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Why corrupt officials must get stiffer penalty, by don, others


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Why corrupt officials must get stiffer penalty, by don, others
The Ikorodu Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has held its 2018 Law Week. The highlights were the 12th annual lecture held in honour of Asiwaju Babatunde Olusola Benson (SAN), a former NBA president and General Secretary, and award night where notable members of the bar and the bench were honoured. ADEBISI ONANUGA reports

The 2018 Law Week of the  Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ikorodu Branch has come and gone, but its memory lingers.  The major event of the week was the annual lecture, delivered by a reknowned Professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Adewale Tella.

The lecture was in honour of a former NBA President and General Secretary, Asiwaju Babatunde Benson (SAN). It held at the Ikorodu Town Hall.

The professor of economics, who advocated stiffer punishment for corrupt officials, in his lecture titled: Moving Nigeria from recession to prosperity: The Trajectory of the Nigerian Laws, said although Section 98 of the Criminal Code prescribed seven years for corrupt officials, it was, however, not enough to deter people.

He emphasised that “it is definitely not commensurate with the toll corruption takes on the Nigerian economy”.

According to him, despite the seven years imposed by the Criminal Code, the country has continued  to witness many cases of corruption, which has made the public to lose hope, reduction of penalty on offenders, and imposition of lesser punishments on convicted corrupt persons as well as the use of plea bargain.

Although death penalty for corrupt officials as it operates in China, he said, may be too extreme, he, however, pointed out that the legislature must take the responsibility of imposing stiffer punishments on corrupt officials.

He emphasised the need for the country’s laws to be implemented to the letter to curb corruptions. The punishment for corruption, according to him, must be made stiffer. “Corruption is a very serious offence. It has the power to cripple the economy,”he said, adding that it would be a miracle for the country to move from economic recession to prosperity because of the laws being operated cannot promote economic development.

According to him, the National Assembly takes the issue of monetary and fiscal policies, which are the planks for development, with levity, noting that budget considerations and approval have not been taken with seriousness it required, particularly in the last four years. He added that “timely implementation of annual budgets has positive link with economic development and promotion of an affluent society”.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Red Bricks Homes Limited (Amen Estate), Ibeju-Lekki, Mr Babatunde Gbadamosi, who was the main discussant, adduced the reasons for the nation’s economic recession to loss of confidence in the system, the inability of the authority to provide sound fiscal policy and the judiciary to be fair, just and independent.

Insisting that the country is not yet out of recession, Gbadamosi said the nation’s recession was self inflicted and could have been avoided in fiscal terms and management of the economy.

“For the last two years, there have been undue interference in monetary policy issues by the government, leading to self induced recession,”he said.

He advised the authority to stop abuses of monetary policies at the highest level, noting that “the authority cannot explain why dollar has remained static in Nigeria and while the pound sterling, which has been falling in other countries, remains high in the country.

To Gbadamosi, the task before the legislature is to pass laws that will reduce the burden of the economy on the masses stressing that “if something is not done now, we might witness the collapse of the Nigerian economy”.

He took a swipe at the legislators, who he questioned for earning N13 million every month without any consideration that the allowances do not reflect the realities of the nation’s economy.

The public procurement law, according to Gbadamosi, is vague in Nigeria, emphasising the need to re-examine it to make it work for the country.

Earlier in his welcome address, Ikorodu NBA chairman, Levi Adikwaone appealed that the judiciary should review its position on the  judicial seal and some grey areas inhibiting access to justice. hE also made a case for more High Court judges in the Lagos State Judiciary to reduce workload of the present judges.

Adikwaone, who noted efforts of Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Opeyemi Oke, geared at ridding the judiciary of corruption, reorganising and repositioning the judiciary, promised his members support to bring change and advancement to the judiciary.

He said what followed the introduction of the Land Use Charge should be a lesson to all, pointing out that “people will not oppose a good tax regime, but with so much poverty, economic recession, loss of jobs and income, among others, the people are likely to resist a government that is demanding more than what it is providing from its citizens.

Justice Kazeem Alogba performed a satirical presentation of court proceedings on law of evidence, while Chief Magistrate Makanju Oshodi decided the proceedings in favour of Asiwaju Benson. According to Alogba, Chief Benson has served humanity very well, urging lawyers to emulate him.

The Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba Kabiru Shotobi and the Adeboruwa of Igbogbo Kingdom, Oba Semiudeen Kasali thanked God for Asiwaju Benson’s life.

Lagos State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem was represented by the Solicitor-General, Funlola Odunlami at the event while the NBA President, Mr Abubarkar Mahmoud(SAN) was represented by the 3rd Vice President, Ben Oji.

At the Bar Dinner, which climaxed the one week programme, were dignitaries such as the Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assmbly, Chief Senai Agunbiade, who presented the Dinner Talk. The dinner held at the Musical Village, off Obafemi Awolowo Road, Ikorodu.

Hon Agunbiade, while giving the Dinner talk, urged members of the Ikorodu Branch of the NBA to continue to adhere to the ethics of the profession and the entrenchment of the rule of law in the society. He said if other professions are collapsing, the only profession that should remain standing to rebuild the society is the legal profession.

He expressed concern on corruption in the judiciary and urged members to refrain from the vice, adding that, “if there is no giver, there can be  no taker. There will be no corruption in the judiciary if we as lawyers don’t participate in it”.

He, however, raised some posers for the bar: “What is our estimation in the eyes of the ordinary man on the street? Are we still perceived as it was in the past? Can there be corruption without our pparticipation? Ethics at the bar, do we still have respect for our seniors?”

The lawmaker, who noted that notices were served on the bar whenever a new law is to be made, also questioned the lawyers on their failure to participate actively in the process of law making in the state House of Assembly.

He stressed the need for the bar to always uphold the ethics of the profession even in the face of difficulties, adding that the entrenchment of the rule of law is an agenda they must all pursue as professionals.

Kazeem said the theme of the law week was apt and fitted into government agenda to make the state economic nerve centre of the country. He said the state will not relent in its effort to ensure the rule of law and order in the society and ensure a vibrant economy.

“As lawyers, we must not forget that ours is a noble profession. We must not forget our professional ethics and the rule of law”.

Kazeem commended the Branch  on the way it has been fighting quacks in the profession. He promised government support to the branch to rid the profession of quacks and ensure that only qualified lawyers practise the profession.

Highlight of the dinner was the recognition accorded deserving members of the bar and the society. Those  honoured included a former Attorney-General of Ekiti State, Mr Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), who was the first member of the branch to become a senior lawyer; the branch foundation chairman, Mr Oluwole Adejumo; a former Chief Judge of the state, Justice Christopher Olusegun; Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Prince Rotimi Ogunleye; the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Adeniji Kazeem, and the Chief Judge, Justice Opeyemi Oke.

Others are the Ayangburen of Ikorodu, Oba Kabiru Shotobi and the Adeboruwa of Igbogbo Kingdom, Oba Semiudeen Kasali, who were represented by the Chairman, Council of Baales and Baale of Omitoro town, Chief N.J. Odusoga. Mrs Oladipupo Adewunmi was also honoured for her meritorious service to the branch.

Others who attended the Week  included a Presidential aspirant of the bar, Prof Ernest Ojukwu (SAN),  Welfare Officer of the NBA, Adesina Adegbite and  NBA Epe Branch Chairman, A.S. Abimbola.