy and the rule of law.
Mahmoud expressed the association’s “strong disapproval” with what he called “very strong arm tactics” employed in October 2016 by security agencies in trying to address allegations of corruption in the judiciary.
“No citizen of Nigeria is above the law, not lawyers, not judges. However, nothing must be done to encourage wholesale undermining of the Judiciary as an institution.
“We believe that the investigations of allegations of corruption in the judiciary could be done in line with the tenets of the rule of law and due process and respecting accepted administrative measures and conventions that will protect the institution whilst pursuing corrupt elements within.
“As we move forward we will like to reiterate our support for all efforts by the Federal Government to assist the judiciary to rid itself of all elements of corruption in order to enhance public confidence in the administration of justice,” Mahmoud said.
The NBA President praised President Muhammadu Buhari for the proposed N100 billion in the 2018 budget proposals for the judiciary, but noted that it is only about 1.2 per cent of the national budget.
According to him, it is far from the internationally recommended funding ratio, which he said should be a minimum of 2.5 per cent of the budget for the Judiciary.
NBA said it was concerned about what appears to be blatant disobedience of court orders “by this administration”.
Addressing President Buhari during a visit, Mahmoud said: “Your administration would be sending a strong message to ordinary citizens by directing all agencies, especially security agencies, to respect and obey orders of court.
“There are many citizens being held in disobedience to court orders. We urge that your Excellency does something about this,” he said.
Mahmoud decried the fact that security and anti-graft agencies seem to be working at cross-purposes, highlighting the “unhealthy relationship between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Services (DSS)”.
He urged President Buhari to urgently rein in the erring agencies and officials.
This, he said, was necessary so as not to undermine confidence in the government and promote lawlessness in the country.
“We will like to reiterate our call on your Excellency on the need to address the seeming dissonance amongst various departments of government.
“Government needs to be seen to be acting in a coordinated fashion in order to maintain confidence of the citizens,” he said.
NBA decried the appalling and overcrowded prisons conditions, noting that out of a prison population of 72,179, only 23,491 are convicted persons, with over 67 per cent awaiting trial.
It urged the Federal Government to expand and modernise the facilities to make conditions humane.
“We strongly recommend far reaching reforms to deal with the issues of prisons in Nigeria.
“There appears no reason why Prisons must remain in Exclusive Legislative List for instance,” said Mahmoud.