A rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has asked the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to urgently investigate the conduct of lawyers to the Senate President Bukola Saraki, for walking out on the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Thursday after the tribunal refused their application for stay of proceedings in the asset falsification trial against the Senate President.
Sarakis lawyers had walked out of the tribunal, arguing that the tribunal ought to halt proceedings since the issue of jurisdiction which is at the heart of the trial is in Sarakis appeal before the Supreme Court.
But SERAP said It is the role of Sakaris lawyers to serve their clients best interests but in doing so they should not act in a manner that would put the administration of justice and the societys confidence in the judicial system and the fight against corruption at risk.
In a statement signed by SERAP Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni the organisation said walking out on the Code of Conduct Tribunal for simply and correctly applying Section 305(e) of the newly-enacted Administration of Criminal Justice Act is disrespectful. It offends the basic rule that lawyers should act with integrity and professionalism, maintaining his or her overarching responsibility to ensure civil conduct.
SERAP believes that a lawyers duty to the court is a fundamental obligation that defines a lawyers role within the adversarial system. Lawyers should at all times act to promote the rule of law and the publics confidence in the administration of justice and not to be seen to undermine it or facilitate an infringement of the law.
As we have seen many times, without the rule of law, the rule of the jungle takes hold and the economically and socially vulnerable fall victim to the strong and nobody is safe. The rule of law also creates a disincentive for would-be corrupt officials.
Senior lawyers especially have a responsibility to act as the guardians of the rule of law by contributing to a strong judicial and legal system which is crucial to a well-functioning democracy and which in turn is necessary to satisfactorily prevent and combat years of official corruption in the country.
If at all Sarakis lawyers are dissatisfied with the ruling of the Tribunal there are laid down processes that they should have followed to demonstrate their role as officers in the temple of justice rather than granting media interviews and literally abusing the Tribunal. We urge the NBA to urgently investigate what exactly happened and to punish any professional misconduct that may have occurred.