Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has challenged lawyers on the administration of justice in Nigeria, insisting that the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, should take responsibility in ensuring discipline among its members.
Professor Osinbajo stated this on Tuesday during a question and answer session at the 58th Annual Conference of the NBA, holding at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Osinbajo, who was taken up on a number of issues by renowned lawyer, Professor Koinsola Ajayi, asked the NBA to rise to the occasion and take responsibility for the discipline of lawyers.
He said: “I think beyond government, strong institutions such the NBA needs to rise to the occasion and it really calls for self regulation.
“Government is not going to make the laws to change that. This is an ecosystem that we are in control of.
“We should be able to say that we are going to put our foot down here; we are not going to allow a situation where the administration of justice system is ineffective because if it is ineffective building a moral society is undermined almost entirely.”
The vice president advised the NBA to take a cue from the Law Society in England and accept the responsibility for conduct of lawyers.
“There is a sense in which we must accept responsibility for the discipline of lawyers. The Law Society in England accepts responsibility for the discipline of lawyers, even when lawyers engage in dielectric tactics in court.
“So if a lawyer wants to delay a case as strategy for either winning or hoping that years after the case would be forgotten, that kind of lawyer would lose his shirt in any other jurisdiction.
“But here it is an accepted tactic. Dialectic tactics is part of our system; it is part of our business of doing business.”
Osinbajo said there should be consequences for misdeeds, calling on lawyers to work with government to ensure that people who go against the laws of the land are punished.
“I think that we are at a point where there is a moral dilemma as to how it is we should visit the legal consequence. One of the problems we have had is with the legal process, ensuring that the legal process is able to deliver justice within a reasonable time, especially where the matters concerned are issues of public corruption and of all that.”
Osinbajo was also asked questions on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and how it was transforming the life of the poor people in Nigeria.
He said that the government started this in 2016 by crafting a budget that took a bottom-to-top approach to tackling the problem of the poor.
“The approach we adopted from 2016 is two-pronged. One is in first creating safety nets and for the first time we put in the budget a line for what is called the Social Investment Programme. That is N500billion for the Social Investment Programme. That is the largest programme of its type in the history of this country.”
He said the Social Investment Programme covered the Conditional Cash Transfer to one million of the poorest, the N-Power Programme, a scheme for providing jobs to 500,000 young graduates and the “Trader Moni” Scheme to two million people.
“It is working because we can see a substantial improvement in the capacity of people to earn money and to do better for themselves,” he said, adding that the “only way to deal with poverty is to incrementally improve the capacity of people to earn money.”
Vice President Osinbajo also took questions on infrastructural development, technological development, ease of doing business and the ideological underpinnings that drive government programmes.
The Chairman of the Organising Committee of the 2018 NBA Conference, George Etomi, reminded lawyers that the beacon of hope of every citizen lies in their ability to protect democracy.
He said democracy is built on the rule of law and that lawyers are the greatest guardians and custodians of the rule of law.