Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, SAN, has charged lawyers and professionals in the financial and private sectors, to see themselves as partners in the fight against economic and financial crimes.
Sagay made the charge at the commencement of a two-day workshop on “Role of Professionals in the Fight Against Corruption”, which held at the Rockview Hotel, Abuja, June 16, 2016. He noted that the war against corruption could not be won, without them keying into the fight.
“The implementation of your rules and regulations including the ethics of your profession, and disciplinary methods are essential in winning the war against corruption,” he said.
The workshop, which had in attendance professionals from the legal, finance, banking, mining sectors among others, provided a platform for them to exchange ideas in fashioning ways to eliminate hiccups being experienced in the fight against corruption.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David, Lawal, who was represented by Tor Tsavar, director Nigerian National Volunteer Service, NNVS, noted that the workshop was essential, considering the rather ignominious role that the banking sector contributed to incidents of money laundering in the country.
“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, and so lawyers and professionals are important in this fight,” he said.
Femi Falana, SAN, decried the role of lawyers in assisting politically exposed persons, PEPs, to carry out financial crime, stressing that efforts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to prosecute members of the bar complicit in such acts was 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.
Falana condemned in strong terms, the action of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, which sought to exempt lawyers from complying with provisions of the Money Laundering Act 2012 as amended, which classifies Law firms as a Designated Non- Financial Institution, DNFI.
He noted that, while the EFCC was in order to prosecute politically exposed persons, PEPs, who have been involved in money laundering offence, it was essential for the anti-graft agency to also go after professionals like bankers, estate managers, who presented themselves as vehicles to facilitate the offence.
“The EFCC should not spare professionals, real estate agents, law firms, that assisted in the fraudulent and illicit flow of the cash; they all have to be prosecuted,” he said.
He further urged the National Assembly, to “call for a public hearing to ensure that work being done on the amendment of the Money Laundering Act, would not be done hastily” as it is apparently aimed at whittling down the powers of the country’s anti-graft agencies.
Francis Usani, Director, Nigerian Financial Institute Unit, NFIU, stressed that money laundering had an adverse effect on the social and economic wellbeing of the country, as it allows criminals to grow in their criminal networks.
“Compliance to the rules is very essential for professionals,” he said, adding that the laws are made to stop “criminals” from leveraging on the platforms of professionals to carry out financial crimes.
He used the opportunity to charge professionals of the financial institutions and DNFIs, to ensure that they abide by the rules, and report suspicious transactions promptly.
Paul George, who leads the Pricewaterhouse Coopers, PWC’s International Development Practice, in the United Kingdom, UK, charged professional bodies to see themselves as partners in progress in the fight against corruption.
“We need to go beyond complaining, and play an active part, if the collective system is to find a collective solution,” he said.
Otive Igbuzor, Director, Civil Society Activists, added that there was a need for professional bodies to ensure that they adhered to their ethics, stressing that, “there’s need for better enforcement of laws”.
Osita Nwajah, Director, Public Affairs of the EFCC, stressed the importance of bringing in professional bodies to the fight against corruption. He noted that the practice of private banking had made it difficult for the agency to track illicit inflows carried out by money launderers.
“The professionals are the ones that have the capacity to enable the process, and hide the process, and that it is why the EFCC believes that they need to key into the agency’s anti-corruption efforts,” he said.
The workshop was organized in collaboration with the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, and the Convention on Business Integrity.