On Monday, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) members and legal professionals were urged by Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), to collaborate with law enforcement in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The ICPC’s spokeswoman, Mrs. Azuka Ogugua, said in a statement on Tuesday that he made the suggestion at the NBA’s Annual General Conference, which took place at the Velodrome of the National Stadium in Abuja.
Professor Owasanoye, who participated in a panel discussion on attorneys’ ethical and professional behaviour, praised NBA President Yakubu Maikyau and his administration for taking the effort to address these issues.
The discussion highlighted the legal community’s responsibility in combating money laundering and terrorism financing in light of the NBA’s new regulations and guidelines in this area.
The head of the ICPC claims that the apparent lack of collaboration between legal practitioners and anti-corruption authorities inevitably led to discussions on the ethical behavior of legal professionals.
He cited Rule 74(3) of the RPC, which requires attorneys to report suspicious activity that might lead to money laundering or other financial crimes.
You should “speak up” if you notice something suspicious, he said.
He also said that lawyers may no longer charge their clients without considering their financial situation.
He went on to stress the need of putting the public interest ahead of one’s own interests when practicing law, saying that attorneys must exercise caution and concern when dealing with public authorities and politically exposed people.
He also made reference to Rule 60 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which allows lawyers to freeze the assets of anyone on the UN’s sanctions list.
He claims that comparable watchlists exist in Nigeria and that attorneys there must continue to disclose their clients to the NBA anti-corruption section, which in turn must tell police authorities.
Owasanoye urged NBA management to use the internal risk assessment policy as a framework for establishing its own rules regarding what is and is not ethical, emphasizing that any anti-corruption or anti-laundering committee must avoid bureaucratic pitfalls to avoid complicity when a law enforcement agency moves against a client.
His last proposal urged NBA players to cooperate with law enforcement through the league’s disciplinary committee rather than concealing clients suspected of wrongdoing.
He urged that concrete steps be taken to “walk the talk.”